AUC Professor Bernard O'kane Wins Iran's Book of The Year Award
Professor Bernard O'Kane, a distinguished scholar in Islamic art and architecture at The American University in Cairo, has been awarded Iran’s prestigious World Book of the Year Award for his rich and exquisitely photographed volume, Studies in Persian Architecture (2021). O'Kane received the same award in 2004 for his book, Early Persian Painting: Kalila and Dimna Manuscripts of the Late Fourteenth Century. “I’m delighted to receive the award again,” said O’Kane. “The first was for a book on Persian manuscript paintings; this is on a very different aspect of my research, Persian architectural history.”
Through Studies in Persian Architecture, O'Kane presents 300 photographs, mostly his own, previously unpublished in color and 25 of his articles dissecting Persian monuments as well as prime features of Iranian architecture. It examines the monuments of the Greater Persian world, from Iraqi to Chinese borders, including buildings from historic periods that scholars have rarely studied. Each monument is placed within its relevant social and political context, with an analysis of historiography, tilework, development of the domes of Iranian mosques and more. The coverage also includes structures from prominent medieval dynasties—the Seljuqs, Ilkhanids, and Timurids—while also spotlighting neglected gems like Uzbek monuments in Afghanistan and those of the Chaghatai, Muzaffarid, Kartid, and Jalayirid dynasties.
“Persia has a particularly rich architectural heritage with the monuments, unlike Egypt, not being concentrated in one capital city but spread out to include all of Iran’s neighbors,” said O’Kane, highlighting his interest in Persian architecture. “The art of tilework was continuously developed there from the 12th century onward, and their use of bright but carefully controlled tiled facades is a joy to behold.”
A prolific author, avid photographer and AUC faculty member for the past 44 years, O’Kane has published numerous books, most recently Mosques: The 100 Most Iconic Islamic Houses of Worship (2019) and The Mosques of Egypt (2017).
Commenting on his passion for Islamic art and architecture, O’Kane remarked, “The vast range of Islamic architecture, from Andalusia to Indonesia, is both a delight and a challenge,” said O’Kane. “The centrality of the hajj meant opportunities for patrons and craftsmen to travel, and it is fascinating to see how this played out in architectural styles of sometimes widely separated areas.”