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Urban landscapes and future sustainable urban qualities in Middle Eastern cities

Salama, Ashraf M. (2016) Urban landscapes and future sustainable urban qualities in Middle Eastern cities. In: Contemporary Urban Landscapes of the Middle East. Routledge, London, pp. 257-267. ISBN 9781138849594

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Emerging rules, regulations, and guidelines about ecology, sustainability, and environmental performance of urban environments are contributing to new understandings about the role of landscape as a discipline and as a profession. Ecological consciousness and sustainability imperatives have provoked transformations in the approaches to landscape both in academia and practice. Worldwide, landscape architecture/urbanism has evolved over two or three centuries into a specialized field of study and research, a recognized profession, and with a more articulate contribution to cities, towns, and settlements.1 The Middle East is no exception, where the field has developed dramatically over the past few decades extending beyond its traditional boundaries. Still, as a profession, it is yet to receive its full acknowledgment. Such an expansion can be expressed in terms of moving outside the scope of a design treatment of an immediate outdoor space; as a private garden serving an exclusive group of individuals to a planning intervention at the city scale; and as an urban park serving communities and the larger society. Nonetheless, it should be noted that the traditional role within the evolutionary process of the field has not faded, but the expansion has created new opportunities and thus potential and realized contributions at urban and regional scales. At the turn of the 21st century, regional rulers, decision-makers, and top government officials started to demonstrate a stronger and more attentive interest in urban development projects. This concerted attention has resulted in a new influential phase impacting on the development of architecture and urbanism in the Middle East. Within such a vested interest in the city and investment in its built environment, the contribution of landscape projects has grown in standing, moving beyond the view of its role as an aesthetically pleasing green space to socioeconomic and ecological purposes within both city centers and peripheries. As a positive and conscious response to the growth in the field, contributions within this volume have demonstrated various typologies, historical and contemporary, and multiple roles landscape projects can offer to the city and its populace. For the first time in recent discourse about the urban environment in the greater Middle East, a major contribution emerges to address landscape interventions in this continuously changing region. Studies on the landscape from urban, city, and regional perspectives have been on the fringe for years, and so the timeliness of the discussions on key landscape projects is palpable. In essence, the overall thrust of the work presented in this volume is to bring discussions and critiques on landscapes out of their marginalized position in both academia and practice to the forefront of both theoretical and professional discourse on its essence, evolution, and contribution to contemporary urbanism in the Middle East.