Content and Project Goals

1. Title:   The Role of Public and Private Buildings in Bukhara within Islamic Art History, Restoration Sciences, and Construction Research

2. Introduction

The UNESCO-protected architectural district in the old town of Bukhara (Uzbekistan) is among the best-known historically developed city structures in central Asia.  It includes a large number of important individual buildings and one-of-a-kind historical city districts, in terms of both use and continued existence.

This research project is dedicated to the study of the Khoja Zayniddin city district, where traditional structures remain even today.  The heart of the quarter is made up of the historically significant Khoja Zayniddin mosque and other nearby buildings.  While the mosque, with its residential space and public buildings, has been examined from an architectural and historical perspective, its wooden construction has hardly been studied.  Until recently, the history of architecture of the Shaybanids, by whom the Khoja Zayniddin complex was also built, has only been interpreted within a regional context.

In recent years, the use of the district has experienced strong breaks in continuity.  It is important to note the change in its population during the early Soviet era.  Inner city markets and factories moved to the outskirts of the city, damaging social structure in the area and leading to lessened upkeep of the buildings.

Despite the damage caused by the Soviet era, the complex has maintained its role within the surrounding neighborhood.  It embodies the historic city center, which has brought Bukhara World Heritage status.  It is vital to study how a city center that is typical for the region has successively developed throughout time.

Such a study is now even more important because the district is in acute danger.  One reason for this is, despite attempts to carry out such studies, the means to examine individual buildings is lacking.  There are no centralized plans to preserve this cultural legacy, even though a 1996 UNESCO report recommended that this old city district be preserved as a monument and socio-cultural treasure.  This project would like to take up the task of carrying out these examinations, ultimately helping to preserve the district.

3. Project Goals

The goal of this project is to complete an interdisciplinary, scientific-based examination of the district.  First, a team made up of art historians and historians, specialists in building preservation, construction researchers, and architectural and urban planners should meet, in close cooperation with city and state agencies, and come up with a plan to cover all bases.

At the beginning of the project, the Khoja Zayniddin complex should be examined (first project phase).  The focus will be on the study of the mosque and surrounding buildings within their social and historical context.  In the second project phase, the study will be expanded to the southern part of the city.

Methodologically, in addition to traditional building documentation (photography, drafting, photogrammetry), a three-dimensional model with semantic mapping will be completed.  The measurements and archival data will be archived in more traditional formats.  In addition, digital construction archive will be created, developed by the Usbek cooperation partners at the beginning of the project, and continually maintained.

4. Project Implementation

In order to more successfully attain the project’s research goals, the main project has been split into five subprojects.

Subproject 1 (Universität Bamberg): This project focuses on the documentation of the construction of the ornamental, colorful mosque and Khoja-Zayniddin buildings.  As part of this project, the concept of the building shapes and style within art historical and construction periods will be confirmed with building research.  Scientific examinations should reveal the technology behind the art.  Planning documents,  photo documentation, and a 3-D model of the mosque and surrounding buildings will be available as the result of this work (first project phase).  In the second project phase, the research will be extended to the southwestern part of Bukhara.

Subproject 2 (Universität Bamberg) will clarify the role of the Khoja Zainiddin mosque within art history.  Here, the elements of continuity and variety which shape the architecture of the post-Timurid epoch in central Asia and Iran are being determined.  This stylistic comparison is based on well-documented buildings in Bukhara.  As a result of this work, a catalogue of stylistic criteria will be made available in order to help others understand the building’s stylistic classification.  Aside from diachronic comparison with other buildings in Bukhara, the building will be compared at the trans-regional level.  Buildings constructed during the same time period in Iran and Afghanistan will be analyzed as well.  The end result will be a contribution to hypotheses of the history of Islamic architecture in the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries.

Subproject 3 (University of Washington) The field of Islamic Studies also applies to historical archival research.  Changes in the Khoja Zayniddin area and its role in the framework of local and social history will be studied.  This subproject excludes the analysis of the present use of the structure.

Subproject 4 (Technische Universität München) The main focus in this subproject is the high quality wooden construction of the mosque within the context of construction in the city.  A detailed analysis of the construction elements is planned, including the role of the wood along with other building materials.  The wooden construction is being interpreted in terms of its shape and meaning as well as its function in residential architecture.  The analysis of the building construction goes hand in hand with the 3D measurements of the mosque and surrounding buildings, and digital data is complemented through details traditionally shown through the timber joints.  In addition, selected objects in the southwestern city district of Bukhara are being integrated into the model of this project, selected by building age, building development, building phases, and role within the quarter.

Subproject 5 (Universität Bamberg): In all phases of the project, the building documentation should be substantiated by analysis of the type of wood and the age of the wood that is used.  On selected buildings, the type of wood and possible sourcing of the wood will be confirmed by examining the building and window framework.  Dendochronology (a method of dating that confirms the year the tree was felled) will be used to help date the wood.  An account of how radio carbon methods (C14) can be used to date material within a relative time frame of one to two decades has been planned.

5. Public Relations

Public relations will play a large role in this project.  Two multi-day meetings are planned, at which the results of the completed work will be presented and the plans for further development of the project will be discussed.  Special value is placed in the monument preservation aspects, so that a plan for preservation can be created for the Khoja Zayniddin complex in close cooperation with Uzbeki partners.

The research project has been lead by regular publication and supported by the media (TV report).  In exchange, a traveling exhibition has been planned for the world heritage cities of Bamberg and Bukhara, and special exhibitions have been planned for Seattle and Munich as well.  The results of the project will also be published as an anthology.