Fellow 2023/2024Pamela Karimi

Fellowship Term: 10/2023-07/2024

Architect and art historian Pamela Karimi currently holds a professorship at UMass Dartmouth. She obtained her PhD from the History, Theory & Criticism of Art and Architecture Program at MIT (2009) after completing two Masters degrees in Architecture (2005) and Art (2005) at the University of Arizona. She also holds a chair ar the Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative.

Her publications include Alternative Iran: Contemporary Art & Critical Spatial Practice (Stanford University Press, 2022), Winner of the 2021 Millard Miess Publication Fund from the CAA and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and Domesticity and Consumer Culture in Iran: Interior Revolutions of the Modern Era (Routledge, 2013).

Previous grants include the  2022 publication grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts and the 2018 Manning Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

 University profile page

Pamela Karimi

Survival by Design: Oil Crisis, the Middle East, and the Quest for Lunar Settlements (1960s-1990s)

The Middle East has a vital place in futuristic post- apocalyptic design, owing to its arid lands that served as experimental models for life on lunar surfaces, especially during the era shaped by Cold War space explorations and the Oil Crisis. Invoked by astrophysicists, environmentalists, architects, and sci-fi writers, the desert-friendly architecture of the Middle East was particularly critical during the “Environmental Age” (1960s-1990s). This study examines imaginary, architectural, and scientific proposals for self-sustained space settlements, informed by Middle Eastern desert architecture. Contributions of Iranian-American architect Nader Khalili (d. 2008) who explored the frontiers of space settlements through his decade-long solo survey of Iran’s self-sustained desert architecture-- described in multiple self-published autobiographies, including Sidewalks on the Moon, as well as 2 major published projects for NASA--will be compared against lavishly funded and celebrated works of US experts like system ecologist John Allen, whose career at Iran Development & Resources Corp gave the impetus for Biosphere 2. This study enhances understanding of the Middle East's geopolitical role in futuristic, self-sustained designs; post-apocalyptic discourses; and lunar outpost advancements by agencies such as NASA, ESA, and Roscosmos. Apocalyptic design solutions are often projected via white/Euro-American knowhow. By examining, comparing, and contrasting a series of case studies in desert architecture (historically, but also as analogs for life on lunar surfaces during the Oil Crisis), I will stress how local knowledge can help us envision an equitable and efficient future.