Professor Samer Akkach

Samer Akkach
Founding Director - CAMEA
School of Architecture and Built Environment
Faculty of the Professions

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Professor Samer Akkach

Research Interests

Samer joined the University of Adelaide in 1993. He moved from Sydney where he received his Master of Architectural Design from the University of New South Wales in 1985, and his PhD from the University of Sydney in 1992.

Samer is an established scholar in two fields of study: architectural history and theory and Islamic studies. He has a cross-cultural background, interdisciplinary research interests, and a unique mix of expertise. The spectrum of his expertise include:

  • History and theory of architecture and landscape in general, and of Islamic art, architecture and landscape in particular.
  • Intellectual history of the Arab-Islamic and Ottoman traditions in the early modern period (16th - 19th centuries), with a special focus on the Enlightenment and transitions into modernity in both the European and the Arab-Ottoman worlds.
  • Socio-urban history of Middle Eastern cities in general, and Damascus in particular, during the early modern period, with special focus on the rise of urban secularism.
  • Islamic cosmology (pre- and post-Copernican traditions), philosophy (pre- and early modern), and mysticism (pre- and early modern).
  • History of Arab-Islamic science in the post-copernican period.

Centre for Asian and Middle Eastern Architecture (CAMEA)

Samer is Founding Director of the Centre for Asian and Middle Eastern Architecture (CAMEA), which was founded in 1997. CAMEA's establishment coincided with major shifts in peoples’ attitudes towards the built environment caused by unsettling changes in three areas: environment, technology, and culture.

  • Awareness of the long-term environmental consequences of modern urbanisation and industrialisation has highlighted the urgent need for new approaches to a sustainable future;
  • Advanced communication technologies have called for new ways of perceiving and dealing with reality; and
  • Intense cross-cultural interactions have generated a strong demand for broader and more culture-sensitive modes of architectural thinking.

CAMEA was founded to address the demand for new cross-cultural understanding of architecture in the context of these major global shifts. Despite the growing recognition of the importance of understanding cultural diversity, the foundations of most conventional approaches to the study of the constructed environments remain firmly seated in the European tradition. One of CAMEA’s long-term goals is to address the problems of Eurocentrism by opening up new horizons of thinking about our modern and pre-modern architecture, landscape, and urbanity. CAMEA's publications include:

S. Akkach et al (eds), Self, Place, and Imagination: Cross-Cultural Thinking in Architecture (Adelaide: CAMEA, 1999, 2nd printing 2000).

S. Akkach (ed.), De-Placing Difference: Architecture, Culture and Imaginative Geography (Adelaide: CAMEA, 2002, 2nd printing 2006).

P. Scriver (ed.), The Scaffolding of Empire (Adelaide: CAMEA, 2007). 

CAMEA Fifth International Conference, July 20-23, 2016
'Ilm: Science, Religion, and Art in Islam



Date Citation
2015 Akkach,S, 2015, The Eye of Reflection: Al-Nābulusī’s Spatial Interpretation of Ibn ‘Arabī’s Tomb, Muqarnas: an annual on the visual culture of the Islamic world, 32, 1, 79-95 10.1163/22118993-00321P06
2012 Akkach,S, 2012, The wine of babel: landscape, gender and poetry in early modern Damascus, Lonaard Magazine, 7, 2, 76-90
2010 Akkach,S, 2010, Leisure gardens, secular habits: The culture of recreation in Ottoman Damascus, Orta Dogu Teknik Universitesi. Mimarlik Fakultesi. Dergisi, 27, 1, 67-80 10.4305/METU.JFA.2010.1.4
2007 Akkach,S, 2007, The spatiality of the cross in Islamic architecture and landscape, TAASA Review, 16, 1, 4-6
2007 Akkach,S, 2007, Adrian Snodgrass and Richard Coyne, Interpretations in Architecture: design as a way of thinking, Architectural Theory Review, 12, 2, 217-219 10.1080/13264820701730934
2007 Akkach,S, 2007, The Wine of Babel: landscape, gender and poetry in early modern Damascus, Literature and Aesthetics, 17, 1, 107-124
2005 Akkach,S, 2005, The poetics of concealment: Al-Nabulusi's encounter with the Dome of the Rock, Muqarnas, 22, 1, 110-127 10.1163/22118993-90000086
2003 Akkach,S, 2003, Design and the Question of Eurocentricity, Design Philosophy Papers, 1, 6, 1-12
2003 Akkach,S, 2003, The 'wholly other': on the spatiality of the holy in Islam, Architectural Theory Review, 8, 2, 39-56
2002 Akkach,S, 2002, Religious mapping and the spatiality of difference, Thresholds (Cambridge), 25, 68-75
2001 Akkach,S, 2001, Imaginary geography and the land of (virtual) reality: Reflections on the cosmology of cyberspace, Architectural Theory Review, 6, 1, 16-32 10.1080/13264820109478413
2000 Akkach,S, 2000, The burden of difference: rethinking the role of culture in architectural education, Architectural Theory Review, 5, 1, 61-64 10.1080/13264820009478387
1999 Akkach,S, 1999, Al-'Anara al-'Arabiyya al-Mu'asira 'ala Masharif al-Qarn al-Jadid, Al-Mustagbal Al-'Arabi, 22, 248, 88-92
1999 Akkach,S, 1999, Tanzir al-'Amara wa Tajribat al-Hayat al-Yawmiyya, Al-Mustagbal Al-Arabi, 22, 248, 92-112
1998 Akkach,S, 1998, Lu'bat al-Wujud wa Mawaqi ' al-Ashya, Al-Mustqbal Al-Arabi, 236, 125-145
1997 Akkach,S, 1997, Al-Bahth 'an Dhat dhat Ma'na: Ishkaliyyat Al-Hawiyya fi Al-Amarah, Arab Future, 222, 34-47
1997 Akkach,S, 1997, The world of imagination in Ibn 'Arabi's ontology, British Journal for Middle Eastern Studies, 24, 1, 97-113
1997 Akkach,S, 1997, Ibn 'Arabi's Cosmogony and the Sufi concept of space and time, Disputatio : An International Transdisciplinary Journal of the Late Middle Ages, 2, Construction of time in the Late Middle Ages, 115-142
1996 Akkach,S, 1996, Review of Dialogue on the Structure of Art and Architecture, Arab Future, 213, 139-147
1995 Akkach,S, 1995, Qadaya Mi'mariyyah Mu'asirah: Badihiyyat Matruhah Lil-Tasa'ul, Arab Future, 18, 197, 28-37
1995 Akkach,S, 1995, In the image of the cosmos: Order and symbolism in traditional Islamic architecture (Part 1), Islamic Quarterly, xxxix, 1, 5-17
1995 Akkach,S, 1995, In the image of the cosmos: Order and symbolism in traditional Islamic architecture (Part 2), Islamic Quarterly, xxxix, 2, 90-106


Date Citation
2015 Akkach,S, 2015, Damascene Diaries: A Reading of the Cultural History of Ottoman Damascus in the 18th Century, Bissan, Beirut, 1-345
2012 Akkach,S, 2012, Intimate invocations: Al-Ghazzi's biography of Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulusi (1641-1731), Brill, Netherlands, 1-824
2010 Akkach,S, 2010, Letters of a Sufi scholar : the correspondence of ʻAbd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī, 1641-1731, Brill, Netherlands, 1-129
2007 Akkach,S, 2007, Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulusi: Islam and the Enlightenment, Oneworld, Oxford, England, 1-152
2005 Akkach,S, 2005, Cosmology and architecture in premodern Islam - An architectural reading of mystical ideas, State University of New York Press, 194 Washington Ave, Suite 305, Albany, NY, 12210-2365, 1-262
2002 2002, De-placing Difference: Architecture, Culture and Imaginative Geography, Centre for Asian and Middle Eastern Architecture, the University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia
2000 2000, Self, place & imagination : cross-cultural thinking in architecture, Centre for Asian & Middle Eastern Architecture, University of Adelaide

Book Chapters

Date Citation
2015 Akkach,S, 2015, Beautiful names of God, Brill, Leiden, Boston, pp. 54-57
2014 Akkach,S, 2014, Modernity and design in the Arab world: Professional identity and social responsibility, Routledge, United Kingdom, pp. 61-75
2012 Akkach,S, 2012, 'Abd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī, Brill, Leiden, Boston, pp. 20-28
2011 Akkach,S, 2011, The Presence of absence: sacred design now (2), Team D/E/S Publications, Australia, pp. 63-70
2005 Akkach,S, 2005, Design and the Question of Eurocentricity: a Personal Reflection, Team D/E/S Publications, Leiden, Boston, pp. 87-91
2002 Akkach,S, 2002, Useful obsessions: Architecture as a cultural critique, Comportements, Lausanne, pp. 31-41
2002 Akkach,S, 2002, On Culture, Centre for Asian and Middle Eastern Architecture, the University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, pp. 183-189

Conference Papers

Date Citation
2002 Akkach,S, 2002, Mapping difference: On the Islamic concept of fada'il, CAMEA International Symposium, Adelaide, Australia
2000 Akkach,S, 2000, Framing the holy: Islamic Jerusalem in history and travel memoirs, International Symposium of The Centre for Asian Environments, Sydney, Australia

Conference Items

Date Citation
2015 Akkach,S, 2015, The eye of reflection: Al-Nabulusi's spatial interpretation of Ibn 'Arabi's tomb
2015 Akkach,S, 2015, Neo-Eurocentricity and History of Islamic Science, Rethinking Intellectual History 2015, University of Sydney, Australia
2014 Akkach,S, 2014, Islamic Cosmology in the Post-Copernican Period: Reflections on al-Nābulusī’s Views, Early Modern Trends in Islamic Theology: 'Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulusi and his Network of Scholarship, Centre for Islamic Theology, University of Tubingen, Germany
2014 Akkach,S, 2014, Neo-Eurocentricity and Islamic Intellectual History in the Post-Copernican Period, The Islamic World in the 18th Century: Before Colonialism, The NYU Abu Dhabi Institute, UAE
2013 Akkach,S, 2013, Damascene Diaries: Urban Secularity and Religious Tolerance, Australia and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies Conference, Melbourne, Australia

Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grants

2012-15: Islam and the Ethos of Science in the Post-Copernican Period 

(Sole Chief Investigator, recieved ARC Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA)).

2009-11: Islam and Secular Urban Culture in Early Modern Middle East 

(Sole Chief Investigator)

2006-09: Islam, Modernity and the Enlightenment: A New Perspective 

(Sole Chief Investigator)

Awards and Achievements

2015-2016   Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies' Prize for Research in Humanities and Social Science 

2012-15   Australian Research Council's Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA).

2010-11   Visiting Professorship, Arab International University, Damascus.

2010   Honorary Fellowship, Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi’s Society, Oxford and Berkeley.

2010   Australian Institute of Architects' Neville Quarry Architectural Education Prize

2009   Hamad bin Khalifa fellowship for Islamic Art.

2003   University of Adelaide’s Stephen Cole the Elder prize for excellence in teaching.

2002   Visiting Research Fellowship at MIT, The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture.

2001   Society of Architectural Historians of North America’s Fellowship.

  • Representation II, Sem. 2
  • Final Project, Sem. 2


Sareh Abooali (PhD), In Search of Beauty: Vision, Imagination, and the Arts in Safavid Iran

James Bennett (PhD), An Examination of the Role of Indian Trade Textiles in the Spread of Islamic Art Styles to Indonesia with Reference to the Michael Abbott AO QC Collections

Unaza Khan (PhD), Sufi Revivalism Past to the Present: Political and Religious Context of the Sufi Orders in South Asia

Shaha Parpia (PhD), The Mughal Hunting Grounds: A New Perspective on Islamic Landscape

John Powell (PhD), Garden Art and Philosophical Aesthetics

Mansoureh Rajabitanha (PhD), Woven Pleasure: Rethinking the Design and Meaning of Persian Carpet during the Safavid Period (1501-1722 CE)

Zahra Ranjbari (PhD), Gardens of Eden: A Study of Islamic Landscapes in the Early Safavid Period

Jade Riddle (PhD), Spatial Narratives of Grub Street: Duality in the Early Modern Period

Recently Completed

Kinda Samara (MPhil), The Rise of Modern Urbanity (tamaddun) in the Arab World: Education, Journalism, and Enlightenment

Perri Sparnon (Honours), Revelation and Reason: The Development of Islamic Cosmology, 7th-19th century

Ahmad Sukkar (PhD), Structures of Light: The Body and Architecture in Premodern Islam

Faris Hajamaideen (PhD), Body, Soul, and Architecture: A Study of the Premodern Islamic and Western Traditions

Julie Nichols (PhD), Maps and Meanings: Urban Cartography and Urban Design

Founding Director - CAMEA
8313 4377
North Terrace
Horace Lamb Building
Room Number
4 70
Org Unit
School of Architecture & Built Environment