family origins, Stefano Bianca was
born in 1941 in Lisbon. He received most of his education in Switzerland,
earning his master’s degree in architecture and his Ph.D. in architectural
history at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. He has
also taught urban design at the ETH in 1978/79 and has lectured on subjects of
planning and urban conservation in Europe, the US and the Middle East.
As researcher and
writer, he has extensively studied the architecture of the Muslim World since
1966, focusing on the interrelation between cultural patterns and corresponding
built environments. As practising architect and urban designer, he has directed
between 1975 and 1991 a number of conservation and urban rehabilitation projets
in historic cities of the Muslim World, including Fez, Cairo, Aleppo, Damascus,
Sana’a, Baghdad, Medina, and Riyadh, some on behalf of UNESCO, some on behalf
of local authorities.
From 1992 to 2006,
Stefano Bianca has been the first Director of the newly established
« Historic Cities Programme » (HCP) of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture
(AKTC) in Geneva, which is in charge of implementing the Aga Khan’s initiatives
in the field of urban conservation and rehabilitation in the Islamic world. He
has built up the strategy and the initial portofolio of the Programme, which includes
sites in Northern Pakistan (Hunza and Baltistan), Zanzibar, Samarkand, Cairo,
Mostar, Aleppo, Kabul, Herat, Delhi and other places, with activities covering
conservation of historic buildings, urban rehabilitation, improvement of public
open spaces, community development, economic support and local
Since his retirement
in 2006, Stefano Bianca has worked as a free-lance consultant and held courses
at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, as well as advising on urban
planning in Baghdad, Nejat and Karbala. For UNESCO, he participated in the
research concerning the new concept of « Historic Urban Landscapes ».
He has published widely on the subjects of environnmental planning, Islamic
arts, traditional architecture and gardens, as well as urban conservation and
development in the Arab World. Among his more recent books are
Hofhaus und Paradiesgarten, C.H. Beck, Munich, 1991 and 2001
Urban Form in the Arab World – Past and Present, Thames & Hudson, London and New York, 2000
Gardens of Delight (Introduction), DuMont, Cologne,2001
Cairo – Revitalising a Historic Metropolis (editor), Allemandi, Torino, 2004
Karakoram – Hidden Treasures in the Northern Areas of Pakistan (editor) Allemandi, Torino 2007
Reconnecting the City – The Historic Urban Landscape Approach and the Future of Urban Heritage (Contributor), Wiley, Chichester, 2014
Bianca, Stefano. Urban Form in the Arab World - Past and Present. Zurich: vdf, 2000.
Urban Form in the Arab World presents a detailed survey of traditional urban structures in Arab-Islamic countries and an analysis of the problems that historic cities face as they confront modern development and Western technologies. Essential reading for architects and planners professionally involved in the Middle East, it will appeal to anyone interested in Islamic architecture and culture in general.
Stefano Bianca, an architectural historian and practicing urban designer, discusses a wide range of philosophical and technical issues, bridging past and present and drawing upon his thorough knowledge of the field.
In contrast to the many books on Islamic architecture that focus on isolated historic monuments, Urban Form in the Arab World describes the complete urban fabric, with its houses, mosques, public facilities, streets and markets. Basic architectural forms are explained in relation to how they are used, as well as in terms of their general cultural background and pre-islamic precedents. The conflicts between traditional Islamic models and Western planning methods are explored, and case studies of Mecca, Baghdad, Fez and Aleppo show how practical solutions can be found to problems faced by architects trying to preserve both local cultural identity and the historic patterns of cities. The rich visual documentation includes maps, plans and photographs, many previously unpublished.