Event: Virtual Launch of the Gulf Sustainable Urbanism Encyclopedia
Has been finalized

 

Architecture and city-building in the Gulf region has a continuous, partly fabled history stretching back more than 7,000 years. In 2011, Msheireb Properties, a subsidiary of Qatar Foundation, commissioned Harvard University to undertake a multi-year research study to establish a holistic framework by which to document, analyze and decipher the principles of urban sustainability among selected case-study cities in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Iran and Iraq. 

 

The study framework was based upon three research topics: (1) Environment/Public Health, (2) Social/Cultural/Economic, and (3) Urban Form/Architecture. These research topics are to be studied at four ‘scales’: region, city, neighborhood and dwelling unit.

 

The Harvard Gulf Sustainable Urbanism Book has now been published. It is an impressive two-volume edition of 900 pages, sized 11”x17", with nearly 1,000 illustrations and analytical diagrams with high-quality graphics. To honor the publication of this seminal book, Harvard University and Msheireb Properties will host a program of Virtual Panels, beginning with an initial introductory event on Wednesday 7th October, 2020. 

 

This Launch will be followed by two virtual online ‘super-panels’ composed of leading experts, who will present the salient lessons gleamed from the past that can be very relevant today, either directly or through careful interpretation. For that reason, this groundbreaking body of research knowledge has the potential to become an invaluable source of guidance when making holistic, sustainable decisions for the future urbanism of the Gulf region.

 

WHO'S SPEAKING

AGENDA

Wednesday October 7

Welcome and Introduction
18:30  to  18:50
Speakers:
Eng. Ali AlKuwari. Acting CEO, Msheireb Properties.
H.E Sheikh Hassan Bin Mohammed Bin Ali Al-Thani. Advisor for Cultural Affairs, Qatar Foundation.
Eng. Issa Mohammed Al Mohannadi. Chair, Qatar Green Building Council Former CEO, Msheireb Properties.
Dr. Spiro Pollalis. Professor, Design Technology & Management, Harvard GSD. Co-Editor GSU Book.
Architect Nader Ardalan. Senior Research Associate, Harvard GSD. Co-Editor, GSU Book. President, Ardalan Associates.
Launching of the virtual version
18:50  to  19:10

Introduction to GSU Digital Book and presentation on how to access it

Speaker:
Architect Angeliki Kouveli. Research Associate, Harvard GSD.
The Scope of the Research
19:10  to  19:40

Environment: Land & Sea

Society, Culture and Economics 

Urbanism and Architecture

Speakers:
Dr. Spiro Pollalis. Professor, Design Technology & Management, Harvard GSD. Co-Editor GSU Book.
Architect Nader Ardalan. Senior Research Associate, Harvard GSD. Co-Editor, GSU Book. President, Ardalan Associates.
Significance of the research for the region
19:45  to  20:45

Highlight of the findings and reflections how the research findings of the past may inform future sustainable urbanism:

Speakers:
Dr. John D. Spengler. Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation, Harvard SPH.
Architect Ibrahim M. Jaidah. Group CEO & Chief Architect, Arab Engineer Bureau.
Dr. Rogaia M. Abusharaf. Professor of Anthropology, Georgetown University, Qatar.
Dr. Andreas Georgoulias. Director, Environmental Financial Consulting Group, Harvard GSD.
Architect Reza Pourvaziry. Chair of Urban Economy Forum, Canada.

Wednesday October 14

The historic environment, culture and economy of the region
18:30  to  19:30

Architecture and city building in the Gulf region has a continuous history of more than 7,000 years and its coastal urban centers can be grouped into three climatic clusters related to their temperature and humidity. Group one is characterized by high temperatures and high humidity, which includes Bahrain, Dammam, Doha, Dubai and Muscat. Group two has high temperatures and high humidity, but the humidity tends to drop off during the highest temperatures. These cities include Bandar Abbas, Bandar Lengeh and Abu Dhabi. Group three has the highest average temperatures, but lower humidity and includes Basra, Kuwait and Hofuf. Some of the main causes of climate variation in the cities studied are their relative inland distance from the Gulf waters and the morphology of the coastline.

The inter-related maritime trade of Gulf cities kept them economically interdependent, while the major Dhow owners maintained international trade between the Gulf region, India and the African East Coast. The principle maritime economic activity related to fishing and pearling, with the major pearl beds being situated along the shallow coastline of Kuwait, Bahrain and Doha on the Arabian Peninsula. 

Discussants:

Dr. Aurel Von Richthofen-Singapore-ETH Centre, formerly Oman

Dr. Sadek Owainati, Consultant & President, MENA Projects, Toronto

Dr. James Onley, QNL Director Historical Research, Qatar

Speakers:
Eng. Issa Mohammed Al Mohannadi. Chair, Qatar Green Building Council Former CEO, Msheireb Properties.
Dr. Rogaia M. Abusharaf. Professor of Anthropology, Georgetown University, Qatar.
Dr. Andreas Georgoulias. Director, Environmental Financial Consulting Group, Harvard GSD.
Dr. Steven Caton. Professor of Contemporary Arab Studies, Harvard University Department of Anthropology.
Architect Mohamed A. Abdulla. Historian, Painter, Founder, Qatar Fine Arts Society.
The development of urbanism and public health of the region
19:30  to  20:30

The components and organization of traditional settlements were similar, generally consisting of a Medina in the city nexus, normally in close proximity to the harbor, where would be situated the majlis of the ruler and nearby the customs house; the Friday mosque and the gateway to the souq /bazaar; the neighborhoods (fareej in Arabic-mahalleh in Persian) then radially clustered around the Medina, with the first settlers located closest to the city nexus. Compact urban form that exposed minimum external building surfaces with maximum internal volumes was the natural, positive adaptation to a context of great heat and solar radiation. A balanced range of urban densities that accorded to local needs, economies and cultural values was the principle planning goal. 

While, the nature of port city context made inhabitants vulnerable to diseases and plaques, the traditional natural adaptations of residents to environmental stress factors and by their cultural customs promoted personal good health. However, for much of the first half of the 20th century life expectancy in the Gulf region was about 42 years.  The healthcare system of northern Gulf cities, such as Basra, Kuwait and Bahrain began to be improved in early c. 20th, with the establishment of western mission hospitals and urban building regulations.

Discussants:            

Architect Babji Rao, Architect, SVP KEO, Kuwait

Dr. George Katodrytis, Head, Architecture Dept. American U. of Sharjah

Speakers:
Dr. John D. Spengler. Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation, Harvard SPH.
Dr. Ali Khuraibet. General Manager and owner, Eco Environmental Consultants.
Holley Chant. Director of Sustainability, Google Development Ventures at Lendlease.
Dr. Fatima Taghi. Architect and Planner Professor, American University Dubai.
Dr. Nikolaus Knebel. Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, GUTECH, Oman.

Wednesday October 21

The traditional neighbourhoods and architecture of the region
18:30  to  19:30

The commonly shared interpretation of the Muslim cultural concepts of equity at the neighborhood scale and of privacy (zahir/batin) and hospitality at the unit level created common cellular structures in Gulf cities that also promoted social unity. The courtyard house formed the standard adaptive building typology of Gulf Cities that dates back to at least 2500 BC., as recorded in courtyard houses of Ur in Mesopotamia. The architectural grammar was composed of the following key components: Enclosing high Wall/Gateway/Bench/Entrance Hall/Majlis; Interior Courtyard (housh, sahan or hayat)/Garden (bustaan or bagh); Porch (liwan, aivan), Room; mashrabiyas/Screens; Roof Terrace/ Stairways; Wind Catcher/Wall Catcher (badgirs); and Service Components-Well/Kitchen/Toilet.

Thermal human comfort was provided by passive adaptive design strategies. Locally sourced building materials enhanced sustainability. Palm frond architecture called arish (barasti) was the common man’s building material. In the fertile valley of the northern Gulf region available building materials of heavy clays promoted architecture of major volume and forms. Further south in the Gulf, cut coral, stone and rubble masonry were also used. Resource scarce coastal settlements imported building elements such as roof mangrove poles (chandal) from Zanzibar and teak wooden doors and windows from India that were recycled.

Discussants:

Prof Fodil Fadli, Head, Department of Architecture and Urban Planning, Qatar University

Dr. Ali A. Alraouf, HBKU, Qatar

Architect Tim Makower, UK, Qatar 

Speakers:
Architect Fatima Fawzy. Design Manager, Msheireb Properties.
Dr. Ashraf Salama. Professor of Architecture and Director of Research, University of Strathclyde Scotland.
Dr. Samia  Rab Kirchner. Associate Professor of Architecture and Planning, Morgan State University.
Architect Richa S. Vuppuluri. Doctoral Fellow, University of Virginia. Former Research Associate, Harvard GSD.
Architect Mohammad AlKhatieb. Associate Professor, University of Basra.
The study of the past informs a future sustainable urbanism in the Gulf
19:30  to  20:30

The research concluded with a synthesis of “decoding the sustainability of the cities.” After rigorous documentation, analysis, and comparison of similarities and variations of the selected Gulf cities, neighborhoods, and dwelling units, the data were processed with computational hierarchical clustering.  This technique aggregated multiple sets of parameters, which decoded the spatial and organizational attributes of the settlements in the past, in a manner analogous to that used in the scientific clustering of data in gene biology.

 

The analysis showed that the traditional Gulf settlements were tangibly characterized by zero energy demand and were essentially carbon-free. Passive adaptive building sustainability strategies included compact, mid-density settlements; good pedestrian connectivity through narrow, shaded pathways; shade producing courtyard building typologies with shared walls of adjacent plots, high thermal lag construction, and natural ventilation. The complementary analysis of intangible parameters of cultural patterns for social equity encouraged flexible governance. Furthermore, the commonly shared interpretation of Muslim cultural concepts of privacy and hospitality at the unit level allowed the dense cellular structures to achieve social unity. In summary, the research found that the qualities of Gulf Sustainable Urbanism can be condensed to a set of six interrelated principles: Flexibility, Compactness, Interdependence/Self Sufficiency, Proximity, Engagement, and Climatic Adaptability.

 

The discussion in the panel will be based on these salient lessons from the past and will explore how much relevant they are today, either directly or through careful interpretations. The panel will use the body of knowledge from this research to propose its transformation for holistic, sustainable decisions for the future urbanism of the Gulf region and beyond, to work with nature and minimize the dependence on artificial means.

Discussants:

Dr. Shaibu Garba, Qatar University, Sultan Qaboos U, Oman 

Prof. Soumyen Bandyopadhyay, Sir James Sterling Chair in Architecture, Head, Liverpool University School of Architecture

Architect Yannis Orfanos, GSU Research, Harvard GSD

Speakers:
Dr. Spiro Pollalis. Professor, Design Technology & Management, Harvard GSD. Co-Editor GSU Book.
Architect Nader Ardalan. Senior Research Associate, Harvard GSD. Co-Editor, GSU Book. President, Ardalan Associates.
Architect Ibrahim M. Jaidah. Group CEO & Chief Architect, Arab Engineer Bureau.
Architect Reza Pourvaziry. Chair of Urban Economy Forum, Canada.
Anthony Kane. President and CEO Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure.

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