“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!” – Dr. Seuss
…and I think I am:
I am a Muslim. Islam is ingrained in my being. I pray five times a day, fast during the month of Ramadan, and give alms to charity. I am the generation that went from an ordinary person on September 10, 2001 to waking up the next morning and being demeaned. After 9-11, I knew as an American-Muslim that our perceptions and image were going to change. We had to be prepared to refuse the image that these radical fundamentalist had given us. I approached The University of Arizona to endorse and help us initiate the Muslims Student Association. That year, we started the Fast – a – thon tradition. We invited everyone on campus to join us on one day during the holy month of Ramadan, to fast with us. At the end of the day we had a feast. For every person that participated, Muslim-owned companies or stores donated a monetary contribution to the local Food Bank. This tradition is in its 5th year, and last year we were able to raise over $2,500. My generation has been able to reinvent the meaning of “American Muslim“ or perhaps “Modern Muslim“.
I am an architect. We create things and leave our impressions on earth. Relentlessly I am designing new things; whether, it is a master plan for The University of Arizona Arts Oasis project, Phoenix College Fine Arts building, or the Tucson Bus Shelter. I am constantly creating. Now I am on a mission to expand the margins and create contemporary, yet symbolic Islamic Architecture at the Aga Khan Program in Islamic Architecture at Harvard and MIT. Muslim communities continue to implement the same architectural vocabulary that they are familiar with, mimicking and emulating their neighborhood mosque from the Middle East to Western suburbia. I witnessed this frenzy while working as a designer and cultural / religious advisor on the new Islamic Center project in Seattle, Washington. From that experience, I realized that I have a passion to expand the boundaries and create a new vocabulary for the next generation.
I am you. I am not defined solely by where I am from, my traditions, heritage, rules, and culture. I believe in the best from everybody, everywhere, and everything; morphing it into a modern culture. We all should be global citizens where we learn from each other and import the best things from others into our own lives. We should be open and yearning to change; push for new things and be unique. Celebrate life with me; celebrate the holy month of Ramadan.
______________________________________________________________Maryam Eskandari, Director of American Institute Architect AssociateGraduate Student | Aga Khan Program Islamic Architecture Harvard and MITArchitectural Designer | A.I.T | NAAB | NCARBPh. 520.891.0084E. firstname.lastname@example.org://maryameskandari.blogspot.com/
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