ARR 02 - 15 - 2010

We have experienced a drastic change in culture and atmosphere while visiting three continents within a week's period of time. It has been a growing experience. The city is the symbol for civilization. All throughout ancient times and even into today the city is seen as a symbol of power, wealth, sophistication, government, religion, and commerce. As we have seen many ancient sites through Greece, Turkey, and Egypt, all have similarities. They all contain walls, or some sort of visible boundaries, an entry/gate, levels of importance for various levels or professions of individuals, areas for religious, governmental, and commerce activities, areas for pedestrians and animals/vehicles or some sort of transportation, a city plan usually relating to a grid or lines of sight, and finally a site of importance, whether that be for religious, defensive, or structural purposes. With all of these characteristics it is interesting to see how the role of globalization and likewise sustainable design will play in the future of these countries and communities. As seen in the images and diagrams below, one of the most interesting comparisons of this is relating Dubai to a Luxor village. We had the opportunity to ride camels into a village on the west bank of the Nile near Luxor. The planning of the rural village was very sustainable. The village homes were compact and centralized with the fields on the periphery. However while this village is very compact there was a sense of openness. These rural farm houses with just thatched roofs due to the lack of rain in the area created a larger connection of the people to the land. The grid like pattern of the streets provided the formality of the city yet due to the scale of the place and the material structure the village created a balance of city and village. The streets were wide enough for both car and camel and the drainage on the side of the road functioned as effectively as a complex system for people's use (not rains obviously). The informality of meeting one another on the street as we have seen throughout Egypt with really no traffic rules works, I don't know if it prevents traffic but it provides fluid motions. The sustainability of the house itself is wonderful. The narrow windows, if any at all due to the lack of the need of the roof control hot temperatures and monitor sunlight into the home. Due to security or need the animals are located as part of the house in the back of the home. There seems to be a flow of use, need, and function and nothing more. It is a basic structure that functions in a fluid motion without anything more or anything less. In comparison Dubai was an interesting change of pace. The concentration on the car and the formation around architectural icons was astounding. Each was its own masterpiece with its own function providing its own walkability of its own little area. There was disconnection from the surrounding and relation to any context. I am still up in the air about how I feel about the United Arab Emirates. While I enjoyed the country the culture- it was interesting to see the lack of sustainability and the functionality of place. In comparison to the Luxor village, both were functional units for their purpose be it agricultural or the electronics village or the mall. Both included compact planning with a surrounding network and both were isolated from the outside. It is interesting to see these two extremes in such a short period of time. While both have their pros and cons, each propose interesting questions for design for the future. It seems that the basic principles still exist of the form of communities. However, through modernization is that community lost? Or is community left behind in a globalizing world in a rural village? How can we as designers make the jump between functional modern places and the sustainable techniques of the past? Where then is the balance of sustainability? I hope to answer some of these questions as our tour continues.

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