An Inter-Institutional Platform
for PhDs, PostDocs and ECRs in
Architectural History and Theory,

Landscape and the City

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Sessions take place every Tuesday at 4 PM CET
(if not indicated otherwise in the program)

SS 22 Program ︎︎︎

31 May 2022

Demystifying the Harem:
Domestic Interiors, Women, and Sociability in the Late-Ottoman Capital’s Printed Media

ETH Zurich/gta

Lydia Harrington
(Boston University)

“For the pillow, curtain and chandelier the summer flower motif will be made of satin, for the lanterns of silk, and applied by embroidery or appliqué drawing. The flowers might also be drawn on top of the fabric with brush or paint. The application of the motif on tablecloth, umbrella and dress is also admissible.” (Süs magazine no. 42, 1924).
At the center of orientalist imagination about the Ottomans stood their domestic way of living, which was emblematized in bare rooms with large divans and idle women sitting in their gauzy trousers. The image was reproduced recursively in western travelogues, souvenir albums, or illustrated books (despite the fact that it was losing its immediate relevance at its point of departure). This presentation investigates local discourses about the domestic sphere in Istanbul, which speak directly or indirectly with these orientalist clichés of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century. It analyses advice literature and women’s journals published in Istanbul, which brought together miscellaneous representations of the most public room in an Ottoman household; the space that was called “basoda”, “reception room”, or “salon”. Although oscillating between various degrees of fact and fiction, the excerpts that will be discussed in this presentation suggest that the daily life in the residential interior was in a state of conflict and transition with its material repertoire, decorative practices, and gender dynamics; in other words, that these interiors contradicted with the ahistorical and serene pictures prevailing in Western orientalist engravings.
In my dissertation, titled “Salon alla Franca: Modernity and domestic living in late Ottoman Istanbul (1860- 1930s)”, I reconsider the domestic culture of elite households in a time of dense acculturation with global trends. This presentation will dig into the popular press, in order to unfold the nodes of entanglement between the decorative world and social life occurring in the Ottoman salons and their elements of continuity in the early republican context. Through a bricolage of concerns, criticisms, ideas, and bits of advice about home life published in periodic literature, I will try to generate new insights into a type of interior that no longer exists.


Portrait of a Woman on a Farangi Chair: Investigating the Gendered Spatiality of Harems in Late-19th Century Persia through the Emergence of “Farangi [Frankish]” Furniture

ETH Zurich/gta

Mira Xenia Schwerda

(University of Edinburgh)

“Persian Lady receiving a European Lady”; undated lithograph by unknown artist, published in: Glimpses of Life and Manners in Persia. by Lady Mary Leonora Woulfe Sheil (fl.1860). With Additional Notes by Sir Justin Sheil, Knight General and Diplomat (1803-1871). London: John Murray, Albemarle Street (1856, p. 131)

In 1856, the publication of Lady Mary Sheil's travelogue 'Glimpse of Life and manners in Persia' provided the earliest portrait of a Persian Andaroun (a Persian harem), however, depicting a contradictory 'harem scene.' The lithograph of 'Persian Lady receiving a European Lady' and its accompanying text did not resonate with how the Andaroun was wholesomely imagined as an exotic, and voyeuristic yet 'unreachable' imaginary scene. Still, it represented a sole framing of an Andaroun structured around a woman sitting on a Farangi ('Frankish', i.e., Western) chair. The accounts of Lady Sheil introduced her readers to the forbidden inside of an Andaroun; as a result of this, penetrating behind its high walls was no more an 'unreachable desire'. Such portrayals of domesticity in the Androun stayed out of the context of acceding female travelers and male photographers to Persia. Nevertheless, the display of a Persian woman in a Farangi garment, sitting on a Farangi chair and playing a Farangi piano, found its context, particularly in the early photographs of Naser-al Din Shah Qajar from his forbidden Andaroun.
By taking this lithograph as the starting point, I will focus on the earliest appearances of Farangi chairs in lithographs and photographs of Persian interiors, in order to investigate the interaction between architecture and gender in the transitional socio-political discourse of Farangisazi ('being like a Frankish') in the late 19th-century Persia. This presentation is based on an early draft of a chapter in my doctorate project with the working title 'Farangi-Sazi-e (being like a European) Andaroun'. My main aim in this chapter is to draw on the spatial representation of the Harem in feminist postcolonial theory and contextualize the domesticity of Andaroun in the discourse so as to (re)read the spatial tension of publicity in the eyes of the marginalized inhabitants of Andaroun.

7 June 2022

Session respondents:
Nitin Bathla
ETH Zurich
& Vladan Klement
Czech Technical University, Prague

A Pre-colonial Tale
of the Moroccan Informal City

National Institute for
Urban and Spatial Planning, Morocco/
Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation
University of Chicago

With around 150.00 families living in slums in Morocco, the program “Cities Without Slums” has failed twice to achieve its goal of eradicating slums in more than 80 cities. In fact, in the history of urban policy in Morocco, none of the numerous upgrading and resettlement programs has ever been able to end informal settlements . To understand the non-efficiency of these policies, one approach is to explore the evolution of urban informality in the history of Morocco. In other words: how and when did urban informality emerge and under which circumstances?
Challenging the common assumption that urban informality was triggered by the French protectorate, we will go back in history and observing the making of Moroccan cities before that era. Another objective will be to examine the tools and frameworks that facilitated urban management in Morocco at that time. The timespan of this research starts shortly before the first Roman agglomerations in Morocco until 1912. And covers more than the current geographical limits of the country to include north Africa and south of current day Spain.


How Did the Ethnic Urban Apartheid Shift to a Socio-Economic Urban Apartheid in Moroccan Cities?

University of British Columbia

Morocco has a long history of urbanization amongst African countries. The different epochs and waves of urbanization have contributed to the shaping of urban centers and cities in the country. Yet, the largest wave of urbanization has taken place in the last century, during and after the French protectorate era. I argue that the predominant problem of contemporary Moroccan cities – the so-called “informal settlements”, and the urban and socio-economic segregation it imposes upon disenfranchised communities – has it roots in the urban policies initiated and implemented under the French protectorate. These policies have generated, at first, an ethnic urban segregation, and then (after independence) a socio-economic urban apartheid that translated spatially in the proliferation of informal settlements.
The goal of this presentation is to investigate the protectorate and post-protectorate urban policies of Morocco, in order to identify the key moments that shaped the housing provision and led to housing shortages in the country’s largest cities. This paper is based on a review of secondary data available in journal papers and books, and aims to answer the following research question: At what point in the history of Moroccan urban policies, did the ethnic apartheid imposed by the protectorate administration shift to a socio-economic apartheid after independence? And what are the tools that facilitated or allowed for this transition?

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