Fairchild Ruggles

Session 2B, Friday 13th, 10:50-12:20 pm
Location: University of Alberta, Lister Conference Centre, Wild Rose Room

Session 8, Saturday 14th,3:20-4:50 pm
Location: University of Alberta, Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, Room 1-140

Listening to Islamic Gardens



Islamic gardens were fully sensory environments. Visual display was important, but for reasons having to do with the values of our own scopophilic modern world, scholarship has focused on visuality to the exclusion of other senses. Yet, the enclosure walls of early gardens did more than ensure visual privacy: they also served as containers for bringing the human body in close physical contact with the elements of the garden. The sensory contact included the smell of fragrant plants, and it included the tactile experience of the cool spray of water. More than anything, however, poetry celebrates the sounds of the garden–a nightingale’s song, the splashing of a fountain, and the murmuring of foliage rifled by a breeze. While these sounds can rarely be heard today (with the exception of fountains that at the Alhambra and a few other palaces still play in their original architectural setting), we can see or read about their effects in manuscript painting, sculptural imagery, and literary evocations. The essay will focus on the gardens of al-Andalus and the Maghreb, using as its source Arabic poetry, garden treatises, and written observations from the period about the social life and experience of gardens.



D. Fairchild Ruggles is Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with additional appointments to Architecture, Art History, Women’s Studies, and Medieval Studies. She is the author of two award-winning books on gardens: Gardens, Landscape, and Vision in the Palaces of Islamic Spain (2000), and Islamic Gardens and Landscapes (2008). Additionally she has edited or co-edited numerous works, including Women, Patronage, and Self-Representation in Islamic Societies (2000), the award-winning Sites Unseen: Landscape and Vision (2007), Cultural Heritage and Human Rights (2007), Intangible Heritage Embodied (2009), Islamic Art and Visual Culture: An Anthology of Sources (2011), and On Location: Heritage Cities and Sites (2012). She recently wrote and presented a series of 7 short films on Islamic art and architecture for the NEH Bridging Cultures/Muslim Bookshelf initiative (freely available at the NEH Bridging Cultures website). With a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies this year (2013-14), she is currently at work on a book about the legendary woman called “Tree of Pearls” who rose from slavery to become sultan of Egypt in the mid-13th century. She is also organizing the spring 2014 symposium on sound and scent in the garden for Dumbarton Oaks.

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