Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Eco Cities... A Continuation of an Arabic Tradition

As an Arab who believes strongly in the continuation of traditions in all aspects of life from fashion, music to architecture; yet open to contemporary aesthetics that will help strengthen the traditional values of this culture... I am really thrilled with where these projects are going.

Abu Dhabi's zero carbon, zero waste city by Norman Foster

Ras al Khaimah's Eco city by Rem Koolhaas

The concept of the mixed used, high density, walled city is a traditional urban strategy that existed long ago. Perhaps the main incentive to such structure is to create a strong defensive and well protected city at a time were unfriendly visitors with destructive intentions were very common in a region that have always witnessed conflicting interests. That aside, such cities allow for a pedestrian friendly environment in a harsh unbearable climate. The shadows cast by buildings on the narrow streets formed by the high density protect people from the glaring sun. The structure of the city also enforces the sense of community, the interaction of neighbors and trade which achieves a self sustaining city.

Recent projects in the GCC countries all aim to achieve those objectives that lead to a self-sustaining community. During the past few years we've seen many mixed used urban development with extravagant schemes such as the Palm Islands in Dubai and Financial Harbor in Bahrain and many more. And even though the element of regional and cultural identity have always been an important factor; none of the projects I've seen have hit me in the right spot like the above projects by Foster and Koolhaas. Just by looking at one of the greatest examples of human settlements in one of the oldest civilizations in the world, Shibam in Yemen, you will understand my infatuation with those schemes and how I see them as amazing modern interpretation of traditional Arabic architecture.

The walled city of Shibam in Yemen

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