Besim S. Hakim is a prominent architect who describes his career as built on “three pillars of professional activity in teaching, research, and practice in architecture, and urban design/planning.”1 He has become a prominent, internationally recognized expert on traditional and vernacular settlements and architecture, an interest that stems from “a conviction that the more we understand the experience of varied cultures across space and time, the more we are able to develop a viable and comprehensive theory of architecture and urbanism.” He argues that such an understanding “is also a prerequisite for developing intelligent alternative solutions to problems in contemporary architectural and urban planning practice.”2
Besim S. Hakim received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Liverpool University’s School of Architecture in 1962, and a Master of Architecture in Urban Design from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University in 1971. From 1967 to 1980 he was on the faculty of the Technical University of Nova Scotia, now part of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. His teaching career has included stints at some of the most prestigious schools of Architecture in North America, North Africa, and the Middle East, including 8 years (1985-93) at the College of Architecture and Planning, King Faisal University (now a part of University of Dammam). In 1990 he received an Education Honors Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for "Teaching History by Searching for Emics & Etics," and in November 2010 he was among five international experts invited to review the proposed curriculum of the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies of Qatar University for a Master’s Degree in Islamic Urban Planning and Architecture.
His current research investigates the system of rules and customary law that structure traditional architecture in the Cyclades Islands (Greece), Spain, Italy and Northern Nigeria. Considering the findings of these investigations alongside his earlier research in North Africa and the Middle East, provides insight into how quality is maintained in the built environment of multiple, disparate geographic and cultural contexts. Hakim contends that the conclusions derived from research into vernacular architecture are applicable to contemporary urban planning, architecture, and design, “particularly in the areas of management, decision-making structures and code formulations for town planning purposes. The ultimate goal is the creation of the necessary legislative and technical mechanisms to ensure the achievement of high quality in the built environment of contemporary towns and suburbs, as well as the revitalization of historic and heritage districts.”3
Hakim has applied these lessons to his own professional practice to his work on urban planning projects in Canada, the Middle East, and the United States.
His research on the role of culture in the built environment, urban design and planning, and architecture have been published in many articles, reports, and books, including Mediterranean Urbanism: Historic Urban/Building Rules and Processes, published by Springer in 2014, and Arabic-Islamic Cities: Building and Planning Principles, published by Kegan Paul International in 1986, and recipient of a Citation for Research from Progressive Architecture in 1987. A Japanese translation was published in 1990, a Farsi translation in 2002, and an Arabic translation in 2015. In 2009 Emergent City Press published a revised version of Sidi Bou Sa'id, Tunisia: Structure and Form of a Mediterranean Village. This unique book was originally published in 1978. Most recently he published an English translation of Rules for Compact Urbanism: Ibn al-Rami's 14th Century Treatise (2017).
Professor Hakim is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and a Member of the American Institute of Architects. He resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he continues his scholarly research and his practice as a consultant in urban design and planning.
NOTES: 1 Besim Hakim Bio for AKDC@MIT. MS Word Document. August 2015. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid.
SOURCES: Caperna, Antonio. "Interview With Besim Hakim. Mediterranean Codes and Sociogenerative Design - Biourbanism.org." International Society of Biourbanism. May 19, 2014. Accessed September 04, 2015. http://www.biourbanism.org/interview-besim-hakim/.
Hakim, Besim. Besim Hakim Curriculum Vitae. August 2015. PDF.
Hakim, Besim. Besim Hakim Bio for AKDC@MIT. August 2015. PDF.
Hakim, Besim S., and Peter G. Rowe. "The Representation of Values in Traditional and Contemporary Islamic Cities." Journal of Architectural Education 36, no. 4 (1983): 22-28.
Contemporary development in many Arab-Islamic cities, such as Cairo, Riyadh, Dammam, Damascus, Baghdad, and Tunis, presents a profound paradox and offers interesting insights into both the role of tradition in shaping settlements and the appropriateness of various mechanisms for transforming and assimilating foreign influences. On the one hand there is almost uniformly a deeply felt social need to continually re-affirm traditional values, cultural , and even national identities. On the other, there has been a wholesale commitment, even infatuation, with modern Western technology associated with participating in the geo-political economic order and in reckoning with the very real problems of rapid growth in urban population, largely occasioned by this participation. So far, public policy and private entrepreneurial investment has been weighted heavily in favor of new development, resulting, in most cases, in a transformation of the urban and architectural expression of the city towards norms that are largely devoid of traditional architectural values and conventions. Quite apart from the erosion of traditional building practices per se, the resulting commodification of habitat can often be alienating, particularly for those who are unaccustomed to the new conventions, or who are disenfranchised from the process of settlement itself.