Khan is an architect and critic
whose numerous publications include Contemporary Asian Architects
(1995), The Mosque and the Modern World (1997), and The
International Style: Modernist Architecture from 1995 to 1965 (1998).
He graduated in 1971 from the Architectural Association in London and
subsequently practiced in London and Karachi. From 1977 to 1994 he worked
for His Highness the Aga Khan in Europe and was editor of the periodical Mimar:
Architecture in Development from 1981 until 1992. Since 1994 he has
been Visiting Associate Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. His research projects focus on the architecture of mosques,
contemporary building in Asia, on issues of conservation, and on the
relationship of landscape to built form.
Abstract of paper given at Islam
and Ecology conference:
In correlation with the notion of stewardship of the earth in Islam, indigenous building has contained within it a sensitivity to nature and the spirituality of place. Patterns in nature are reflected in the organic forms of buildings and in interventions such as the qanats (underground irrigation channels) of Iran, the terraced cities of Yemen or the oasis settlements of hot, arid Arabia. Past architecture exhibits knowledge about the relationship and balance between the built and natural environment, even in the monumental works such as the Alhambra in Granada. The scientific revolution, the industrial revolution, and specialization seemed to bring with them the separation of beauty and utility and also an aggressive attitude towards exploiting nature. In the Islamic world, the project of modernity bringing "progress and development" has deepened the rupture between the built and natural realms. In the past two decades environmental awareness and economic imperatives have begun to generate programs that have resulted in built works that try to heal the scars in the landscape and be more sensitive to place. A part of this is the notion of an architectural and urban conservation. New architectural projects, based on ethical concerns, are beginning to reconnect the architecture of Islamic societies to the wisdom of the past to begin to produce solutions for a sustainable built environment.