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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Questioning the Gated Compound - Looking for Urban Conviviality in the GCC...


Examples of gated compounds in Doha (images sourced from Google Maps)...



We are not running out of land. We are running out of urban spaces.
Andres Duany

For the exception of some areas in Manama, I haven't come across many mixed neighborhoods within the GCC countries. Usually, particularly in the more recent developments, residential areas are usually fiercely separate (occasionally even by walls) from retail areas, commercial offices demarcated from green areas, etc. Neither is there much evidence of small, shared neighborhood parks or even playgrounds. One could argue this is partly due to cultural norms, where traditionally each residential unit's (freej's) privacy is partitioned from the adjacent buildings and areas, however, looking at even a half century old maps and photos from various regional cities, it becomes clear that this hasn't always been the case and this more stringent, hermetically sealed, demarcation between plots is a more recent development. The historical neighborhood template, which even though partitioned, nevertheless, with their narrow and shaded pedestrian paths (sikkat), allowed for a much more organic and less segregated neighborhood-scape to those evident today. There are an abundance of suggestive precedents, from places such as Southern Europe, Asia, Africa, along with the Middle-East (for images of an Omani example click here), for how such issues could be tackled without compromising either some of the levels of comfort we'd become accustomed today, whilst still allowing an evolution, of sorts, develop regarding what a city in this region (GCC, MENA) could/ should be. Moderation, or 'evolution instead of revolution' as Bjarke Ingels of BIG puts it, is still the key in implementing such, potentially even drastic, changes... But considering the changes this region has already been experiencing for a number of decades, such a additional diversion, which inevitably would be realized at relatively generous timeframes, shouldn't be an issue. However, the focus here shouldn't necessarily be on the notion of change, but the intention of providing urban options, something which are still somewhat limited in this region...

What this might entail will hopefully be something explored further through a number of proposed research projects as well as through this blog - so watch this space...

Men do not love Rome because she is beautiful; Rome is beautiful because men have loved her.
Leopold Kohr



A photo showing the 'freej' and 'sikkats' of a traditional urban neighborhood (image sourced from rudi.net)...

1 comment:

Laith said...

Older parts of Dubai are better connected than the new. Bur Dubai, Deira, Karama, Satwa are actually pretty good so far as connectivity. But this ends at the border with "New Dubai" where many of the recent developments are gated communities.