In the last thirty years, the Aga Khan Award for Architecture has created an important body of people, thought and networks involved in evaluating the challenges and achievements of architecture in Muslim societies. Meanwhile, in the field, many of the arguments concerning knowledge and practice in the built environment in Muslim societies continue to be made within the limited dichotomy of modernism versus tradition. The Award, with its long experience, wanted to show how aspects of these arguments could be made in a more sustainable way, both for the Award’s constituencies, as well as for a broader spectrum of people involved with the issues of the built environment. Bringing the notion of ‘multiple modernities’ into the conceptual frame for understanding the built environment provided an alternative way to understand the transformations in Muslim societies, beyond narrow dichotomies. Using this as a foundation, in 2007 the Award inaugurated the first Knowledge Construction workshop, which invited scholars to think about, understand and explain ‘Tangible Elements of Modernities’ in non-Western societies.
A key issue that emerged from this session was related to the processes leading to the homogenisation of representations. During the discussions it became clear that if homogenising processes do exist, and to the extent that they exist, they become a limitation – even a denial – of pluralism in general and the plurality of modernities in particular. Thus, the possibility of the homogenisation of representations was identified as a major issue in the evaluation of what is happening in the built environment and its impact on the way people live in different societies. This problematic became the theme of the second Knowledge Construction workshop, entitled ‘Homogenisation of Representations’, upon which this volume is based.