James Wescoat

Session 3A, Friday 13th, 1:20-2:50 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

Perspectives on Islamic Gardens in North America


Jim Wescoat 225

There are rich literatures on Islamic gardens from Morocco to Indonesia, and on mosques worldwide including North America. But to date little has been written about the emerging varieties of Islamic garden design in Canada and the United States. As an early contribution, this paper explores a range of perspectives, or ways of thinking, about these emerging landscapes. It begins with personal experience and experiments teaching about Islamic gardens and landscapes in the United States, while conducting historical landscape research and fieldwork on the Mughal gardens of South Asia. That work led to dialogue with Muslim community garden designers in Philadelphia, who link sacrality with sustenance – and to a search for similar community and youth initiatives in the United States. I have also been privileged to visit and collaborate with garden designers working on Islamic garden design projects sponsored by the Aga Khan Foundation in Canada and the United Kingdom. How do these emerging gardens extend the history of Islamic garden design? How do they compare with research on the longer and larger histories of mosque architecture and what have sometimes been more broadly referred to as Muslim spaces in North America? The paper suggests a range of perspectives on these fascinating questions in Islamic garden history and culture.

James L. Wescoat, Jr. is an Aga Khan Professor in the Department of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he offers courses on water resources, landscape history and theory, heritage conservation, and disaster-resilient design. He has previously taught in departments of landscape architecture and geography at the University of Illinois, the University of Colorado, and the University of Chicago where he earned his Ph.D. His research has concentrated on water systems in South Asia and the US from the site to river basin scales. For much of his career, Professor Wescoat has focused on the small-scale historical waterworks of Mughal gardens and cities in India and Pakistan. At the larger scale, Professor Wescoat has conducted water policy research in the Colorado, Indus, Ganges, Great Lakes, and Mississippi River basins. His books include Mughal Gardens (Dumbarton Oaks); Water for Life: Water Management and Environmental Policy (Cambridge University Press); Political Economies of Landscape Change: Places of Integrative Power (Springer). He has a longstanding interest in cultural exchange between South Asia and North America.

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