Thursday, May 21, 2009

Identity Discourse ... A New Editorial on Architects for Peace, Ashraf M. Salama

A New Editorial Entitled:
Cultural Identity Manifested in Visual Voices and the Public Face of Architecture
Editorial: May 2009
Ashraf M. Salama

Architects for Peace


While scholars in architecture as an academic and professional discipline may criticize the interest and tendency to place emphasis on discussing building images and facades, I adopt the principle that since architecture is created for the public then examining the public face of architecture is integral to the understanding of the juxtaposition of those images and what they convey and represent. This editorial interrogates a number of discourses on ways in which cultural identity is manifested by debating selected interventions developed within the Arab world. Still, the discussion on whether building images are created as visual voices that attempt to react to the tidal wave of cultural globalization is open-ended. So, there is no claim here that there is a resolution, but an articulation of identity debate as it is manifested in the public face of architecture.

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. Typically, this takes the form of either refurbishing old palaces and public buildings, or establishing visual references—borrowed from the past—and utilized in contemporary/modern buildings. Adopted by governments and officials, there are a considerable number of examples of projects that advocated traditional imaging to impress the society by their origin while boasting the profile of capital and major cities, especially in Egypt and the Arabian Gulf Region. In generic terms, similar to the worldwide tendency, societies in the Arab world tend to re-evaluate the meaning and desirability of building images rapidly. The search for an architectural identity, the rise and fall of ISMS (movements and tendencies), and the continuous debate on symbolism and character issues in architecture are derived from this fact (1,2).
Architecture-Urbanism is dedicated to a) those who are interested in creating livable and sustainable environments and buildings that meet socio-cultural and socio-behavioral needs of people, environments that are responsive to historical, traditional and physical constraints, b) to those who are interested in finding panacea for the ills of our globalized world, and c) to those who are interested in regaining what cultures and societies have lost by the acts of architects. ____________________________________________________________________________