Topic outline

  • General

    Making Meaning out of Stone: The Built Environment and Ritual Practice in Florence and Cairo c. 1300

    Mondays and Wednesdays 11:30 to 12:50

    view of Cairo from the mosque of Ibn Tulun view of Florence


    Course Description

    Cities have always been sites of protest, transformation, dream making and dream dashing, triumph, celebration and disaster. Human activity, building practices and civic authority all play a role in the creation and production of both the stage and the “play” of city life. This course undertakes to examine two world historical cities, Florence and Cairo in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Both were key cities of the Mediterranean world at this time, experiencing remarkable growth in their architectural fabric, their world renown and their earthly riches. The aim of the course is to probe, through an examination of primary documents and the built environment, what lived experience in these two cities was like.



  • Topic 1

    Week One. September 5 and 7
    Introduction - Analyzing the City/Historiography/Is there an Islamic City/or who invented urban design...?
  • Topic 2

    Week Two. September 12 and 14. Introduction continued - Building Types and Layout and Meaning of the City; What are the sources; how do we use them?

  • Topic 3

    Week Three. September 19 and 21. Florence and Cairo through history/civic layout.

  • Topic 4


    Week Four. September 26 and 28. Understanding the iconography of architecture.
  • Topic 5

    Week Five. October 3 and 5. Major Monuments

  • Topic 6


    Weeks Six and Seven. October 10, 12 and 19. Theory of Urban Practice and Design

  • Topic 7


    Week Eight. October 24 and 26. Building Practices: Case Studies


  • Topic 8


    Week Nine. October 31 and November 2. The Ceremonial City


  • Topic 9

    Week Ten. November 7 and 9. The Ceremonial City (continued)


  • Topic 10

    Week Eleven. November 14 and 16. Continuity and Change

  • Topic 11

    Week Twelve. November 21 and 23. Continuity and Change (continued)

  • Topic 12

    Week Thirteen. November 28 and 30. The limits of comparative analysis. Methodological discussions

    (Note Final of URBAN ANALYSIS DUE – November 30th (no late papers accepted)






    PV and Bayn al Qasrayn


    Spatial considerations and Visual Practice



    Read: S. Bozdogan, “Architectural History in Professional Education: Reflections on Postcolonial Challenges to the Modern Survey,” (click link) and R. Nelson, “Living on the Byzantine Borders of Western Art,” (click link)


    Pdfs of Assigned Reading:


    S. Bozdogan, "Architectural History"


    R. Nelson, "Living on the borders"

  • Topic 13

    Week Fourteen. December 5 and 7. Florence and Cairo in the 19th through the 21st centuries

  • Topic 14


    • Topic 15

      • Topic 16