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Architectural identity demystified : visual voices from the Arab World

Salama, Ashraf M (2010) Architectural identity demystified : visual voices from the Arab World. In: Lincoln Conference 2010: The Cultural Role of Architecture, 2010-06-23 - 2010-06-25.

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Abstract

Arab architects are in a continuous process of criticizing their own versions of modern and post modern architecture and the prevailing contemporary practices. Within their criticism, discourses always suggest the recycling of traditional architecture and its elements as a way of establishing and imposing a distinguished character in the contemporary city. Rapidly, they have been (and still are) in a continuous process of re-evaluating the meaning and desirability of building images through their practices. The rise and fall of ISMS (movements and tendencies), and the continuous debate on symbolism and character issues in architecture are derived from the need to search for an identity. That search seems to be a preoccupation with regions that have cultural richness and multi-layers of history. In the Arab region, architects find themselves dealing with a paradox needing to project a certain image of themselves through their built environment. This paper offers a positional interpretation of contemporary Arab architecture. It calls for a fresh look at the irony of identity, tradition, and modernity by critically outlining a number of aspects related to the current status of architecture in selected Arab cities including Cairo, Doha, Dubai, and others. Through a reading of trends that emerged over the last two decades an effort is made to place such a reading in focus by debating the concepts of Pan-Arabism, Mediterranean-ism and Middle Eastern-ism, globalization, post-globalization, and the space of flows and their implications on the shaping of architectural identity. An approach for a deeper insight into the understanding of contemporary Arab architecture within which inevitable trends co-exist is framed based on ontological and epistemological perspectives and their underlying positivistic and anti-positivistic positions.