Prof. Ruggles is the Debra L. Mitchell Chair in Landscape Architecture.
I study magnificent and environmentally complicated landscapes in the Islamic world, the Mediterranean, and South Asia. As a scholar with a long commitment to the environmental humanities, I am particularly fascinated by the past and present interconnections between human society and water management—both the failures and the successes. Because I also care deeply about how current social values affect the way we steward, preserve, and interpret the historic traces of the past, I helped found a program in cultural heritage studies at UIUC with annual symposia that have been published. An experimental graduate seminar on the senses led me to organize the conference “Sound and Scent in the Garden” at Dumbarton Oaks in DC (rated by National Geographic as the sixth most beautiful garden in the world), published in 2017. My interests in water, heritage, architecture, and the sensory experience of landscape converged in summer 2015 when I co-directed an NEH Summer Institute for College and University Teachers at the historic Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain. I am currently co-directing a multi-year Getty program for international scholars in medieval art, “Mediterranean Palimpsests.” My most recent book, Tree of Pearls (2020), tells the story of a woman who rose from slavery to become the sultan of Egypt in the mid-13thcentury and an important patron of architecture and urban space.
My films on Islamic art, architecture, and gardens for the National Endowment for the Humanities: Islamic Art Spots.
My lecture at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto: The Alhambra and Its Gardens: Reflections of the Past.
My lecture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Islamic monuments and national patrimony in Spain.
My Charles K. Wilkinson Lecture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (at 2:03:35): Water from Sand: From Desert to Garden in the Islamic World.