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A new appreciation of open space and green design is changing the face of landscaping in the UAE.

It is a fact of life that the car is king in many Middle Eastern cities, and while tree-lined highways and public parks do exist, much of the region’s landscape architecture has been designed to be viewed through car windows.

It is not only breakneck development that is to blame for the region’s lack of well-designed open space, it is the climate too. After all, sitting outside is not very agreeable in 50 degree heat, and it was inevitable that air-conditioned passages would take precedence over open air walkways.

http://www.arabianbusiness.com/587407-between-the-buildings

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Deep down, I understand that any press is good press – especially for under-publicized places like Aleppo. So I’m glad that recent articles have caught on to the fact that there have been major rehabilitation projects going on.

But the writers need to do their homework – the projects have been going on for over twenty years, and most of the major initiatives for physical upgrading or conservation have reached ‘completion’ or are actually slowing (in terms of growth, investment, projects, etc.) in recent years. Also, why call the city ‘ravaged’? Maybe, after the Moguls, but now? The journalist interviewed several of the key actors, and listed more than a few facts, all of which is good, but just seemed to miss the point and ended up spinning his story in a strange direction. . that of a city ‘beaten down’, Maqrizi-style. Many of the other claims were a bit tenuous as well – economic decline just from the Suez canal? The piece is full of small cringe-worthy statements. I could have expected this from Bloomberg, but am surprised that the New York Times picked it up, with the title “Aleppo to undergo historic restoration”. What? To undergo? An jad? Why can’t we have more nuanced writing about the Middle East? Someday?

-Bernadette

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guardian.co.uk, Thursday 1 April 2010 | Deen Sharp

The built environment of Beirut is rapidly changing, and this transformation is destroying much of the city’s rich architectural fabric. Surrounded by the new towering Beirut is the unique and heavily scarred structure of the Egg.

Built by the Lebanese architect Joseph-Philippe Karam in 1965, and dubbed “the Egg” due to its curved form, it is the only surviving building in the downtown area from Lebanon’s vibrant avant-garde movement. Much of the rest of this heritage was destroyed during the civil war (1975-1990), a legacy marked on the outer skin of the Egg. (more…)

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31 March 2010| Huma Gupta

Recently, Gary Toth praised Abu Dhabi’s new street plan design manual on Planetizen.  The manual’s new principles are as follows:

  • Good street design starts with pedestrians. The world’s great cities are delightful and safe for walking, resulting not only in lower rates of driving but also improved public health.
  • Good street design supports Abu Dhabi’s environmental goals: reducing CO2 emissions, minimizing the urban heat island effect and reducing water consumption.
  • Street connectivity enhances road capacity and allows smooth traffic flow. Congestion worsens when most vehicle traffic is funneled onto arterial streets.
  • Street design follows from a sense of place. Streets are not just for movement of vehicles, but for enhancing the communities they pass through. This means paying attention to the enjoyment of residents and the success of businesses

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Posted: March 22| Huma Gupta

Approaches to conservation are constantly evolving.  In countries where homelessness, armed conflict, displaced persons and budget constraints are the conservation context, conserving monuments without social considerations can be controversial or simply unaccepted.  As Erbil’s citadel was recently put on the provisional UNESCO world heritage list, they have included a plan for 50 families to move into the citadel after it undergoes conservation efforts.  It is important to note that there have always been families living in the citadel, but the houses are in danger of collapse due to structural degradation.  Though some old-school conservation purists would highlight the danger to the site by public use, public use in the forms of tourism, housing or recreation is also what keeps sites viable.  Read the article below for more information.

niqash | Qassim Khidhir Hamad | thu 18 mar 10

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March 11, 2010 | Dina El Shammaa, Abu Dhabi Deputy editor, Posted by Gulfnews

Documentary channel will air one-hour television special showcasing major landmarks of the UAE capital (more…)

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March 6, 2010 | Maryam Eskandari
<i>image courtesy estidama.org</i>Le Corbusier’s dream has become a real proposal for Perkins+Will. Le Corbusier must have cracked a smile in his grave when Perkins + Will architect announced their recent receipt of the “Architectural Review / MIPIM Future Projects award” in the tallest building category for their proposal for the Al- Birr foundation headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The Perkins + Will “Garden Tower” explicitly states that it was designed to reinterpret the typology of an urban tower through an exploration of Le Corbusier’s brise-soleil. While the brise-soleil is nothing new on towers across the world, Perkins + Will’s proposal is a prominent and large-scale addition to the new high-tech ‘green’ adaptations of old concepts. (more…)

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