Unveiling urban transformations in the Arabian Peninsula : dynamics of global flows, multiple modernities, and people-environment interactions

Salama, Ashraf M and Wiedmann, Florian, eds. (2013) Unveiling urban transformations in the Arabian Peninsula : dynamics of global flows, multiple modernities, and people-environment interactions. Open House International, 38 (4). pp. 1-114. ISSN 0168-2601

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Abstract

Covering about three million square kilometres, the Arabian Peninsula is mainly a diverse landscape of hot humid sandy coasts, arid desert, sparse scrubland, stone-strewn plains, and lush oases, as well as rocky and sometimes fertile mountain highlands and valleys. In addition to the indigenous local populace, the population is composed of large groups of expatriate Arabs and Asians, in addition to smaller groups of Europeans and North Americans; these expatriate groups represent a major workforce community of skilled professionals and semi-skilled or unskilled labourers from over sixty countries. The region’s contemporary economy, dominated by the production of oil and natural gas has created unprecedented wealth, which in turn has led to a momentous surge in intensive infrastructural development and the construction of new environments (Wiedmann, 2012). The ensuing impact of this fast track development on the built environment, in conjunction with the continuous and seemingly frantic quest for establishing unique urban identities (Salama, 2012), is seen as a trigger for introducing this special edition of Open House International. At the dawn of the new millennium, rulers, decision-makers, and top government officials started to demonstrate a stronger and more attentive interest in architecture, urban development projects and real estate investment; this concerted interest and attention have resulted in a new influential phase impacting on the development of architecture and urbanism in the Arabian Peninsula (Salama and Wiedmann, 2013). Cities on the Arabian Peninsula are continuously witnessing dramatic twists and turns that represent a diverse array of intents and attitudes (Salama, 2011). This can be explained by a series of vibrant discussions, characterised by a new unbiased openness, of the contemporary condition of architecture and urbanism in the Gulf region with its variety and plurality of perspectives and interests. “With their varied socio-physical, socio-economic, socio-cultural, and socio-political presence, cities are always been highly differentiated spaces expressive of heterogeneity, diversity of activities, entertainment, excitement, and pleasure. They have been (and still are) melting pots for the formulation of and experimentation with new philosophies and religious and social practices. Cities produce, reproduce, represent, and convey much of what counts today as culture, knowledge, and politics” (Salama and Wiedmann, 2013). Evidently this statement manifests the significance of studying cities. While this edition addresses several cities on the Arabian Peninsula, emphasis is placed on key transformational aspects relevant to five important cities that include Doha, Abu-Dhabi, Riyadh, Kuwait, and Manama. See Editorial: Salama, A. M. and Wiedmann, F. (2013). Evolving Urban on the Arabian Peninsula. Open House International, 34, 4, pp. 4-5