Homes constructed from artillery shells. Military tanks used as foundations for bridges. Flowerpots that were once parts of missiles. In Afghanistan, a generation of war has resulted in a strange new architecture, built from the implements of destruction. A series of photographs by Washington State University professor Rafi Samizay on Afghanistan and its architecture will be on display starting March 9 at the WSU Museum of Art. Titled “Afghanistan: Land of Light and Shadow,” the show is cocurated by Robert Barnstone, assistant professor in the School of Architecture and Construction Management, and Roger Rowley, Museum of Art curator and collections manager. In conjunction with the exhibit, a symposium on nation-building is planned for the WSU campus. Samizay returned to his native Afghanistan last fall after a 22-year absence to work on reconstruction efforts.
“To see people living and continuing to build out of things like artillery shells and tanks shows that even in the midst of 30 years of war, there’s hope,” says Barnstone.
Paired with photos from recent trips will be photographs from Samizay’s years as professor at Kabul University in the 1970s. Samizay is helping Kabul University develop a master plan and is working with the government to design a prototype courthouse for the country. Samizay fled Kabul in 1981 shortly after being arrested. His Western education and position as a professor made him a target during the Soviet occupation. He had been the director of Kabul University’s architecture school, specializing in indigenous architecture and historic preservation. He is the author of a 1980 book on the traditional architecture of Afghanistan, and prior to the Soviet occupation and civil war in the country, he conducted a survey and analysis of different neighborhoods of Kabul. He has been at WSU since 1984 and served as the School of Architecture’s director for nine years.
Samizay will return briefly from Afghanistan to participate in the nation-building symposium, but remains busy with rebuilding projects.
“He has a lot of guts to be in Afghanistan right now,” says Barnstone.