Patricia Blessing | Spaces of Artifice: Interiors and the Environment in Islamic Architecture

This is an Archive of a Past Event

Focusing on examples in the eastern Mediterranean built between the thirteenth and the sixteenth centuries, this talk analyzes how interior spaces were designed in relationship to nature, with an emphasis on water. While gardens within the Islamic world have been studied in detail, less attention has been devoted to the ways in which nature is allowed to permeate buildings and how it becomes part of interior spaces. For instance, buildings often contain water features such as fountains and basins, both indoors and in liminal courtyard spaces, supplied by aqueducts, cisterns, and open domes that allow rain and snow to enter. As this talk shows, such water features are integral parts of the buildings’ interiors and affect multisensory perception of these spaces. These water features thus constitute eco-architecture in that they serve to preserve water and regulate temperature for human use, allowing for an exploration of the relationship between architecture and climate.

About the Speaker

Patricia Blessing is Associate Professor of Art and Art History at Stanford University. Blessing’s current book project, Spaces of Artifice: Interiors and the Environment in Islamic Architecture, engages with eco-critical art history in exploring built environments. Blessing is the author of Rebuilding Anatolia after the Mongol Conquest: Islamic Architecture in the Lands of Rūm, 1240–1330 (Ashgate, 2014) and Architecture and Material Politics in the Fifteenth-century Ottoman Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2022). With Elizabeth Dospel Williams and Eiren Shea, she co-authored Medieval Textiles across Eurasia, c. 300-1400, for the Cambridge Elements series Global Middle Ages (Cambridge University Press, 2023). Blessing’s work has been supported by the ANAMED Research Center for Anatolian Cultures, the Barakat Trust, the British Academy, the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the International Center of Medieval Art, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the Society of Architectural Historians. Previously, Blessing taught at Pomona College and Princeton University. She is Managing Editor of the International Journal of Islamic Architecture

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In 1891, thirty-five scholars gathered to form a community in a new university. In that spirit, this series welcomes humanities senior faculty to the Stanford community to present their work. 

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