Publications of the Shokoohys’ research areas are listed in other pages. Their many book reviews are not listed, but some review articles by Mehrdad Shokoohy which are not simple reviews of other works, but contain fresh information and discussions are noted, as well as some of Mehrdad Shokoohy’s short papers in Urban Design Studies, Annual of the Urban Design Group of the University of Greenwich (UDS), as Professor of Architecture and Urban Studies and Editor of the annual.
Michael Mann, Hijri: a computer program to convert Hijri to Julian dates, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (BSOAS), LV, ii, 1992, pp. 328-9.
Michael Mann’s ingenious program was an early tool for those working in any field of Islamic studies who needed to convert Muslim Hijri era dates to the Christian calendar and vice versa. Designed in the early days of computers when the capacity of the machines and the now forgotten “floppy discs” was measured in megabytes, the program was a quick and useful tool for converting the dates mathematically, even though it did not deal with calculating Gregorian dates. The program was compared with the many conversion tables used by scholars at the time and in all cases proved correct, but when it was checked against dates noted in historical records where the day of the week was mentioned, there were discrepancies of plus or minus one or two days, and very exceptionally three days.
It could be assumed that the dates in the histories were not entirely accurate and subject to scribal error or even slips of memory by an author writing sometime after the event. The mathematically calculated dates were therefore checked against inscriptions and particularly epitaphs, which would be expected to accurately record the erection of an edifice or the day of the death of the deceased. Divergencies between the dates given by the program and those recorded at the time of the events again appeared, revealing that as the beginning of the Muslim months is calculated from the first observation of the new moon, the perceived beginning of the month does not necessarily correspond with the astronomical one. Furthermore, while the new moon might be observed in one place but not on the same day in another, there could be discrepancies in the day of the month of the same month in different parts of the Islamic world. In the long run the problem always corrects itself, as the new moon would be observed on the right date in the next month or so. This revelation gives historians and other scholars another tool, apart from mathematical calculation, for considering all aspects of dates mentioned in records.
Abdul Karim: Corpus of the Arabic and Persian inscriptions of Bengal, review in BSOAS, Vol. LVIII, Part 1, 1995, pp. 161-167.
Abdul Karim’s aim was to compile all the reported Muslim inscriptions of Bengal, most of which are scattered in many volumes of Epigraphia Indo Moslemica (EIM), Epigraphia Indica, Arabic and Persian Supplement (EIAPS), and a few other sources. Such compilations are common in South Asia and the late Dr Z. A. Desai, who was Director of Epigraphy and responsible for the initial publications of many such inscriptions, also provided a number of volumes concerning the inscriptions of different regions of India. While such volumes lack critical assessment of earlier publications they are valuable research tools and reduce the need for laborious searches.
Abdul Karim’s compilation is useful, but the work was composed in Bangladesh and his bibliography reveals that he lacked access to the Archaeological Survey of India’s Annual Reports of Indian Epigraphy (ARIE), published since the early twentieth century, listing the inscriptions recorded in a specific year and of which ink impressions had been made. The volumes do not study the inscriptions in detail, but give a brief account. Many of the inscriptions are then studied later and published in EIM or EIAPS, and, in the case of those in Sanskrit and other Indian languages, in Epigraphia Indica. Abdul Karim’s lack of access to ARIE led to the omission of a large number of inscriptions which require further study. The review provides a list of these inscriptions, which can be seen as a complementary addition to Abdul Karim’s work.
Principles and Pastiche in Islam, The Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) 12 January 1998, review by Mehrdad Shokoohy of:
The Mosque and the Modern World: architecture, patrons and designs since the 1950s, by Renata Holod and Hasan-Uddin Khan, (Thames and Hudson) London, 1998, 288 pp., 446 illus., 156 in colour.
ISBN 0 500 34155 9
An Architecture for People: the complete works of Hassan Fathy, by James Steele (Thames and Hudson), London, 1998, 208 pp., 213 illus., 100 in colour.
ISBN 0 500 27991 8
What is Islamic architecture? The review examines attitudes to the concept, past and present, and the results produced by modern architects, ranging from pastiches of “orientalist” styles to entirely modern structures of concrete and glass with their high cost and expensive maintenance adding to the supposed prestige of the patron, and on to the harmonious and modest works of Hasan Fathy whose buildings transcend artificial concepts of Islamic or Western architecture, and are concerned with sustainable design for specific climactic regions – an architecture not of the past, but of the future.
The Experience of Islamic Art on the Margins of Islam, edited by Irene A. Bierman, (Ithaca Press in association with the Gustav E. von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern Studies, University of California, Los Angeles) Reading, 2005, review in Journal of Islamic Studies, (Oxford University Press) Vol. XVIII, 2007, 452-458.
ISBN: 978 0 86372 300 1
The book is a collection of five papers read in the 1996 conference, during which the fifteenth Giorgio Levi Della Vida Award (established in 1967 by Gustav von Grunebaum) was conferred on Oleg Grabar, Professor Emeritus of the Aga Khan Centre at Harvard. The contributions to the volume by Oleg Grabar, Robert S. Nelson, Zeynep Celik, Richard M. Eaton and Richard H. Davis are wide-ranging both in concept and in geographical regions and cover different aspects of Islamic art, architecture and by extension archaeology.
The review looks at the broader picture of the relevance or otherwise of academic studies of Oriental art and culture, especially in light of Grabar’s evocation of the long-gone time when western Orientalists were regarded as authorities on the land, people, and culture of their field. Their books had a wide distribution among literary circles, their discoveries made headline news and sometimes they were called on to provide information and advice to government.
From the mid twentieth-century such high regard has faded. The review points out that travel restrictions and changing attitudes to foreign experts in the countries of interest have led to a situation in which the academic is little more than a “tourist scholar” making brief visits to well-known sites, often under the eye of a tour guide. Today a foreign correspondent attracts more attention and has more influence on official and popular understanding than an academic. To the outside world the academic remains unknown and irrelevant. The time has come to find fresh concepts for interpreting diverse aspects of the arts of the Muslim lands, each with their own historical, linguistic and cultural background ‒ an outlook, diametrically opposed to that of the past.
PAPERS IN URBAN DESIGN STUDIES (UDS)
The volumes may be ordered from www.araxus.org e-mail: email@example.com
“Historic Medway Towns, a view to the future”, Martin Eyre and M. Shokoohy, UDS, III, 1997, pp. 139-144, figs 8.1-8.6.
In 1992 urban design as a distinct discipline was a relatively new concept. Mehrdad Shokoohy and two other colleagues at the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, the University of Greenwich, were asked to set up an urban design course to be integrated in the postgraduate diploma leading to a Masters degree (MA) in urban design. An academic annual on urban design, edited by Mehrdad, was also established and was published from 1995 to 2002. Apart from peer-reviewed papers by scholars worldwide each volume also included a report on urban design at the University of Greenwich for the respective year, some of them contributed by him.
Shipbuilding along the River Thames and its tributary the Medway River has declined leaving underused brown-field sites and unemployment. The dramatic effect of this on local communities has prompted emerging new uses for the East Thames Corridor, and Greenwich University, with its close links with the Medway towns, has been involved in several research projects on urban aspects of these towns. The aim of the 1996-7 project was to investigate the existing urban conditions and determine in broad terms the specific needs that would have to be addressed for future developments
Focusing on the dramatic estuary between the towns of Rochester and Chatham, the study soon revealed that in spite of the positive physical features of the site, since the decline of the area most of he important resources had remained underused or ignored, especially the river itself. The study also produced a critical assessment of a commercial initiative to develop 1,700 homes on a 60 hectare site at Chatham and concluded that such developments may end up as dormitories for London and contribute little – if anything at all – towards the urban revitalization of the area.
“Teaching Design in the Street”, Philip Stringer and M. Shokoohy, UDS, IV, 1998, pp. 123-128.
Urban design means more than creating attractive urban spaces, or beautifying existing ones; rather it involves investigating at a deep level how a safe, comfortable and pleasant environment can be created where people can live, work, and in its public spaces intermingle, shop and pass the time in harmony and comfort. With this in mind in 1997-8 the authors, responsible for the University of Greenwich Diploma in Architecture and Urban Design Masters courses, mounted projects in collaboration with Stuttgart University, to investigate existing urban forms and produce fresh design proposals for a number of sites in the United Kingdom as well as one in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. The projects concentrated on fieldwork, including site study and site analysis, to make the students thoroughly familiar with the towns in question.
The students worked in groups, many of which reached a similar conclusion: that given the right approach, opportunities for creating a better and more inspiring environment were considerable. A key finding was that a safe and secure environment for living is achieved not only by improving the physical and economic infrastructure, but by improving the quality of public space, incorporating leisure and recreation facilities and above all including housing (a mandatory part of the project) in the mix, rather than zoning it separately.
“Revelations from mapping and morphology”, Philip Stringer and M. Shokoohy, UDS, VII, 2001, pp. 111-118.
The past and current history of our built environment is often embedded in the form of its fabric. No single approach will illuminate the functioning – or malfunctioning – of specific urban areas; a number of physical and social factors must be considered before approaching the design stage. Detailed study of the morphology can hold the key.
While in the urban design projects at the School of Architecture at Greenwich many aspects of design are discussed, the role of morphology is stressed in various ways. As a design tool, mapping morphology helps in a greater understanding of the urban fabric and in interpreting the nature of urban space. In the 2000-2001 project, apart from morphology, two other approaches were employed, the first objective, involving the study of nodal points; the second, more subjective, dealt with the varying character of the area. A SWAT analysis – of the Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses and Threats – mapped numerous factors separately, and then looked at how the combined mappings could be layered and synthesized to identify priorities.
The morphological approach is also valuable for research on urban space where other types of mapping are unavailable. In the survey of the fourteenth century fortified city of Tughluqabad – a partly neglected archaeological site being rapidly being built over, blurring many of the historic features – morphology as a research tool was instrumental in the study of old town. An old aerial photograph superimposed on an extensive ground survey of the site allowed morphological and other objective mapping, clarifying the street layout and the town walls. This, together with evidence that the gateways were constructed after completion of the fortifications, provided information on how the master plan of this town could be laid out on virgin ground by first marking the positions of the gates, and while the town walls were under construction the main streets could be marked out on a rough grid pattern, and the public and residential areas (with their strongly contrasting settings for personal interaction) built simultaneously in their allocated spaces. The final stage would be to design and build the gates, to absorb inevitable inaccuracies in the alignment of the walls or streets.
“European Connections, Gravesend and Malmo”, M. Shokoohy, UDS, VIII, 2002, pp. 115-122. figs 9.1-9.10
Urban design does not yet benefit from a universally accepted definition. In the final issue of the Urban Design Studies, one of the aims of the annual is expressed: to provide a platform for teachers and institutions to set out their particular approach to the subject and define the parameters of the discipline, which remain matters of passionate debate and rigorous reinvestigation and revision.
The students’ projects in the Urban Design Atelier in 2001-2 focused on two sites: one in England at Gravesend, an old industrial port at the mouth of the Thames in Kent, and another, in collaboration with the University of Stuttgart, in Sweden at Malmo, once a sleepy fishing harbour and now an industrial town which is destined to change even further under the impact of the Oresund Bridge connecting the trunk road from Denmark to Sweden. Although the history which has shaped the urban fabrics of these two towns has little in common, both towns face serious challenges to adapt to modern life and a use of space radically different from that of the past, particularly because of new infrastructure in the European transport networks.