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Free Content Shangri La: Architecture As Collection

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As the sole heiress to the Duke fortunes, Doris Duke came into wealth at a relatively young age and invested it in ways that reflected her evolving artistic palette. One of her major artistic achievements was the construction of Shangri La in Hawaii, a residence made entirely of Islamic art objects that were collected and commissioned by Duke during and after her honeymoon cruise in 1935. Twentieth-century orientalist art collectors exhibited an interest in a ‘Near East’ long before Duke travelled through the Middle East and India, yet Duke’s method of acquisition and access to objects was unconventional when compared to her peers. The example of Shangri La as a built collection required an aesthetic sensibility and spatial logic that was unparalleled at the time.

This article traces the historical evolution of Shangri La through Duke’s family history, art-oriented relationships and her personal adaptation of the arts and architecture of Islam. What emerges is a private residence that is a visible culmination of the relationships Duke forged in her fascination with Islamic culture, which she continually developed from its inception in 1937 until her death in 1993. As Duke’s reliance on her artistic advisors deepened, so did her own interest in designing and constructing Shangri La to suit her own needs and tastes. Moreover, as this article shows, Duke was purposeful in procuring the objects she commissioned from the ‘Muslim’ world, careful in their placement, and showed an independent will that varied from other collectors of Islamic art in the inter- and post-war periods.
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Keywords: Doris Duke; Islamic art; Shangri La; architecture; matronage; orientalism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of California, Berkeley

Publication date: 01 March 2014

More about this publication?
  • The International Journal of Islamic Architecture (IJIA) is intended for those interested in urban design and planning, architecture, and landscape design in the historic Islamic world, encompassing the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, but also the more recent geographies of Islam in its global dimensions. The main emphasis is on detailed analysis of the practical, historical and theoretical aspects of architecture, with a focus on both design and its reception. The journal is also specifically interested in contemporary architecture and urban design in relation to social and cultural history, geography, politics, aesthetics, technology, and conservation. Spanning across cultures and disciplines, IJIA seeks to analyze and explain issues related to the built environment throughout the regions covered. The cross-cultural and interdisciplinary nature of this journal will significantly contribute to the knowledge in this field.

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