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Traditional Urban Strategy:

Modern Sustainable Solution

“Communities developed

a building language which responded to the conditions of the environment.”

Less than fifty years ago the small settlements located around the UAE were filled with communities whose members regularly socialized. This interaction was aided by the cities sustainable spatial organizational system. The city was navigated by the use of compact streets adjacent to introverted buildings and courtyards. These road networks, often the remaining spaces between buildings, were called “Sikkas”. These Sikkas, or alleyways, allowed people to walk from place to place. Street tradition seen in many Arab cities was formed as a result. With the loss of the sikka, our cities have lost a great deal of their character. Modern Arab cities must go back to their roots, reintegrating elements such as the Sikka, to help create communities in the city again. Growth in the Gulf has resulted in an immense amount of development, recreating the entire urban structure and expanding the infrastructure to meet the needs of the people. Culture and traditions have been borrowed, adapted and interchanged between visitors, migrants and the local Bedouins, having a lasting effect on architecture and building traditions. The manner of development has separated Dubai and its people. Inside “gated

communities” filled with a variety of ethnicities and cultures, the architecture encourages little interaction. Within many of these isolated settlements one is transported to a Western city. The building organization, street size and sidewalk width all ignore the harsh arid conditions of the country. Pedestrian activity, an important social tradition itself, is limited and with it the experience of meeting and interacting with neighbors. This loss of a true public space in Dubai is a contributing factor to the continual separation of the people as most activities occur behind walls. In the past the nomadic population occupied the deserts, the merchants the city centers and the fishermen and pearl divers dwelled on the coast. Communities developed a building language which responded to the conditions of the environment. Sikkas were a common feature in Arab cities because they adhered to contextual conditions such as the weather and provided shaded walkways that were tailored to meet the needs of different areas. Near the coast they were situated to allow coastal breezes to move through and in the desert they were created to block harsh winds. These Sikkas also fulfilled the traditional needs of the community. People lived within

close quarters where neighbor-to-neighbor relationships were able to form. They also fulfilled the opposite need when privacy was required. Alleyways helped create layers within a city as the width and scale of the sikkas was determined by their function. For example in Bastakiya the pedestrian experiences perspectives, textures and shadows as they wander through enclosed urban spaces. The space exemplifies many of the traditional principles of an Arab city and has an “organic” layout. The small width of these sikkas blurs the idea of personal space and forces interaction while travelling. Sikkas open up into larger gathering courtyard spaces where families and friends assemble. A modern interpretation of the sikka can be seen in one of the most active areas of Dubai’s downtown. There, a series of service roads can be found surrounding the

“This loss of a true public space in Dubai is an important contributing factor to the continual large towers. The interpreted sikka is wider separation of people.” than those of the traditional city layout, however serves the same purpose and creates shadow as a result of the adjacent high-rises. Walking around, one often finds themselves “chasing shadows” in Dubai, searching for a place of shaded comfort in the large open spaces and amongst the buildings. Between the buildings a courtyard exists where commercial activities are taking place. The same concept can be identified as that of the traditional sikka despite the differences in materiality, textures and scale. Unplanned public spaces are not taken into consideration by developers. Few

areas are restricted to pedestrian access causing a bigger need for cars. The creation of pedestrian networks and the exemption of motor access can reintegrate the sikka into the urban of fabric of Dubai. Traditions are things that developers and clients can reject or ignore. What is unavoidable and inexcusable is the continued treatment of the UAE like a blank canvas, with minimal consideration to our surroundings. A highly urbanized framework can be used to encourage interaction, meeting and gathering. Beyond the need to create a more sustainable city there is an equally important need to aid society. Within a city lacking integration and interaction, languages, practices and traditions won’t be shared. One strategy is to use architecture to promote this interaction by simply implementing more carefully planned roads, creating true public spaces and by encouraging us to take a walk and meet our neighbors. Follow @Reema_AW

The Dubai skyline is occupied by a seemingly endless vista of skyscrapers. However, few of these push the realms of innovation to provide a solution beyond glass and steel facades and none provide an environmentally sensitive construction method for the arid climatic conditions. A radical tower design named 0-14, a collaboration between RUR Architecture of New York and the Creek Side Development Company of Dubai, has challenged many of the norms with it’s fascinating façade. The 0-14 tower located along the new Dubai Creek extension is more affectionately know as the “Swiss Cheese Building” due to the full height, perforated concrete exoskeleton which is comprised of over 1000 holes of various sizes. This concrete shell is both functional and aesthetic. It acts as the main structure of the

building, with concrete depths of 40 cms acting as a load bearing shell for the structure. The interior spaces have been freed of columns and pillars, creating flexible floor areas. The glass is located in an enclosure, which is in turn located underneath the shell and follows its shape. This veil effect, by which the glazing is often around one meter from the shell, causes hot air to rise before it reaches the glass and has a cooling effect on the surface of the window. Through this passive technique the energy consumption of the building has been reduced by 30%. This twenty-two-floor tower, completed in January 2010, appears as one of the few prototypes of progressive building design and construction in the region. Follow @Reema_AW




08 shell detail drawing 09 opening indicating the entrance 10 skin perspective Images by Ghaya Bin Mesmar




COMMUN[?]TY Inconsistency Students of oriental origins may find it difficult to relate to the ideas that compose the American educational system. These difficulties arise from the fact that the ideological construct of Eastern societies demand that one be rooted in the community and think of the welfare of the whole. While the curriculum of Western education generally requires self-assertion and individuality from students, Oriental students are confronted with many questions in their everyday lives. Namely, what is the relationship of oneself to other human beings, national pride and socio-political issues? The architectural field demands we think of personal space, perspective and human centrality - the celebrated heritage of the 15th century Renaissance. At school students are expected to compete with other students and develop a sense of self-worth, at home they are expected to socialize, care for others and act upon group interest. The inconsistency of

ideals between the students’ everyday-life and their education becomes the cause of lack of commitment and distraction. Content of our Education Projects that architecture students in American institutions are asked to undertake are generally privately commissioned. The context is usually defined by a very limited set of constraints such as the physical surroundings and the immediate cultural setting. A review through my five-year architectural education and my colleagues’ shows that we have undergone exercises to design several housing projects, a bank, a hotel, etc. – private projects with design constraints set mainly by the client on one hand and the subjectivity of our consciousness on the other. Extraordinary as this may sound, a design competition for a prison was perhaps the only project in which we were encouraged to explore the needs of the society as a collective group. Design critique during our education entailed attention to both technique and content. Rarely are students involved with group exercises or cultural projects that take into consideration the broader spectrum of sociopolitical context. Design projects for the public are scarce, and there is no significant attention paid to the role of the state or the interest inclinations of the greater majority of its people.

Topics of interest Balancing both ends of the spectrum could be achieved through motivation of the individual and by utilizing the collective spirit of the students. This could be done by focusing their interest on cultural buildings that deal with the interests of the masses as well as the involvement of state-related spaces. Topics of interest would also be sustainability and green design, fields that inherently deal with the “greater good� and the welfare of society. Follow @ayah_halawani

Editorial Magazine - WTD  

collage and photography

Editorial Magazine - WTD  

collage and photography