chapter  1
16 Pages

Framing Urban Design on the Margins: Global Paradigms and Regional Implications

ByRobert Saliba

The title of this book incorporates two problematic yet promising concepts: Urban Design and the Arab World. The first designates, “a [young] discipline that has been unable to develop any substantial theory on its own” (Cuthbert 2003: viii) and the second remains an elusive term, geographically, politically and ethnically. Despite these qualifications, urban design is a lively and strong emerging discipline profoundly anchored in professional practice, real world projects, and future visions. Moreover, the Arab world, despite its geographical ambiguity, is an emblematic term profoundly ingrained in common parlance, academic discourse and media diffusion, that generally brings images of a region rampant with constructed and ambiguous national identities, overwhelming wealth and poverty, religious mix, and most recently the Arab uprisings, a bottom-up revolution shaking the foundations of pre-established long-standing hierarchies. Accordingly, the Arab world is a prime territory for questioning urban design as a discipline in flux, due to its abundance of sites of globalization, sites of worship, sites of conflict and sites of contestation. Such diversity invites a multiplicity of opportunities for shaping, upgrading and rebuilding urban form and civic space while subjecting global paradigms to regional and local realities.