World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010



· Date: WED 21, 9.00-11.00 am

· Institution: Association RehabiMed (Spain)

· Organizer: Xavier Casanovas

· Sponsored by: Association RehabiMed (Spain)

· Language: English

· Description: In the framework of the 3rd World Congress of Middle Eastern and North African Studies (WOCMES), RehabiMed is organizing a space for the exchange of experiences in interventions in historic centres, a meeting place where groups of experts working in the Mediterranean and Middle East can debate situations and solutions, and a space of reflection for politicians who want to promote the recovery of historic centres.
Urban studies in the Middle East and the Mediterranean cover various disciplines. The experience of recovering the architecture of a historic centre includes the collaboration of social and cultural disciplines such as archaeology, demography, economy, education, geography, history and sociology, among others.

Chair: May Al-Ibrashy (British University, Egypt)

Paper presenter: May Al-Ibrashy (British University, Egypt), «Conservation of Historic Buildings Rehabilitated as Schools in Cairo”
A large number of the schools of Cairo are housed in residential villas from the turn of the century. Misuse and poor maintenance have resulted in the deterioration of the buildings to the extent that some of them constitute a safety hazard for the school-children. On the other hand, their use as schools has protected them from the wave of demolition that overtook Cairo’s historic residences starting from the 1970s and has yet to abate.
Circumstances and events in the past 20 years have led to the escalation of the problematic status of these historic buildings turned schools. The earthquake of 1992 resulted in further damage. Tighter safety standards for educational buildings have resulted in the abandonment of some of them and the construction of new school buildings on the grounds. If nothing is done to conserve these historic buildings, they will soon be demolished under the pretext of safety or need for land to expand the existing schools.
Yet the situation is not all dire. New legislation to protect turn of the century buildings is underway, and corporate donations to build schools are peaking. Furthermore, rehabilitation can be linked with public awareness and community participation programs.
This paper will present a proposal for a project for the conservation of historic buildings rehabilitated as schools using the Rehabimed method as framework.
Conservation works will take place during the summer vacation and can be linked to awareness programs for the school-children and job opportunities for older students and young graduates of the school. Members of the community will also be invited to participate in these awareness programs as a step towards involving them gradually in the decision-making process. Corporate funding will be sought and the community will be involved in fundraising.. The enforced division of work over two month long annual installments (during summer vacation) is an opportunity not an impediment as it will foster long-term community involvement and allow time for developing community spirit. Expanding the program will happen in parallel, through involving more and more schools, and will be an opportunity for co-operation and exchange. This will take place within the structure of an NGO with branches in these schools.

Paper presenter: Khalid El Harrouni (Ecole Nationale d’Architecture de Rabbat, Marroco), “Urban Rehabilitation of Historical Areas: The Asilah Medina”
The Asilah medina profited during the two last decades from a series of cultural rehabilitation initiatives by Al-Mouhit Cultural Association. But today the medina offers a striking contrast between areas of thriving cultural and artistic activities, and a degraded historical built environment. Fortunately, a significant measure of protection and management is currently in the final stages of application: the Plan d’Aménagement et de Sauvegarde de la médina d’Asilah, 2009. The overall rehabilitation strategy for Asilah medina is to alleviate the constraints through an intervention program, especially the historic monuments and buildings, the urban environment, the housing stock, the social and economical development, which can not be launched without seeking adequate tools (institutional, financial and technical) for their implementation. The municipality places the stakeholder participation, including social participation in housing rehabilitation, the public and the private actors investments at the core of its implementation strategy. The city council sets a program of emergency intervention on deteriorating historical built environment (ramparts, walls, bastions and gates), housing units threatening collapse, infrastructure and urban facilities.

Paper presenter: Djamel Boussaa (University of Doha, Qatar), “Historic Centers in the Maghreb: Pleading for an Integrated Revitalization Strategy”
In the Maghreb and after gaining independence in the late1950s and 1960s many countries witnessed an unprecedented rapid urban growth. The historic cities, which formed the major cores of these cities, witnessed continuous pressures of redevelopment. Eventually, these historic centers and neighborhoods with rich cultural heritage have been often demolished and replaced by modern high-rise buildings. Following the period of crude development and rapid urbanisation, people started to realise that their cities have lost their cultural identity.
The historic centres and urban cores which escaped complete demolition, have survived as isolated pockets in the midst of a rapidly modernising world. The major threat to these centers is that the influx of people seeking for cheap rent has led to their overcrowding, with several families often living in one house, and sometimes in a single room. This has accelerated their state of decay and dilapidation, leading these historic centres to become "urban slums".
This critical situation raises important questions; what should be the future of these historic centers? Will they be demolished to pave way for more ambitious growth or can they be conserved and sustained for present and future generations? Will the historic city, the heart of urban life and the main protector of our cities identities, survive and continue to be places for living within the emerging global environments of today and tomorrow?
We believe that one way of rediscovering the cultural identity of the Maghreban city is to go back to its roots and try to conserve and sustain them. In this context, this paper attempts to highlight the importance of dealing with the urban conservation issue, by raising and discussing the following question: How can urban conservation be a catalyst of regenerating the economic life and cultural identity of the historic centers in North Africa?
The Casbahs of Algiers in Algeria, the Medina of Fez in Morrocco and the Medina of Tunis in Tunisia will form the setting of this research. These World heritage cities, though belonging in three neighboring countries but present different approaches regarding their urban heritage. They will be examined and compared to extract lessons that can help establish a common integrated strategy to rehabilitate and revitalize the Mediterranean historic center.

Paper presenter: Ivana Ciric (University of Belgrade, Serbia), «Value of Historic Centres in the collective memory of societies - Experience of traveling through Mediterranean countries”
In the introductory part of the paper the author discusses the connotations of the term ‘heritage’ as well as the aspects that it includes into post-industrial society. Pointing out that the term heritage is more often brought into connection with the terms ''cultural'' and ''historical,'' she explains their correlation with the collective memory and traditional values in certain societies. In addition, the author points out the new concept of tradition in the period of globalization which has evidently influenced the shift of the focus of evaluating tradition from the reservoir of a significant authentic history to a flexible and simultaneous evaluation of traditional values, which results a new view of culture, equally shaped by both state and market.
The main part of the paper is the survey conducted in 2009 with a representative sample of 1000 respondents, of various age categories, from the Republic of Serbia who traveled during the 2008 and 2009 with touristic purpose, in one of the Mediterranean countries. Their answers concerning the destinations and cultural monuments visited, historical facts they have remembered, comments regarding what they liked or disliked and memories they ''brought'' are some of the segments that the author fully examines for the purpose of forming the picture which represent the role of tourism in the popularization of heritage. The respondents' high level of interest in natural and cultural resources of the countries visited, as well as their interest in customs and traditional manifestos of these countries is identified by the author as a possibility for future strategies as far as the development of tourist and cultural ties is concerned.
The leading vision of the conducted research primarily focuses on determining the impact of cultural and historical heritage on stimulating a sustainable economic development and its impact on the exchange of human values in multi-ethnic communities and groups. Furthermore, the aim of the paper is pointing out that cultural heritage or yet cultural construct (derived as the result of reconstruction and revitalization) possesses the characteristics of cultural capital which can be seen as an important resource for further economical and social development of the society which is able to recognize and accept it.

Paper presenter: Faedah Totah (Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, USA), “The Making of a New Historic City Center in Damascus”
Since the Old City of Damascus has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site different policies and regulations have been put in place to protect the historic site from the onslaught of modernization. Although the main purpose of these polices was to protect the local traditional architecture and urban fabric they inadvertently contributed to the deterioration of many buildings thereby highlighting the gap between government conservation policies and actual implementation. The main shortcoming of these policies was to dismiss the people who actually lived in the Old City and who were considered to be poor rural migrants with no vested interest in the local history or heritage. In this paper I show how social aspects remain missing in the current revitalization of the Old City. I will begin with a brief overview of the policies to protect the Old City where I argue that the focus on architecture is politically motivated. The lack of social dimension to many of these policies and regulations not only make them unpopular but also impractical thereby raising major concern about the true owners and stewards of the urban heritage. I will then describe the socio-economic changes during the past decade that led to the revitalization of the Old City of Damascus as an important tourist site. This interest has in turn encouraged the preservation of the vernacular architecture which is now considered heritage. Yet this preservation is taking the form of non-residential use such as restaurants and boutique hotels which in turn undermines the preservation policies of the government and further marginalizes the local inhabitants from these new investment opportunities. I will conclude with how the current revitalization of the Old City could easily lead to a depopulated open museum and therefore a dead but well- preserved city.

Paper presenter: Figen Kafescioglu (Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts, Turkey), “Rehabilitating and revitalizing 19th century passages in Beyoglu”
Passages as a nineteenth century commercial building type are worth to analyze by their spatial potential in the rehabilitation and revitalization processes. The aim of this paper is the examination of the spatial interventions in Beyoglu - Istanbul and to display the potential creating forms of passages in the rehabilitation and revitalization processes of the district.
The rehabilitation and revitalization efforts in Beyoğlu district are interpreted in various ways by different actors. These interventions on deprivated fields are mostly either large budget projects that are not remedies to the physical and social problems or urban space designs realized as decorations of the open areas. These superficial interventions that are mostly supported by local municipalities and finance circles are criticized by the non-governmental organizations and academicians for the risk they involve to lose the spatial identities of the district. However, the sustainability of spatial identity will ensure the healthy development of the district by supporting the revitalization and rehabilitation ideas.
The passages which are built in the 2nd half of the nineteenth century constitute important potential in this context. Even though this building type has set out from a western type the buildings have adapted to the district’s urban morphology, community's lifestyle and to the living practices of the traditional commercial buildings like covered bazaars, arastas or hans. These multi-functional buildings that include commercial, residential, recreational spaces within are available to revitalize with low budgets since they are not heavily worn-out.
Evaluation of spatial potentials of Istanbul has to be an important goal like many other historic cities. The passages which can provide the facilities of the imposed giant shopping center projects will also constitute important opportunities for the sustainability of the cultural identities of the society if they can be rehabilitated with efficient projects.
A need of creating interfaces (that lead to consciousness and new interactions about the spaces) in between the actors (users, designers, investors, local municipalities, artists etc.) is obvious for the evaluation of this opportunity. The present stage of the study we have carried out by this approach forms the content of this paper.