Change our Planet (COP) Conversations: What We Build w/ Diana Darke and Shahed Saleem

29 May 2022 – 17:30 GMT
Brighton Festival (online)

Given nationalist tendencies to point to flags and buildings as symbols of ‘pure’ identity, Diana Darke’s Stealing from the Saracens: How Islamic Architecture Shaped Europe, has ruffled feathers in a few quarters. However, her argument, that architecture has a history of cross fertilisation, is compelling and might offer ways to heal the alienation that migrants feel as they cross borders, as well as open doors for a new generation, born wherever their forebears found solace, to feel connected to the lands of their birth.

Diana is joined in conversation by architect and academic Shahed Saleem, to discuss how architecture affects the way we live and how we find our place within the world.

About the book
‘An exhilarating, meticulously researched book that sheds light on centuries of borrowing, tracing the roots of Europe’s major buildings.’ — The Guardian

Against a backdrop of Islamophobia, Europeans are increasingly airbrushing from history their cultural debt to the Muslim world. But this legacy lives on in some of Europe’s most recognisable buildings, from Notre-Dame Cathedral to the Houses of Parliament.

This beautifully illustrated book reveals the Arab and Islamic roots of Europe’s architectural heritage. Diana Darke traces ideas and styles from vibrant Middle Eastern centres like Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo, via Muslim Spain, Venice and Sicily into Europe. She describes how medieval crusaders, pilgrims and merchants encountered Arab Muslim culture on their way to the Holy Land; and explores more recent artistic interaction between Ottoman and Western cultures, including Sir Christopher Wren’s inspirations in the ‘Saracen’ style of Gothic architecture.

Recovering this long yet overlooked history of architectural ‘borrowing’, Stealing from the Saracens is a rich tale of cultural exchange, shedding new light on Europe’s greatest landmarks.

About the author

Diana Darke is an Arabist and cultural expert who has lived and worked in the Middle East for over thirty years. She is the author of The Merchant of Syria: A History of Survival and My House in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Crisis. She tweets as @dianadarke.

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