Jafar Tukan

Poetry in Stone

James Steele


Jafar Tukan: Poetry in Stoneis the first in depth study of the life and work of the late Palestinian master Jafar Tukan, who was inarguably one of the most influential architects in both his adopted nation of Jordan as well as throughout the Middle East. For the first time, the full impact of his attempt at raising the professional standards of his entire region has been recorded. Through this process he completely altered the design aesthetic of his home territory of Amman over the course of his remarkable career. As a result, the image of his homeland and its capital city has been irrevocably changed. That feat has been accomplished through a wide variety of building types, including mosques, private residences, housing projects, hotels, recreational facilities, museums, commercial complexes, office buildings, embassies, banks, and universities. Jafar Tukan demonstrates an unparalleled skill at maintaining the delicate balance between past, present, and future, tradition and technology, and rationality and passion, to an extent not found in the work of any other Muslim architect of his time.


9.3" x 10.5" Portrait
Publication date: 
June 15, 2017

Rights world: 
About the author: 

James Steele was born in Philadelphia, PA. He received his Bachelor of Arts in English from Lafayette College in Easton, PA followed by both a Bachelor and Masters Degree in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. He attended the Louis I. Kahn Program for his Masters degree, subsequently working briefly for Kahn after graduation on the Congress Hall for the Venice Biennale. He taught at the University of Pennsylvania while also working in other offices in and around Philadelphia, including Vincent Kling Associates and the Ballinger Company. After receiving his Pennsylvania Registration he opened his own office primarily designing single-family homes in both the Bucks and Montgomery County area.


Soon afterward, he accepted an appointment as an Assistant Professor at King Faisal University in Dammam (now Dammam University) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. During this time he wrote his first book, on Hassan Fathy, published by Academy Editions. After a decade in the Kingdom he left Saudi Arabia to accept a short appointment at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, after which he re-located to London to work as a Senior Editor of Architectural Design magazine and to teach at The Prince of Wales’ School of Architecture at Magdalene College in Oxford and the University College, London. He compiled a Catalogue Raisonne of the Hassan Fathy Archive for the Aga Khan Award Office in Geneva and also wrote A Decade of Architectural Design, Hellenistic Architecture in Asia Minor and Turkey, and A Traveler’s Historical Guide.


In 1991, he accepted a Visiting Lecturer’s post at the School of Architecture at University of Southern California, where he still teaches as a tenured professor. Research since has included two books for the Aga Khan Award, another on Hassan Fathy, a monograph on Rasem Badran, and A Critical History of Ecological Architecture, as well as many works on Los Angeles. He received a Doctor of Philosophy from the School of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Southern California in 2007.


He is a member of the UNESCO Scientific Committee: "Safeguarding Project of Hassan Fathy's New Gourna Village" tasked with saving this Egyptian master’s most significant work. He was also named by the Birchwood Conservancy as the lead architect for the World Heritage Animal Genetic Repository Institute (WHARG) in Sanger, CA to serve at a prototypical, sustainable, non-governmental, multinational, animal-genetic holding center to protect endangered species and the biodiversity of the planet.