Congrès Mondial des Études sur le Moyen-Orient et l'Afrique du Nord

Barcelone, du 19 au 24 julliet 2010


Urban Theories in Middle Eastern Cities (068) - Panel

· Langue: English

· Description: Chair: Mohammad Reza Shirazi (Postdoctoral researcher, Technical University of Berlin, Germany)

Paper presenter: Sevket Yildiz (Research Assistant - PhD, Uludag University, Faculty of Theology, Turkey), “Modern Urban Theories and Islamic Cities”
Studies on urban history go back to the ancient times. However, it made its appearance as a discipline in Europe in 19th century and studies made in the US stood out in 20th century.
Urban theorists suggested many typologies by comparing western cities of the Age of Enlightenment with ancient ones. So that, on one hand, they classified cities according to their features, characters and changes they undergone during the history, on the other hand, they could comment on the cities on the other parts of the world. Islamic cities also took part in these urban theories.
This paper deals with the general ideas given in the urban theories about Islamic cities and that to what extend this ideas could define the cities in the question. And while emphasizing on the unity in the form of the Islamic cities considering their similarities to each other and differences from other cities, the necessity to introduce new and different typologies for Islamic cities is suggested.

Paper presenter: Somaiyeh Falahat (PhD student, Theory of Architecture, Brandenburgische Technische Universität Cottbus, Germany), “Morphological Patterns of Middle Eastern Cities, Descriptions and Stereotypes”
For the first time the Islamic cities were studied by the early 20th century and consequently for the first time the term “Islamic city” was coined and emerged among scholars. Since then a large body of researches has been done on this subject. In these texts and descriptions the city has been studied through different dimensions including: social, cultural, political, religious and so on. Of the most repeated references were the various definitions and understandings about the “form” and “pattern” of the city. This chain of different ideas led to arising of some clichés on the form of “Islamic cities” which even now impact the theoretical discussions and investigations. The core of these stereotypes is that: the lack of order in Islamic city led to the labyrinthine, tortuous, chaotic, irregular, anarchic, haphazard pattern in them. “The town’s layout was haphazard, the lanes were tortuous. As seen by pedestrians, the city looked like a labyrinth inside blank walls” (Bianquis, 2006, p.849). On other hand, the relatively large body of critics leaves some main questions obscure. These texts all try to reject or justify these attributions without going in depth and accepting them as descriptions of non-natives “scholars or travellers” and this lack of deep studies causes that the attributions such as “labyrinthinity” eclipse some other main and exclusive features and leave them unnoticed. Therefore, it is necessary to revise this matter and study the real origins, reasons, roots, and factors from which these features have been arisen and bring again into question if Middle Eastern cities are really “labyrinthine”. The other goal is to study the collection of factors which in combination with each other convince the visitors to interpret the Middle Eastern Islamic cities as “labyrinthine” or “maze-like” phenomena. This paper employing a combined methodology (literature review, critical analysis, and case-studies) aims to deal with these questions: Which characteristics lead the visitors to interpret the Islamic cities as labyrinthine? What are its characters, form or meaning? Is it possible to grasp alternative terms and models, instead of the terms like “labyrinth”, to explain the pattern of relations and physical layout of cities in the region in a more proper and comprehensive way?
*Bianquis, Thierry, “Urbanism”, Medieval Islamic Civilization, Josef W. Meri, ed. Vol. 2, L-Z, INDEX, 2006

Paper presenter: Mohammad Reza Shirazi (Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Technical University of Berlin, Germany), “To the Cities Themselves; Understanding Middle Eastern Cities within the Phenomenological Discourse”
Middle Eastern cities have been studied and investigated by western scholars since the end of 19th century, and their studies have established a ‘solid body of comprehension’ which suffers from some vital shortcomings and disadvantages. Middle Eastern cities were considered either as an object for a scientific experiment and thus lost their lived situation (historians), or were seen from above reducing the city to some two-dimensional images of calculative and perspectival method in expense of neglecting existential, bodily aspects (planners, architects), or were mostly categorized according to their similarities in order to draw a ‘Typical Muslim City’. Based on the ideas of feature phenomenologists such as Husserl, Heidegger, Lefebvre, Norberg-Schulz and Pallasmaa, this paper takes the Husserlian slogan of ‘to the things themselves’ as the departure point, to propose a framework in which ‘Middle Eastern Cities’ could be understood in a more comprehensive and authentic way. In this regard, it will be discussed that how ‘phenomenological discourse’ is capable of proposing key concepts in studying Middle Eastern cities to get rid of the usual misunderstandings and disadvantages of the classic investigations and approaches. To the city themselves, thus, pursues to capture the essence of the cities, penetrate into the ‘life-world’ (Lebenswelt) of the people, and perceive them ‘from within’, as they are and as they are lived and inhabited.

Paper presenter: Guy Rak (PhD student, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel), “The Visual Culture of the Ottoman Empire: The Architecture of the Second Constitutional Period in the Case of Abide-i Hürriyet”
My paper deals with the architectural culture of the Ottoman Empire in its capital, Istanbul and its urban centers, in the Balkan and western Anatolia, during the time period of the parliamentary regime of the second constitution (1908-1918).In 1908 the Young Turks, a coalition of various opposition groups, forced the sultan, abdülhamid II, to restore the suspended constitution of 1876 after learning that the third army had marched on Istanbul. Following the restoration proclamation the Ottoman Parliament was convened for the first time since its dissolution in 1877 and the Second Constitutional Period begun. The Second Constitutional Period lasted until the annulment of the parliament in 1920 during which the different governments had to contrive a policy and implement it through the design of the public space. Since the built environment is a product of a social process, which sets a policy compatible public space, my paper discusses aspects of the new parliamentary regime in the Second Constitutional Period as they manifested in the planning of the urban space and its construction: land zoning and allotting, architectural style and the public discussion on the public construction policy. Sculptural monuments and memorials of the Second Constitutional Period have gained some scholarly attention so far. Klaus Kreiser surveys three such monuments: The Monument of Agriculture (Abide-’ Ziraat) in Konia, the Monument of the Fallen Pilots (‘üheda-’ Tayyare Abidesi) and the Monument of Liberty (Abide-i Hürriet) in Istanbul. Edhem Eldem, who conducted research on the funerary art in the Ottoman Empire, referred to two of the period's funerary monuments in Istanbul: The Monument of Liberty and the mausoleum of the Sultan Mehmed V. In my paper I would like to focus on Monument of Liberty. The basic assumption in my paper is that the built environment is a visual document that can be interpreted as a textual document can be. In my paper I identify the cultural messages and the symbolic language as reflected in the public Ottoman space. In addition to the analysis of the visual inventory (including photographs, construction plans, cartography and aerial photography) I am assisted by other documentation: official correspondence of the Ottoman state, professional literature and press. To conclude, the main interest of my paper is the discussion of the unique place of architecture as a visual manifestation of the cultural discussion of the Second Constitutional Period as exemplified by the case of the Monument of Liberty.