Apr/10
Azra Aksamija, John Ochsendorf, Mark Jarzombek

Dinner with the In-Laws: Agency

Part of the Dinner with the In-Laws Series, hosted by the Architecture Student Council

Azra Aksamija, John Ochsendorf, Mark Jarzombek

Azra Aksamija is an artist and architectural historian, Associate Professor at MIT Art, Culture and Technology Program.  In her multi-disciplinary work, Akšamija investigates the politics of identity and memory on the scale of the body (clothing and wearable technologies), on the civic scale (religious architecture and cultural institutions), and within the context of history and global cultural flows. Her projects explore the potency of art and architecture to transform conflicts, and in so doing, provide a framework for analyzing and intervening in contested socio-political realities. Her recent academic research focuses on the politics of representation of Islam in the West, conflict in the Balkans since the 1990s, and the destruction of cultural heritage in the Balkans and Middle East. 

Akšamija holds masters degrees from the Technical University Graz, Austria (2001) and Princeton University (2004), and a Ph.D. in History of Islamic Art and Architecture from MIT (History Theory and Criticism of Art and Architecture / Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, 2011). Her  work has been exhibited internationally in venues such as at the Generali Foundation Vienna, Valencia Biennial, Gallery for Contemporary Art Leipzig, Liverpool Biennial, Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb, Sculpture Center New York, Secession Vienna, Manifesta 7, Stroom The Hague, the Royal Academy of Arts London, Jewish Museum Berlin, Queens Museum of Art in New York, Qalandiya International, London Biennale – Manila Pollination 2016, and the Fondazione Giorgio Cini as a part of the 54th Art Biennale in Venice. She received the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2013 for her design of the prayer space in the Islamic Cemetery Altach, Austria.

John Ochsendorf is a structural engineer with multi-disciplinary research interests including the history of construction, masonry mechanics, and sustainable design. Trained in structural mechanics at Cornell, Princeton, and the University of Cambridge, he conducts research on the structural safety of historic monuments and the design of more sustainable infrastructure. An expert on the mechanics and behavior of masonry structures, Ochsendorf collaborates with art historians, architects, and engineers on the study and structural assessment of historic monuments around the world. His group's work on equilibrium methods has been extended to include early stage structural design tools for architects and engineers. 

Ochsendorf is the author of "Guastavino Vaulting: The Art of Structural Tile" (Princeton Architectural Press, 2010) and several dozen journal papers in structural mechanics. He has been awarded a Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome and a MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Mark Jarzombek, professor of the history and theory of architecture, works on a wide range of topics from the 12th century to the modern era.

He is one of the country’s leading advocates for global history and has published several books and articles on that topic, including the ground-breaking textbook entitled A Global History of Architecture (Wiley Press, 2006) with co-author Vikram Prakash and with the noted illustrator Francis D.K. Ching. He is the sole author of Architecture of First Societies: A Global Perspective (Wiley Press, 2013), which is a sensitive synthesis of first society architecture through time and includes custom-made drawings, maps and photographs. The book builds on the latest research in archeological and anthropological knowledge while at the same time challenging some of their received perspectives.

His ground-breaking work on global architecture history is further highlighted by a million dollar grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that Jarzombek received to create a new scholarly entity called Global Architecture History Teaching Collaborative (GAHTC). Promoting the development and exchange of teaching materials for architectural history education across the globe, the collaborative provides awards to members and their teams to develop new lecture material from global perspectives. 

Through EdX, Jarzombek taught the first ever MOOC (mass open online course) on the history of architecture with 25,000 people registering and 5,500 active participants, world-wide. It was among the most successful courses ever taught on the EdX platform to date. 

Urban destruction in the modern era is another focus of Jarzombek's work. His Urban Heterology: Dresden and the Dialectics of Post-Traumatic History takes on the issue of how erasure and rebuilding in Dresden force us to rethink the conventions of urban history. The issue is also at the core of the book about Krzysztof Wodiczko, City of Refuge: A 9/11 Memorial, which Jarzombek edited with Mechtild Widrich. He is currently working on a book called Architecture Modernity Enlightenment that reassesses contemporary architecture from the perspective of Enlightenment philosophers. His most recent book is Digital Stockholm Syndrome in the Post-Ontological Age