Can Bilsel, PhD

Can Bilsel
Phone: (619) 260-7987
Office: Camino Hall 033A

Program Director, Architecture and Professor, Architecture and Art History

  • PhD, Princeton University, Architecture
  • MS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Architecture Studies
  • Bachelor of Architecture, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey

Can Bilsel is an architect and scholar specialized in modern architecture, museum displays and archaeological reconstructions. Bilsel received his Ph.D. in the History and Theory of Architecture at Princeton University. He holds a Master of Science degree from MIT School of Architecture, and a professional Bachelor of Architecture from Middle East Technical University in Turkey. He joined the faculty of the University of San Diego in 2002 where he is currently the Chair of the Department of Art, Architecture + Art History. Dr. Bilsel is also the founding director of the University of San Diego’s Architecture Program.

Scholarly Work

Dr. Bilsel’s scholarly work bridges the fields of architecture, art history, archaeology, museum studies, historical preservation, cultural criticism and postcolonial studies. He has written and lectured extensively about the appropriation, reconstruction and reception of the architecture and material culture of antiquity. Most recently, he is the author of Antiquity on Display: Regimes of the Authentic in Berlin’s Pergamon Museum, published in 2012 by the Oxford University Press. In this volume Bilsel examines the relationship between the history of German archaeology in the Middle East between 1871 and 1918, and the reconstruction and display of the monuments of antiquity in Berlin’s Pergamon Museum. Examining the process through which archaeological fragments were completed into modern installations in the museum, Bilsel shows how our vision of ancient architecture was shaped by the demands of the age and the nation that has excavated them. Bilsel is also the author of “Zeus in Exile: Archaeological Restitution as Politics of Memory,” published by Princeton University Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies. His long article “Our Anatolia: Organicism and the Making of the Humanist Culture in Turkey” reflects on the uses and abuses of ancient monuments outside the “West”—in a context in which being at the “margin” of Europe is constitutive of a modernist identity.

Bilsel has received numerous awards including the Aga Khan Fellowship at MIT, the Whiting Fellowship in the Humanities at Princeton University, and was a Fellow at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles for two consecutive years. In 2007 he was invited as a visiting scholar to the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. He served on the National Endowment for Humanities America’s Historical and Cultural Organizations Grant Panel in Washington D.C. in 2011. He also served on the scholarship selection committees of American Research Institute in Turkey and the Getty Villa in Los Angeles.

Areas of Interest

Dr. Bilsel has designed and taught a wide array of courses at USD including “Introduction to Modern Architecture,” “Avant-Garde and Mass Culture,” “Memory, Monument, Museum,” “City and Utopia,” “Contemporary Architecture,” “Heterotopias: Architecture and Biopower,” “Critical Methods in the Analysis of Visual Culture: the Frankfurt School,” in addition to team taught Honors courses, and Architectural Design, and Architecture Senior Thesis studios. He takes pride in the achievements of the Architecture Majors, who have been recruited to top graduate schools around the nation.