Prof. Christiane Gruber’s lecture on “Hima in the House: Avian Architecture Across the Islamic World”


The fourth lecture in the series of “IRCICA Heritage Talks” was given by Professor Christiane Gruber from the History of Art Department, University of Michigan, on 17 March 2023, at IRCICA’s headquarters, in hybrid format. The lecture, titled “Hima in the House: Avian Architecture Across the Islamic World”, explored a significant aspect of humans’ relationship with non-human creatures that is reflected through the architecture dedicated to protecting avifauna in their natural and agricultural environments. Bird houses have been in use in different parts of the Islamic world for centuries, to provide birds with a sanctuary or “Hima“, as would be understood in Islamic philosophical context, i.e., refuge and protection, in a conciliatory, harmonious relationship representing the “ontological connectivity” between humans and the animal and vegetal worlds. As structures built of various materials or sets of alcoves carved in rock, birdhouses feature creative forms and functional elements linked to ancestral artistic and artisanal traditions, which must be preserved. The lecturer showed pictures of birdhouses and alcoves from Egypt, Iran and Türkiye, explaining their structural elements, architectonic characteristics, intersections with peoples and places, and bio-material contributions to the creaturely world. Humans’ connection and interaction with an integrated living environment is worthy of deeper exploration and promises to be rewarding in the context of studies on history of art and architecture, it was concluded.

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