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Remind the audience that oil wasn’t found in the region until the late 1960’s; Many of the countries to which we now refer, such as Oman and the UAE, didn’t exist until the 1970’s; Much of the development that we see today wasn’t started until the 1980’s; Much of the inappropriate development for which the region has been criticised, was designed by Western consultants who lacked sufficient understanding of the cultural and environmental context in which they were operating; and, While there is ample evidence of a greater awareness emerging about the need for planning (and for a ‘Vision with Values’, as evidenced by the Abu Dhabi 2030 Plan, Estidama, Masdar etc) there remains a risk that mistakes will continue to be made unless plans are continually challenged by all of us working in the region, not least because of the new economic order in which we find ourselves and the threat of climate change, but also the changing demographic throughout the region.
Dr Aylin Orbasli Programme Leader, MA International Architectural Regeneration and Development, Oxford Brookes University Aylin Orbasli trained as an architect and has specialised in conservation and heritage management. She works as an international consultant advising public sector clients on the conservation, regeneration and management of their built heritage. Much of her work is in the Mediterranean region and the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. She is particularly interested in the synergy and conflicts of traditional ‘Islamic’ towns and tourism. This is a key research interest
and she combines practical site-based work with academic interests through a part time position as Reader in the Department of Architecture, Oxford Brookes University. She is a board member of ICOMOS-UK and the author of two books, Tourists in Historic Towns (2000) and Architectural Conservation (2008). Description of Talk With a focus on the Middle East and Arabian Peninsula the presentation will explore the paradoxical relationship between the destruction and reinvention of the traditional design aesthetic in the process of identity building in the urban realm. The sudden growth in wealth combined with opening up to the globalised market place has resulted in the large scale abandonment and subsequent loss of historic areas and traditional building practices across the region. At the same time traditional societal values continue to be upheld and religion (Islam) influences the ways in which space in the private and public realms are used. The private and semi-private nature of the traditional Arab Islamic city has come to be redefined in gated housing developments and the new leisure and retail environments captured in shopping malls. Meanwhile, the ‘traditional’ style of architecture and more often liberal interpretations of it have become a popular add-on in a wide range of new developments including shopping malls, housing developments and tourist resorts. In the urban realm and in place making within these complexes traditional styles manifest themselves in the visual and physical rather than the spatial characteristics of a place.