James Wescoat

Professor Emeritus

James L. Wescoat, Jr. is Aga Khan Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture and Geography. He joined the AKPIA program in 2008 and taught courses on “Islamic Architecture and the Environment,” “Islamic Gardens and Geographies,” “Water in Planning, Policy, and Design,” “Disaster-Resilient Design,” and various landscape and urbanism workshops in India and the U.S. Many of these courses were co-listed in Architecture and Urban Studies and Planning. Jim coordinated the SMArchS Urbanism program and co-directed MIT’s Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism for three years. He continues to follow and have an interest in AKPIA, LCAU and Urbanism programs, students, and alumni.

Jim’s research concentrates on water systems in South Asia and the US from the site to river basin scales. For much of his career, Professor Wescoat has focused on small-scale historical waterworks of Mughal gardens and cities in India and Pakistan. He led the Smithsonian Institution's project titled, "Garden, City, and Empire: The Historical Geography of Mughal Lahore," which resulted in a co-edited volume on Mughal Gardens: Sources, Places, Representations, Prospects , and The Mughal Garden: Interpretation, Conservation, and Implications with colleagues from the University of Engineering and Technology-Lahore. These and related books have won awards from the Government of Pakistan and Punjab Government. The overall Mughal Gardens Project won an American Society of Landscape Architects national research merit award, as did a project on The Moonlight Garden: New Discoveries at the Taj led by Elizabeth Moynihan. This work has been generously supported by fellowships from Dumbarton Oaks, the Freer and Sackler Galleries of Asian Art, and the American Academy in Rome. He continues to research and write about historic water systems in Agra, Delhi, Lahore, and Kashmir.

At the larger scale, Jim has conducted water policy research in the Colorado, Indus, Ganges, and Great Lakes basins. He led a USEPA-funded study of potential climate impacts in the Indus River Basin in Pakistan with the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA). He contributed to a subsequent World Bank study of climate change in the Indus basin in 2014. In 2003, he published Water for Life: Water Management and Environmental Policy with geographer Gilbert F. White (Cambridge University Press); and in 2007 he co-edited Political Economies of Landscape Change: Places of Integrative Power (Springer Publishing) for LAF Landscape Futures Initiative. He has chaired National Research Council studies of Glen Canyon Dam, lower Great Lakes, and Mississippi River delta.

Jim’s recent research has focused on intermediate-scale regional water systems. This includes research on rural drinking water supply in Maharashtra, India, funded by the MIT Tata Center for Technology and Design; the sociohydrology of water systems in Punjab, Pakistan; and historical geography of water management in South Asia. He currently serves on advisory boards for the School of Science and Engineering in the Lahore University of Management Sciences, and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Pune.