Azra Akšamija

Unmaking Monuments

MIT Architecture | Fall 2020 Lecture Series
In collaboration with the MIT Program in Art, Culture, and Technology
New date to be announced soon!

Akšamija’s work interrogates the potency of monuments as a means of framing and reframing history, and in so doing, providing a tangible medium for healing divided societies and creating a more just world. Through her critical interventions in sites of contested memory–for example, the 1990s genocide and its denial in Bosnia, the ongoing dilemmas over cultural and social reconstruction of Syria, and celebrating the Centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment of the United States’ Constitution–Akšamija challenges the moralizing and monumentalizing histories framed by the winners through a method of “unmaking monuments”: a continuous process of building and dismantling the monument’s narrative, form, and authorship.

Azra Akšamija

Associate Professor MIT

Azra Akšamija, Ph.D. is an artist and architectural historian. She is an Associate Professor in the MIT Department of Architecture, Program in Art, Culture and Technology, where she directs the Future Heritage Lab. Akšamija’s artistic practice and academic research explore how social life is affected by cultural bias and by deterioration and destruction of cultural infrastructures within the context of conflict, migration, and forced displacement. Akšamija authored two books, Mosque Manifesto (2015) and Museum Solidarity Lobby (2019), and edited the volume Architecture of Coexistence: Building Pluralism (2020). Her artistic work has been exhibited in leading international venues, including the Generali Foundation and Secession in Vienna, Biennials in Venice, Liverpool, Valencia, and Manila, Manifesta 7, Museums of Contemporary Art in Zagreb, Belgrade, and Ljubljana, Sculpture Center and  Queens Museum of Art in New York, the Royal Academy of Arts London, Jewish Museum Berlin, Design Festivals in Milan, Istanbul, Eindhoven, and Amman. Most recently, her work has been shown at the Kunsthaus Graz, the Aga Khan Museum Toronto, and the Kästner Gesellschaft Hanover, and is part of the upcoming Venice Biennale of Architecture 2020/21. Akšamija holds an M.Arch from Graz Institute of Technology (2001) and Princeton University (2004), and a Ph.D. from MIT (2011). She received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2013 for her design of the prayer space in the Islamic Cemetery Altach, Austria, the Art Award of the City of Graz in 2018, and an honorary doctorate from the Montserrat College of Art (2020).

Above images

1. Azra Aksamija portrait. Photo by Angelika Mende.

2. "Memory Matrix," installation view, 2016. Photo by Azra Aksamija. 

3. "Memory Matrix," installation view, 2016. Photo by Dietmar Offenhuber. 

4. "Cambridge Common," proposal for 19th Amendment monument. Image by Future Heritage Lab.

5. "Spring Collection." Courtesy Azra Aksamija.