Architecture in Islamic lands is at a critical turning point. Until relatively recently conventional academic research had been conducted largely from an a Orientalista perspective. Today, discussions of Islam and architecture are acknowledging the true diversity and complexities of Islamic societies. Innovative and sustainable for centuries, the architecture of Islamic regions declined with colonial and and superpower politics, and with the influx of oil wealth, imported inappropriate building systems, or lapsed into a self--conscious parody of a Islamic stylea . With growing global anxiety over control of oil resources in the Middle East and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, what happens next? Are we capable today of a new, pluralistic, truly contemporary and ecologically responsible approach to architecture? If so, then such an approach might be the response not only to the cultural and social needs of traditional Islamic societies but to all our needs as "unity in diversity" becomes essential to survival itself.
This highly topical issue draws together a prestigious array of contributors, including Barbara Smith, the previous International Editor of The Economist; renowned Turkish architect Turgut Cansever; Nasser Rabbat, the Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Architecture at MIT, and Dr Suha Ozkan, Secretary General of The Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Pressing topics such as the challenge of sustainable development and the precarious course that needs to be drawn between globalism and cultural identity are also covered, as well as close--up views of work in Egypt, The Lebanon and Turkey, and a profile of Syrian architect Sinan Hassan.