Architecture and Representation of the Arab City - Columbia GSAPP (2023)

Architecture and Representation of the Arab City - Columbia GSAPP (1)



The Arabian City in RepresentationAmale Andráos

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The case of the travellerNora Akawa

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For the love of cities and booksLila Abu Lughod

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Arab cities and identity crisisNasser Rabbat

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Teaching a course on the contemporary Arabic 5,700 peopleMohammad Al-Asad

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Export the VAEYasser Elsheshtawy

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Architects as migrantsGwendolyn Wright

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Cairo after World War II and the rise of Arab engineersMohamed Elshahed

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From nation state to failed stateZiad Jamaleddine

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7 Fallen CitiesAdrian Lahoud


Reading the Modern Narrative of AmmanSaba Innab

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Interview mit Suad AmirySuad Amiry, Amale Andraos, Caitlin Blanchfield

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architecture and nation buildingFelicity D. Scott

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“Islamic” architecture, community empowerment, and market-debt relationshipsAshraf Abdullah

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12 areas of OilRania Ghosn


Remarks on the production of representationsReinhold Martin

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A stone of afflictionHashim Sarkis

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(Video) Architecture and Representation: the Arab City (Session 1 & 2)


Interview with Hala WardéHala Warde, Amale Andraos, Caitlin Blanchfield

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Interview myth of Ali ManagerAli Mangera, Amale Andraos, Caitlin Blanchfield

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Juxtapolis-PedagogyMagda Mostafa

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architecture and representationLaura Kurgan

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Interview mit Bernard KhouryBernard Khoury, Amale Andraos, Caitlin Blanchfield

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20 Interview with Senan AbdelqaderSenan Abdelqader and Nora Akawi


The Nakba Day killingsEyal Weizmann

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Epilogue The CapitalTimothy Mitchell Back mat


fallen cities

Adrian Lahoud

In Arabic conversation, "the situation" (الوضع) is used to indicate the prevailing political, social and economic insecurity.1Those who use the phrase rarely specify what situation they are referring to. Has there only been one situation so far? The multiplicity implied in its nonspecificity binds one speaker to another in an implicit assumption that is both intimate and collective. A former Ba'athist phalangist, communist or pan-Arab nationalist no longer. Not a martyr yet.

Just a shared hesitation to speak the language of parties, names and events. In its place, an empty term that stands for all possible parties, all possible names, and all possible events: "the situation." Like an incantation, if repeated often enough, a million tiny acts of solidarity will add up to a collective perception. Oddly enough, this affective accuracy is assured by the utter lack of content of the statement. “The situation” can literally refer to anything. His job, however, is not to impart information, but to reach agreement that the predicament is so obvious that it needs no further explanation - 'it's bad', 'we' are 'in', 'together'.

This "we" is his work. Perhaps nothing forges more solidarity than a shared sense of unease. Perhaps everything depends on whether this common sense is exhausted by its graspfeel uncomfortable. In any case, what the term lacks in detail, it more than makes up for in scope. In fact, the seeming inevitability of the situation colors every question and judgment about the Arab city. Like the "Arab street," a foreign policy term now used as an acronym to describe Arab popular sentiment, the "Arab city" appears perpetually hurt and inflamed. Undoubtedly, the fact that Arab identity, Arab cities, and Arab streets are constituted as particular types of issues that arouse public interest, invite debate, and are worthy of discussion cannot be divorced from the multiple geopolitical investments in the region. After all, that's how it isArab identity, not any other identity at stake here, and not just for the Arabs, since the question has for some time merited discussions of a broader and certainly more pernicious sort within the colonial states in relation to their earlier empires. The streets and towns of other communities are primarily of interest to those communities and to those whose job it is to take an interest in such things; they just aren't burdened in the same way or by the same fears. Entering this particular debate, one then risks, even as a vigorous critic, accepting its framework and reactivating the habit of asking questions about these terms.

How is this continuing? One might take “the situation” and the commonality of its usage in everyday language as a sign of caution and ambiguity, a reluctance to betray positions or to engage in public controversy for fear of accusation. But why insist on seeing this expression as a lack rather than an act of everyday resistance? His compulsive repetition is an attempt to suspend representation long enough for mutual sympathy to form. If the statement is not framed as a lack, a failure, or a denial - and the suggestive ambiguities it offers are followed up - then another entry point into questions about the Arab city may become possible. This other entry point would require neither of the two terms that guard its entrance, neither 'Arab' nor 'city', let alone the colonial legacies that mark the importance of their connection beyond the Arab world. So instead of specifying with its refusal, we should try to start with its function, which is to forge a collective feeling. These sentiments, as articulated in the myriad pronouncements of popular sovereignty heard in recent years, provide a nuanced understanding and sensitivity to the relationships between implicit and explicit registers, and to the tension between affect and its systemic capture near the representation. After all, it creates the implicit affective solidarity

al-wad’a [die Situation]

can suddenly crystallize into a perfectly explicit revolutionary demand:

Sha'ab al sha'ab [das Volk]

' yurīd [to want]

drop [bring down] isqat

an-nizam [das Regime].

I want to examine how new collective feelings are expressed, shaped and made explicit in contexts of social transformation. Architecture plays a fundamental role in these processes, and the above examples provide new insights into how we might understand the political function of architecture. Aside from the attention to the intrinsic precariousness of these utterances, their urgent need to attain life beyond their performance in everyday conversations is to take forms that survive moments of “popular cheering,” as Jonathan Littell recently put it.2When the chorus of voices falls silent, there is an urgent need to seize all resistance passions, investments, sympathies and sentiments and finally figure out what structures will best secure their destiny. It is a question of desire: how do you produce it, how do you satisfy the resulting demands, how do you secure that satisfaction for the future?

Architecture has a fundamental role because it can contribute something essential to the permanence of new social diagrams - an impersonal form. By stating that “the nature of contemporary power is architectural and impersonal, not personal and representative,” the anonymous collective The Invisible Committee points to something increasingly evident in leftist thought—the need for a constructive political architectural project.3This is not to say that personality has nothing to do with politics, or that we are done with the meaning of face, manner of speaking, or charismatic leaders, but to suggest how contemporary forms of power cannot be understood without a serious examination of our interconnectedness with material and technical worlds and the subtle but enduring demands these worlds make on life.

To substantiate this thesis, I would like to go back to a moment in Lebanese history that is as improbable as it is decisive. Commissioned by a proto-state named after aZaim(Leader) and designed by a part-time communist and full-time carioca, Oscar Niemeyer's Rachid Karame Lebanon Fair and Exhibition project is a textbook example of architecture and the problem of nation building. The project depended on the model of the state that created it, which conceives of the nation as something plastic that reserves the right to intervene with this plasticity in order to shape it. But as early as the 1970s, when an aggressive return to laissez-faire markets and civil war interrupted the burgeoning movement towards a welfare state, Lebanon's political leadership was no longer willing or able to ensure the conditions under which the project should work .

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North edge of the Rachid Karame Fair and Exposition entrance plaza with rows of unadorned flagpoles. The plaza datum directs visitors to an inclined ramp and the entrance pavilion.

For many, the sense that individual projects fail to bring about social change is unsettling, albeit familiar. Perhaps because it reflects the secret assumption that individual works bring about social transformation at all. At least the question arises as to the contribution of architecture to social transformation. In the case of the Tripoli project, the failure to build a new Lebanese state, legitimate institutions, and a workable idea of ​​citizenship makes broader questions about the instrumentality of architecture and its contingency within social movements explicit rather than less clear. However, this verdict of failure can only be made from the perspective of the 1960sNahda, or Renaissance, and his commitment to socialist, nationalist, and pan-Arab programs.4One could take the opposite position, that the inability to assume a monolithic form in a country without a hegemon gave Lebanon its special ability to endlessly absorb regional pressures: not quite a state properly speaking, not even a peace - rather a lasting, uncertain truce.

In any case, nation-building is an impossible burden on an architectural work when it is extracted from the political, financial, and institutional context that commissioned it, gave it meaning, and struggled to sustain it. It is therefore more meaningful than any appeal to Arabism to examine the concrete experimental processes in which social diagrams emerge and how the instruments of modernity are taken up and modified in order to reactivate and mobilize archaic structures such as feudalism. By social diagram I refer to implicit norms and explicit spatial and institutional forms that work together to produce, stabilize, and secure specific power relations, including the production of national identity.

In this way, a more consistent, albeit transverse, genealogy can cut through diverse claims to social change, regardless of their periodization or their supposed regional or linguistic commonality. Through Niemeyer's intervention in Tripoli, I propose that the diagram secures the operation of the work. It is what sustains the urge for transformation, what makes it last. In conclusion, I propose that this work aims to produce a specific type of subject. The era of nation-building projects centered on an imaginary subject whose natural affinity for family and community needed to be realigned with the promise of citizenship and national belonging. One collective feeling had to be replaced by another: family and community ties had to dissolve and national ones had to take their place. However, there was a challenge. The nation did not exist. It would have to be invented. In the case of Lebanon, the reformist nature of this project meant that this transformation would take on an inherently pedagogical character. The state would draw heavily on urban, infrastructural, and architectural projects to break up municipal-level filiations to better establish them at the state level. Exactly how this was to be accomplished is relevant not only because this era was such a crucial turning point in Lebanese history that belies the catastrophic upheaval that soon followed, but also because it raises questions of a more general disciplinary nature.


To return to social transformation with this refrain, “the situation” requires that we distinguish between two different aspects: an interpretation that means a deficiency on the one hand (the inability to specify) and a direct intervention in the field of Subjectivity between speakers on the other hand others (implying a common perception). One could say that architecture is still far too committed to the former at the expense of the latter. In order to explain this and to justify why it is relevant for an architectural discussion, an excursion into the theory is necessary, in order to distinguish above all between signifying and a-significant operations of signs. This distinction, derived from the work of Félix Guattari, refers to those signs or aspects of the functioning of signs that are independent of their meaning. Guattari uses the concept to break the dominance of structuralist linguistics and psychoanalysis on our understanding of the unconscious. In relation to the statement "the situation," it works to mobilize certain types of passions prior to the assignment of positions or the articulation of identities. In fact, we could say that these affect substrates become a kind of raw material for the later formalization of linguistic statements. The difference is crucial: the absence of the referent in relation to the meaning of "the situation" creates the conditions under which a new referent (solidarity) can emerge. The condition established by the statement is nothing short of a small but precise intervention in the formation of subjectivity itself. The concept of a sign's meaning-operation invites us to engage with processes of subjective transformation that occur before or alongside understanding exist—that is, before or alongside recognizing meaning in signs.

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Architecture and Representation of the Arab City - Columbia GSAPP (4)

Dome for Experimental Theater and Music, Oscar Niemeyer, 1975. Photograph by Jack Dunbar.

Interior of the Theater Dome for Experimental Theater and Music, Oscar Niemeyer, 1975. Photograph by David Burns.

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(Video) Architecture and Representation: the Arab City (Keynote Address by Timothy Mitchell)

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The acknowledgment of both the operational and semantic character of signs through this spoken example offers a way to think about architecture, particularly the idea that 'intelligibility' should be the dominant mode of reception. Consider the example of the dome, a paradigmatic element in Christian and Islamic architectural traditions. It is a permanent form whose resistance to change makes it particularly suitable for reflecting the immutability of sacred and profane images of the cosmos. Think not only of churches and mosques, but also of observatories and planetariums. In response to historians Rudolf Wittkower and Heinrich Wolfflin - who argued that the church's central plan dome was the ideal embodiment of Renaissance thought - architectural critic Robin Evans suggests that these structures and the frescoes painted on their interior were built within the Christian tradition evidence was nothing less than an architectural and artistic struggle for the reconciliation of conflicting theological conceptions of heaven and earth.5After all, the heavens consisted of orbiting celestial bodies arranged in concentric spheres around the earth, and yet all power—including divine power—emanated from a central point. The dispute, as Evans puts it, was between envelope and emanation. Each position embodied different and sometimes antagonistic social, theological, and political claims about God's place in relation to man. The merits of Brunelleschi or Raphael, according to Evans, lay in their ability to literally shape the contours of this dispute, bringing those differences close together and keeping them in a space of coexistence. Somewhat perversely, when it comes to domes, the unruly nature of their geometries has only encouraged, rather than constrained, this kind of interpretation and speculation. For Wittkower and Wolfflin, the dome embodied perfection, while for Evans it embodied strife. However, everyone agreed that the dome needs to be interpreted. It was never about the meaning as such, but only about the signified.

Indeed, Wittkower, Wolfflin, and Evans might well be justified in framing this problem in terms of encoding and decoding of meaning, inasmuch as such a framing describes how the work was often reasoned by its authors and received by its audience. Of greater importance is the legacy of this question and its influence on contemporary accounts of architecture. The question of Arab identity and its architectural representation is a case in point, as it is still raised in relation to tropes and their representative adequacy. So the debate about domes or even the problem of appropriate and inappropriate orders now continuesmashrabiya, geometric tiling, pointed arches and vaults employed to signal "Islam" or "Arabism" on a spectrum ranging from the very subtle and discreet (good) to the vulgar and kitschy (bad). Consider the Lebanese Pavilion at Rachid Karame's Fair and Exhibition Grounds: an open, square-plan auditorium framed by a pointed-arch colonnade. Most will recognize that this particular shape refers to Ottoman traditions, of which there are many examples in the area. However, some will not understand the allusion as the legibility of the sign depends on the viewer's prior knowledge. I happen to like the arches; others will find them unadorned, and most will likely pay them little attention. In each case, the shape is intended to signify cultural affiliation and history.6

Architecture affects us and through us, regardless of whether we "understand" it, regardless of its comprehensibility, and regardless of our ability to appreciate its tropes or take pleasure in modifying them. This is an important political point; At stake is nothing less than a claim about what architecture does outside of the architectural discourse - what it does to non-architects. Buildings are primarily non-discursive objects, even if they are always involved in discourses of all kinds. This is why the concept of the chart is so relevant here. It allows us to relate the non-discursive, a-significant aspects of architecture to the discursive, significant aspects - the instrumentality of architecture is always bound to the non-architectural. Diagrams don't literally manifest themselves as specific tropes, or even systems of organization. Neither the pilotis, the free plan, the New York frame, nor the dom-ino are schematic in and of themselves, nor can they ever be considered purely architectural, whatever that may mean. They only have the intended effect on the social body if they are secured by a constellation of cultural attitudes, laws, customs, regulations and other requirements. The discursive and non-discursive elements work together in each diagram. The panopticon would just be a dank, round building with a spire in the middle without the transformation of penal codes, prison reform movements, the judiciary, and the police. The modern housing unit would be just an odd way of strategically separating and merging corporations without the "charitable" incentives of philanthropic organizations, the regular assessments of housing inspectors, or instruction manuals for poor families. Do prisoners or members of a nuclear family need to recognize these stories in the arrangement of spaces and functions? Will the disposition of spaces and the arrangement of functions stop affecting their habits, structuring their socialization, or structuring their gender roles when these histories are incomprehensible? In other words, will prison stop molding them as specific types of human subjects if they don't understand their socio-political motive?

To answer this, consider another dome. In the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, on Rachid Karame's park-like fair and exhibition grounds, there's a dome that bears its decay a little better than the buildings around it. Its approximately 62 meter wide, slightly squat, not quite hemispherical shape reveals hardly anything. Only the acoustics and the sunken orchestra pit inside reveal its uniqueness. The dome should be a place for experimental theater and music, a program that allows to calibrate the exact distance between the current situation in Lebanon and the past situation in Lebanon.

When it was still called the Syrian Army and not yet "the regime", thousands of soldiers were stationed in makeshift barracks next to the dome. Nowadays, due to the situation, only the particularly curious dare to enter. A one-hour drive from Tripoli takes you to the top of the Lebanese mountain ranges, where you can look out over former Syria and hear the sounds of Syrian shelling from the Qalamoun Mountains across the Bekaa Valley. From both perspectives, the sense of resignation is hard to shake. Nonetheless, these lost modernities deserve closer scrutiny. If a system of subjectivation were built into the fair and exhibition, would it make sense to ask what kind of techniques would be precisely aimed at the bodies and characters of those intended to populate the project? What was special about architecture's contribution to the nation-building project during this period? Is it possible to explain the imagined instrumentality of the project without relying solely on a semantic interpretation of its tropes?


The exhibition type played a crucial role in nation-building projects in the 19th and 20th centuries, illustrating concepts of citizenship and cultural belonging. The Rachid Karame Fair and Exhibition Center draws on this history, particularly its appropriation during the post-colonial era. Surrounded by a four-lane road and nestled in the curve of a highway connecting Tripoli and Beirut, the 1.1-kilometer-long elliptical site could pass for the world's largest roundabout were it not for the occasionally beguiling structure that juts out from behind the treetops. The exhibition and fair facilities take up perhaps a third of the site, the rest being reserved as imaginary parkland for the metropolis that never formed around it. The 750 meter long exhibition hall is the dominant element. To the east are pavilions set in gardens, most of which were intended for some form of ongoing cultural production. Commissioned in 1962, the project hinged on the brief emergence of a type of welfare state in which large-scale public works were seen as an integral part of the perception of political legitimacy, and thus state-building. By the 1970s, however, pan-Arabism, which first emerged with Nasser's regime in Egypt and Gaddafi's proposal for a federation of Arab republics, was in decline. This indicated a regional shift away from secular and socialist principles towards sectarian political orientations. Military defeats and economic stagnation contributed to widespread discontent in the Arabic-speaking world. In Lebanon, the shrinking of the state, the government's withdrawal from social services, and the inability to implement electoral reforms or build stable institutions have coincided with the extreme regional destabilizations that occurred as a result of the conflict between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), now operating from Lebanese bases.

Most exhibition stories focus on the organization of the exhibitions and the strategies used to order, represent and juxtapose different cultures. Occasionally, scholars turn to the technical innovations used in the construction of the exhibition hall or in the exhibits themselves. Niemeyer's proposal for Tripoli differs from the prototypical World's Fair or International Exposition in that it combines an exhibition hall with buildings for cultural production within a landscaped urban complex intended to serve as a model for structuring a city's growth. These four elements - the exhibition hall, the cultural pavilions, the park and the city plan - are to be understood as complementary components within a nationalistic, educational project.

There are two main forms of movement through the site, corresponding to the linear organization of the exhibition hall and the placement of the pavilions. Niemeyer built a series of ramps and elevated vantage points that encourage visitors to continuously withdraw from the crowd and survey the crowd before returning to ground level. Here the crowd could see and be seen. Outside of protests and demonstrations, organized public gatherings of this magnitude were unprecedented, and the impact of being in this two-way spectacle would have been quite powerful. Being shaped here wasn't just architecture; This architecture created an audience that could become self-aware in the vastness of its own spectacle.

As Lebanon urbanized during the colonial era,asabiyyah(an Arabic term referring to social cohesion within a community group) and feudal family ties that had traditionally structured sectarian affiliations persisted in response to a highly competitive capitalist environment and the insecurity such an environment engendered. In the absence of a legitimate state to insure the poor against the hardships of city life, old patronage networks remained important. In Lebanon, metropolitan anonymity did not break feudal or family ties; it reterritorialized them and made them stronger. However, for a brief decade between the mid-1950s and 1960s, a concerted attempt was made to sever these connections in order to establish them under new and different conditions. The Tripoli project is part of this story. Its organization manifests an attempt to orchestrate a set of affects and senses of belonging that, if inscribed into dominant narratives of nationality, would become detached from their shared history.

The project can be seen as a machine designed to create new relationships between the masses and the individual, and thus the nation - a mass orchestration of affects. However, the excessive affect of the mass spectacle that Niemeyer staged through the ramps and vantage points would initially remain undifferentiated, hardly more than a mass caught up in different existential intensities and feelings. This unformed set of affects therefore needed to be grasped and placed in an appropriate place within the social order. The crowd recently decoded must be recoded, classified, and naturalized within a national narrative. The exhibition hall and the display of "characteristic" elements of the various nations gathered would help normalize and stabilize a new Lebanese identity. Visitors would learn to distinguish themselves as citizens by adopting new norms of public behavior, particularly the consumption and appreciation of cultural artifacts.

Organizing the world into an image, as Timothy Mitchell put it in his description of the 1889 Paris World's Fair, produces two effects: first, a representation of national differences, and second, the extension of a colonial system of representation to the world itself.7In Tripoli, the public mass organization of the crowd and the relation of the individual's point of view within it relate to the typological history of the international exhibition and its curatorial organization. By organizing encounters with artifacts, the fair would have attempted to recode this undifferentiated population to define Lebanon's newfound place among other nations. In addition to exhibition planning and exhibition design, Niemeyer introduces a third element: the pavilions for cultural production and performance. These pavilions place the citizen in a position of imaginary ownership of the products of cultural activity.

We can envision the components of the faire working together to achieve the following goals: The subjects' communal bonds are contrasted with something new—an orderly public mass spectacle in which the subject undulates in and out of the crowd and an affect charge is still generated not formalized. Consuming the artifacts within the exhibition positions them in the world through a national narrative, until finally they are led to see themselves as imaginary producers of that national narrative. This is what the architectural machine does within the social diagram. The first component of the machine works with a-meaning characters. The ramps and elevation changes are not symbols to be interpreted; they intervene directly in the subjective field. Only later do the elements work together to produce signs whose meaning must be read. However, the premise of the sign's meaning is the visceral charge generated within the subject. This representation of nationality can only work insofar as it can recode and formalize this substratum of affects and passions that produce the spatial qualities of the project. However, this A meaning was only the architectural aspect of the diagram. Greater pedagogical ambition depended on human nature more than the design of buildings. They depended on a state that was willing to see itself as the architect of this national narrative, in which such large-scale infrastructure projects were safeguarded and purpose-oriented through forms of cultural administration, curatorial strategies, exhibition programs, etc. the media. The weakness of the state meant that the pedagogical chart and its technologies of nationality did not stabilize before the start of the civil war in 1975.


Those who refuse to wean their enthusiasm for politics project endless uprisings, constituent powers that are never constituted, disruptions that are never the prelude to less pathetic continuities.
—The Invisible Committee,To our friends

Of the many outcomes of the "Situation," the merging of destruction and reconstruction is perhaps the most accepted. The income from luxury housing will rain down on those who broker peace. In war land speculation makes a joke out of military calculation. Soon the rhetoric of the imminent future promised in depictions of a new Aleppo or a new Damascus will double the current legacy of violence through systematic distress and dispossession, albeit in an architectural register. Before these images of future cities have received their finishing touches, however, the future they represent will have been constructed through land expropriations and models of real estate speculation, through promissory notes based on calculations of future revenues according to reliable standards and estimates of return. Detached from the realities of existing land tenure, undisciplined labor markets and unpredictable steel prices, they will reach purely speculative heights. Like the images of many urban futures, those for the “Arab world” must be standardized before they can become bankable – recent images of a blueprint for a city of seven million between the Suez Canal and the banks of the Nile being a case in point. Like a bushel of wheat or a barrel of oil, the urban future has become a standard measure. Its consistency, ubiquity and reliability allow it to spread. It is not surprising that promised cities behave like commodities: in a sense, increasingly, they are. The future must learn to flow. His promise must first become liquid before it can become solid. As with grain and oil, too many inconsistencies create friction.

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Outline of Capital Cairo Master Plan, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 2015. Courtesy of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

Despite the inherent conservatism of real estate markets and the daunting reliability of these proposals, their colonization of the imagination is far from complete. There is no lack of dissatisfaction with or criticism of these proposals within the architectural discourse, and certainly no lack of emotional engagement with alternative futures of Arab cities and Arab streets. In Aleppo, in Amman, in Beirut, in Cairo, in Damascus, in Gaza and in Jerusalem there are the most startling signs of political experimentation, social movements, activism and institution building. In other words, signs of survival, resistance, and invention are everywhere. From experimental coalitions on human and natural rights in Lebanon to proposals for democratic federalism in Southeastern Anatolia, from feminist movements in Kurdish communities to autonomous neighborhood assemblies in besieged Syrian cities, we envision bold and vital attempts at social ties and forms of political organization in a new way to think. But without access to the equivalent of what Timothy Mitchell calls the "engineering work" of the future, it's hard to see how these valuable experiments in alternative societies can be sustained.8Dissatisfaction, criticism and desire alone will not be enough to make wishes come true, because the different calculation and capitalization systems that drive real estate development have a special consistency.

The aversion to "social engineering" within architecture or urbanism has not resulted in societies lacking in "engineering," let alone societies that are more perfectly ordered. On the contrary, the result is simply societies whose order and technology have been dictated by those with access to the infrastructure of the future, condemning the rest to precarity. The persistence and prevalence of these conditions is often referred to as "neoliberalism," but that term fails to capture the specificity or diversity of the many socioeconomic charts it claims to encompass. In addition, it is overlooked that it is precisely these different socio-economic structures that normalize subjectification processes. The stability of the connections that are forged, for example, between foreign capital, property speculation and domestic unity ensures the reproduction of social and political power in urban space. The elements that make up these diagrams—their connections, their ability to persist in time, to repeat themselves in space, and to shape forms of subjectivity—cannot be reduced to issues of representation and interpretation. Financial calculation, indebtedness, ways of life and work ensure their own reproduction because they appear as norms, material constraints, and habits that function independently of the meanings or interpretations that critics ascribe to them.

Perhaps, fifty years later, the people who were to populate the Tripoli exhibition center materialize on the streets and squares of other cities? These masses, recently assembled and too quickly dispersed by brutal counterrevolution, insist that we question assumptions about the durability and stabilization of new social orders. The contingency of architecture in relation to these orders suggests a more careful exploration of histories of subjectification as an educational project. Such an investigation would not mean simply escaping signification, but rather describing the feelings, codes, and structures in which signifying and a-signifying elements cooperate within a political project. The institutionalization of social movements could be a starting point, and the impersonal form of architecture could contribute a lot. For when regimes are toppled and people have voiced their demands, new types of structures to support new ways of life are needed if the legacy of societal change is to be kept alive.

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Experimental Theater and Music Dome and Lebanese National Pavilion, Oscar Niemeyer, 1975. Photo by David Burns.

  1. Important portions of this essay were written in response to Timothy Mitchell's keynote address, "Architecture and Representation: The Arab City," Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, New York, November 21, 2014, referred to in this volume as "The Capital City" ( p. 258) and as a result of an ongoing conversation with Nora Akawi that began on March 20, 2015 in Palestine on the function and understanding of "the situation".
  2. Jonathan Littell,Syrian Notebooks: Inside the Homs Uprising, Jan. 16-Jan. February 2012(New York: Back, 2015).
  3. The Invisible Committee, to our friends(South Pasadena, CA: Semiotext(e); Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015), 83.
  4. The exemplary representation of this time and its regional impact is Samir Kassir,be arab(London: Back, 2006).
  5. Rudolf Wittkower,Architectural principles in the age of humanism(NewYork: Norton, 1971); Heinrich Wölfflin,Classical Art: An Introduction to the Italian Renaissance(1899; New York: Phaidon, 1952); Robin Evans,The projective occupation: architecture and its three geometries(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995).
  6. A decade after Evans, Jeffery Kipnis wrote the following commentary on Villa Savoye: "It works for me and for me, but I can see why others only see a nice looking house." Jeffery Kipnis, "Re-Originating Diagrams", inPeter Eisenman: Feint, ed. Silvio Cassarà (Milan: Skira, 2006, 194). The comment is related to an attempt to explain the role of the diagram in architecture and its potential political instrumentality. Yet in every example cited in the text, from D. H. Lawrence's appreciation of Cezanne's apples to the author's own appreciation of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, intelligibility is associated with recognition, especially character recognition. As he suggests, "only a few are sensitive to architectural effects in the full political dimension" (194). Notwithstanding the cultivation of "sensibility," and regardless of whether one reads this as a claim to prior acculturation or just personal taste, these signs are always things conveyed through formal tropes, in this case Le Corbusier's Five Points. Architecture may or may not be specific as a medium, as Kipnis contends, but the model for how the medium works is stubbornly linguistic.
  7. Timothy Mitchell, The World as ExhibitionComparative studies in society and history, Bd. 31, Nr. 2 (April 1989): 217–36.
  8. Mitchell, "The Capital".


areas of oil

Rania Ghosn

Baron John Cadman, chairman of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and the Iraq Petroleum Company, discussed the influence of petroleum on Middle Eastern geography in a 1934 paper submitted to the Royal Geographical Society. It is the infrastructure that is particularly necessary for the extraction of the oil; Field railways, telephone and telegraph lines, and pumping stations and water supply pipes were essential to the uninterrupted flow of oil.1It was an obvious claim. That same year, a 12-inch diameter export crude oil pipeline was completed, connecting the Kirkuk oil fields in the former Ottoman Empireprovincefrom Mosul in northern Iraq to the Mediterranean ports of Tripoli (Lebanon) and Haifa (Palestine). These pipelines to the new economy in the land of the Tigris and Euphrates were so important that they were dubbed the country's "third river."2

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Axonometric drawing of the Trans-Arab Pipeline, Rania Ghosn, 2014. All images by the author.

But the third river was only the beginning of the world oil trade in the Middle East. After World War II, several years after American companies discovered large oil reserves in Saudi Arabia, the Trans-Arab Pipeline (Tapline) was built to expand the export capacity of the Saudi concession by transporting crude oil from wells in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province via Jordan and Syria to a Mediterranean port in Lebanon. The Trans-Arabian Pipeline Company was chartered in 1945 by the four American oil companies that held shares in Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco) with the sole function of transporting some of the crude oil produced by the sister company at cost. When it was completed in 1950, the 1,214-kilometer (754-mile) 30-inch diameter pipeline was the largest oil pipeline system in the world. Designed to avoid the round-trip tanker journey around the Arabian Peninsula and the Suez Canal toll, the pipeline has been dubbed a "steel shortening" and hailed as an "energy highway". The company's releases showed photos of the infrastructure as a free-floating pipe that merely overlaid the "distant and empty" land, disappearing into the horizon.3This image of a "modern steel trade route" spoke of the infrastructural desire to inscribe a space of oil circulation, or to borrow the term from Manuel Castells, aroom of currents, in the near East.

The concept of a "Space of Flows" coined by Castells captures this intensified exchange of resources, money, information, images and finance to describe the accelerating conditions of mobility in the global economy.4Oil's growth into the number one commodity in international trade in terms of value and weight has only been made possible by the infrastructure that delivered it from its source to world markets. So geography – or more precisely, the overcoming of distances – plays a major role. Distance is not measured in absolute terms, but as distance friction, economically quantified as the combined time and cost effect of transport. Since crude oil is not worth much at the wellhead, the value of the oil requires it to be moved efficiently and in a timely manner. Such time-space compression involves a variety of ways to reduce distance while accelerating speed. Geographic theory has examined the extent to which it is possible to overcome the friction of distance through infrastructure improvements and accelerations within the global space of flows. David Harvey, for example, argues that the development of communications and transportation technologies mitigates the difficulties of capital accumulation by expanding markets and eliminating spatial barriers to profit realization.5

However, the concept of a space of flows remains insufficient to theorize the geographic relationships that underpin the oil system. It borrows from developments in the life sciences during the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly William Harvey's discovery of the circulatory system, to conceptualize the urban process as 'flows' of resources through the 'arteries and veins' of geography.6Reductive metabolic analogies naturalize the politics of circulation and accumulation, shaping circulatory systems into the veins and arteries of the world that must be unblocked from all possible sources of clogging.7The river has no identifiable agency. It superimposes the territorial fixation and silences the negotiations, contradictions, conflicts and ruptures in the biography of the infrastructure. These analogies favor a situation of "moving on" and reject friction and violence as necessary corollaries of circulation. The Room of Currents is also often used to celebrate the "death of distance" or the "end of geography," but distance and geography are hardly irrelevant when it comes to oil (and a host of other things floating around).

Why does it matter whether geography is abstracted? The obliteration of geography abstracts technological systems - their materialities, dimensions and territorialities. It removes from representation the territorial transformations along the canal that the inscription of infrastructure evokes, and overlooks the politics of consensus or dissent necessary to allocate resources.8Instead of killing distances and rejecting geography, could we imagine and qualify the friction spaces within such infrastructure systems? The paramount importance of crude oil transportation within the oil regime might be better conceptualized through the idea of ​​friction within geography. in theFriction: An Ethnography of Global ConnectionAnna Tsing writes that globalization can only be realized in the sticky materiality of practical encounters, through what she calls "the awkward, unequal, unstable and creative qualities of connecting across differences".9Tsing suggests that if we imagine the river as a stream, we would notice not only what the rivers are, but also the channels that allow that movement (i.e., the political and social processes that allow or constrain flows). From this perspective, geography is understood as a constitutive dimension of global flows, as an instrument of government, and as a combat operation itself. Space is thus reorganized by resource economies and not eroded by metabolic flows.

In this way, we can reframe the theme of the Arab city through geographies of the Trans-Arab Pipeline, combining geographic theory and representation with more familiar forms of historical science on energy infrastructure.10Three friction vignettes along the line depict the flows and frictions of this carbon commodity: these narratives take place in the water troughs, along Tapline Road and in the Sidon Terminal buildings. By attending to these places in a timely manner, I am responding to Timothy Mitchell's call to "follow the oil closely" in his highly influential work on oil technopolitics in the Middle East. Following oil closely means tracing “the connections made between pipelines and pumping stations, refineries and shipping routes, road systems and automobile cultures, dollar flows and economics, weapons experts and militarism”—all of which disregard the boundaries between the material and the Ideals, the political and the cultural, the natural and the social.11In this framework, the transnational oil system might be thought of as what Andrew Barry calls a "technical zone," a set of coordinated but widely dispersed regulations, imputed arrangements, infrastructure, and technical procedures that reflect specific objects or flows governable.12

In relation to Tapline Corporation and its pipeline project, the incorporation of the river required reconnaissance and mapping of alternative routes, international and diplomatic relations with the outside world, private funding, conventions, obtaining rights of way, settlement of transit fees, and engineering drawings. The construction of such a large engineering project involved clarifying the availability of manpower, training and expertise, as well as the terms of capital and technology. It meant deciding the movement of local people, procuring pipes and machinery, who to use to build and operate the pipeline, and how to secure it. The transport company, which often operated in regions isolated from central energy and not connected to national and regional grids, had to "open up" the border using roads, emergency services and security posts. At the same time, the pipeline was built in public relations in glossy brochures, colorful photos of communities and landscapes, and promises of positive impacts on people along the route. The fixation of the circulatory system in space has produced an epistemological and material territory in its diverse dimensions, through which international oil companies, transit and petrostates and populations negotiated their political rationale.

Four maps illustrate the zones involved in Tapline's operations. The first represents the Middle East as a space of currents, a continuous backdrop in which national borders recede in favor of bold pipelines. The map underscores the desire for a continuous zone of operation where oil flowstrotzof borders. However, as the second map suggests, operational continuity did not mean that Tapline would annihilate political boundaries, as the kingdom's northern boundary coincided with that of the Aramco Concession. Tapline was a vertically integrated operation with the manufacturing and transport divisions operating as sister companies; the flow of oil in the pipeline therefore depended primarily on the continuation of the Aramco concession and the strengthening of Saudi territoriality. For both the concession society and the sovereign state, land—or more specifically, the country's subterranean resources—was the new source of value that required a permanent order on the surface to secure subterranean interests.

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Map depicting the Middle East as a zone of oil flows criss-crossed by pipelines.

Map showing the control zones of concession companies in Saudi Arabia.

Map illustrating the geography of Saudi Arabian security.

Map showing the tribal composition of the region.

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Architecture and Representation of the Arab City - Columbia GSAPP (15)


For Saudi Arabia, the northern border posed a double security challenge. The kingdom sought to protect its northern region from potential external threats from Iraq and Jordan, while strengthening its dominion over a number of Bedouin tribes, particularly those living on the Searching for water seasonally moved back and forth in Iraq, as shown in the third map. Arab political boundaries had previously been defined in terms of tribal territories, which in turn defined their ranges in terms of access to water. One of the tasks of the Arabian Research Division (AAD), Aramco's internal research and analysis organization, was to study the tribes, their geographies, and their access to water. The fourth map speaks of such efforts to depict the zones of influence of the tribes. It roughly represents the tribal areas, orsays, for the main tribes of Saudi Arabia. Aarewas not a strictly delimited and exclusively occupied area, but rather a loosely delimited area of ​​clan control based on claims to permanent wells. The clear delineation of the northern border was intended to replace a shifting and negotiated territorial order in northern Arabia. Together, the four maps visualize a dominion project with the superimposed territorial claims of the concession, the kingdom, thesays, and the safe border zone.

Tapline thus established control in the northern Saudi territory - it established borders, settled populations, demanded security and fueled the economy. The Saudi-Tapline Agreement exempted the company from an income tax or royalties for the first fifteen years. In return, Tapline would pay for "all reasonable and necessary expenses" from the government for protection, administration, customs, health and community works, and establish schools and hospitals in the area of ​​the pipeline stations. The company paid a security fee and expanded the provision of water and services in the newly formed Northern Frontiers governorate - originally known as the Tapline Governorate. The company drilled fifty-two groundwater wells and offered medical services at its clinics along the driveway. It planned the cities next to the pumping stations of Turaif, Rafha, Ar'ar and Qaisumah; built their public institutions and schools; and supported a home ownership plan for its employees.

Although interests along the northern border may have been shared in part by the transnational oil company and the state, the two did not agree on all operations. The space of the river was actually a place where the actors involved negotiated their political rationale, be it demands for higher transit revenues, labor strikes or interruptions to the flow. Water troughs were a microcosm of the political process. International tapline officers made the “hidden natural resource” available, local emirs regulated access, and different tribes, no longer restricted by their territorial boundaries and water wells, sometimes violently negotiated for access to water. From the early days of exploration, Aramco had a policy of drilling wells for Bedouins in remote areas. Water wells drilled for company use were left as public water sources, and this water development program was regularly referenced in Aramco's annual reports to the government between 1947 and 1960.13Tapline's outreach with the Bedu and the Northern Province governor was sometimes conveyed as a 'water show'. Tapline's contribution to water development in the northern region has been highlighted in company reports and during official visits to the province. During his visit to Turaif, for example, the defense minister "expressed his delight at seeing a camel trough filled and praised the company for taking good care of the Bedouins".14In these early meetings, tapline managers emphasized that they are making "every diligent effort" in relation to the water supply, as outlined in the convention. To get some statistics on file, aerial photographs were taken of the Bedu area to get a tent count. Also, at the request of the company, the police compiled a list of all the tribes represented, with the names of the chiefs and some estimates of the population, both human and animal.fifteen

(Video) Architecture and Representation: the Arab City (Session 5)

Architecture and Representation of the Arab City - Columbia GSAPP (16)

Sectional drawing illustrating water flow into water troughs of Aramco wells.

Tapline got its first taste of the 'Bedouin problem' when newly drilled water wells became trouble spots between the various factions who depended on corporate wells for a permanent water supply during the summer months. A slowdown in water production or a change in wellhead fittings led to calls for more water. Formal tribal delegations would report local delays and incidents to Tapline and the Saudi provincial governor. A 1950 report entitled "Bedouin Survey Rafha" recounts the controversy that arose when a tribal emir, claiming prerogative of the water because Rafha fell within his normal range, asked that other Bedouin prevented from using the water.16Other tribal factions claimed that they were encouraged by the king to camp near Rafha rather than crossing the Iraqi border to reach the waters of the Euphrates.17When the Emir's letter to the relations representative in Rafha proved unsuccessful, he tried to scare off the other factions. The emir of the Northeast Border Force was wounded along with some of his men and one soldier was killed. Tapline's Jeddah representative soon after received a telegram from King Ibn Saud "protesting the incident and claiming that it would not have happened but for the presence of Tapline operations in the area...that the shooting was the result of a dispute." on the water supply was in a company trough from Tapline and that a large protection force of Saudi soldiers was therefore needed, as has been advocated by the government for the past four months.”18The Tapline representative who responded pointed out that such scars had marked the uncontrolled border areas for many years and he did not believe that Tapline's presence was a contributing factor. However, the incident left the representative with the difficulty of planning for the future at Rafha in the face of multiple factions. It was found that an “efficient” water supply required regulation by a local government agency.19

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Grading and paving of Tapline Road, a project funded by the Saudi government under a development agreement with Tapline.

A second frictional vignette reveals conflicting interests between an oil company's transportation and concessions divisions through the history of Tapline Road. The terms of the convention had required the Tapline company to build, maintain and pave the road alongside the pipeline at its own expense. During initial construction, a dirt road was covered with decomposed limestone and marl, and crude oil was used as a binder instead of asphalt. The practice continued until renegotiation of the terms of the Convention in 1963.20In these negotiations, Aramco was most concerned about the implications of Tapline's decision to capitalize on the program for its own infrastructural obligations to the Kingdom, rather than costing it. Aramco had given up its roads on the grounds that once a road was built, the oil company lost control of it and it effectively became public property. Aramco shared with Tapline its concern that the government's approval to capitalize on the roads program has set a precedent that Aramco has had to live up to on similar roads in the past and in the future. Also at stake were schools and other community development projects, which Aramco was spending but which the company feared the Saudis might pressure to capitalize in the future. "Any arguments we could make in favor of tapline street capitalization can probably be made by the government against Aramco... The potential savings for Tapline shareholders from street capitalization must be compared to much larger amounts that Aramco could make the." Government would have to pay if forced to capitalize on roads, schools, etc.”21The road was eventually netted. In this case, its sister company status and commitment to Aramco's larger financial interests influenced Tapline's decision to meet the Kingdom's development needs, despite its initial efforts to limit its obligations to the Saudi government.

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Drawing of the Sidon oil spill and the fishermen affected.

At the regional level, political dynamics between Nasser's pan-Arabism and the pro-Western Baghdad Pact allies unfolded around oil spills and labor dynamics in the Sidon terminal of Tapline, the Mediterranean terminus, the scene of the third friction vignette. King Saud's visit to Lebanon in 1957 symbolically marked the convergence of regional economic interests and American foreign policy. During this visit, John Noble, President of Tapline, welcomed the Saudi King and Lebanese President Camille Chamoun to the Sidon Terminal and stated: “This is an additional source of pride for Tapline and Medreco that they are a vehicle to advance the mutual interests of These countries are supplied by the transport of crude oil from Your Majesty's kingdom.”22Simultaneously, Sidon, home of the terminal, emerged as a stronghold for Nasserist allegiances, particularly with the 1957 general election of Ma'rouf Saad, a Sidon MP with socialist labor claims and close ties to local fishermen. Minor oil spills had started to pollute the Lebanese coast, drawing the attention of the government, the press and the Sidon union led by Ayoub Shami. Tapline's management fears a strike and labor unrest in Lebanon: "Like the University of California at Berkeley has its Mario Savio, we have our Ayoub Shami."23After a major oil spill in 1961, the company's fears were confirmed when a court order sided with local landowners and fishermen affected by the pollution.24Sidon's fishermen claimed that the chemicals the company used to disperse the oil caused damage to aquatic life. The Lebanese government had signed the international treaty protecting a zone stretching 100 nautical miles offshore where it is illegal to dump oil-contaminated ballast or bilges. Although no legislation had been passed to support the treaty, the Lebanese government stressed to Tapline and other countries that the country intended to comply with the treaty. At the same time, as a "goodwill gesture to the Sidon community," the company built two storage buildings for fishermen in the port area at a cost of about $10,000. During the inauguration ceremony in April 1961 - in the presence of Ma'rouf Saad - John Noble called this "philanthropic enterprise of Tapline" a "symbol of the mutual friendship and respect that exists between the community of Sidon and Tapline".25The cover of the Season's Greetings issue ofPeriscope– the company publication – is charmingly illustrated with a color photograph of the Sidon camp. Later that year, as a further sign of the rapprochement with the fishermen, Tapline entered Sidon's second spring festival with a giant fish cart decorated with carnations, chrysanthemums, gladioli and daisies.26

Throughout the 20th century, the growth of oil as a global commodity has made the Middle East a focus of foreign policy and geopolitical negotiations between producing and transit countries, in both peacetime and wartime. Throughout the region, oil demarcates territory at production fields, along transportation routes, and at terminal ports. From the celebrations of abundance in post-war Felicia Arabia, to fears of the 1973 Arab oil embargo, to the nationalization of oil resources and the Gulf Wars, the oil issue has all but defined the region in newspapers and political reports. However, the rich literature on oil and the Middle East has mostly dealt with the geographies of oil as an exercise of diplomatic power over space. Omitted from this narrative are the materialities, scales, and social processes necessary to establish and sustain oil flows. These three episodes in the life of the Tapline trace the spatial configurations of such political and economic projects. They tell how the pipeline embodied a zone of friction, a zone where different actors negotiated their overlapping and divergent interests.

Tapline's narrative is also relevant to contemporary conversations about energy and infrastructure. At a time when the environment is at the heart of design concerns, it's imperative that we don't sideline the politics of geography—that its frictions, alliances, and material realities aren't ignored as we lament the "energy crisis" or seek renewable energy seek resources. Many contemporary energy projects continue to be presented as a series of technological artifacts in a distant, sparsely populated desert. Such imagery is reminiscent of earlier environmental fantasies, such as those that inspired the tapline itself, in which the systemic attributes of technology remained outside of geographic inquiry. In transitioning to new forms of energy, we need to examine the geographies of new technological systems; If we don't do this, we miss every opportunity for political and social change. The wind farms, solar fields and offshore wells that will be our new energy landscape carry their own geographical narratives, their own frictions. It's the designer's job to make them visible.

  1. John Cadman, "Geography of the Middle East Relating to Petroleum,"Geographical Journal, Flight. 84, No. 3 (1934): 201-12.
  2. Michael Clarke (dir.),The Third River(Iraq Petroleum Company, 1952), 29 Min., 16-mm-Film.
  3. Daniel Da Cruz, "The Long Steel Shortcut"Saudi-Aramco-Welt, Bd. 15, Nr. 5 (September 1964): 16–25.
  4. Manuel Castells,The rise of the network society(Cambridge: Blackwell, 1996), 412.
  5. David Harvey,Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography(Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2001), 328.
  6. Richard Sennett,Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilization(NewYork: Norton, 1994).
  7. Erik Swyngedouw, "Circulations and Metabolisms: (Hybrid) Natures and (Cyborg) Cities",science as culture, Vol. 15, No. 2 (2006): 105-21; Erik Swyngedouw and Maria Kaika, "Fetishizing the Modern City",International Journal of Urban and Regional Studies, Flight. 24, No. 2 (2000): 120-38.
  8. See Rania Ghosn, Where are the missing spaces? The Geography of Some Unusual InterestsLook carefully45 (2012): 109–16.
  9. Anna Tsing, Friction:An ethnography of global connection(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 4.
  10. Much of the discussion here comes from my dissertation: Rania Ghosn, "Geographies of Energy: The Case of the Trans-Arabian Pipeline" (DDes diss., Harvard University Graduate School of Design, 2010).
  11. Timothy Mitchell, "Carbon Democracy",economy and society(2009): 399–432, 422.
  12. Andrew Barry, "Technological Sons",European Journal of Social Theory, vol. 9, no. 2 (2006): 23-53; Gavin Bridge, "Global Manufacturing Networks and the Resource Sector: Governance of Resource-Based Development",Journal of Economic Geography, Flight. 8, No. 3 (2008): 389-419.
  13. J. P. Mandaville, „Bedouin Settlement in Saudi Arabia: Its Effect on Company Operations“, Bericht der Arabian Research Unit, Dezember 1965, Box 7, Ordner 15, William E. Mulligan Papers, Georgetown University Library Special Collections Research Center.
  14. Turaif, 13. Juni 1951, Box 6, Ordner 2, Mulligan Papers.
  15. Turaif, 25. Juli 1951, Box 6, Ordner 2, Mulligan Papers.
  16. Rafha, July 13, 1950, Box 11, Folder 21, Mulligan Papers.
  17. "The 'abdah section keeps claiming that Rafha fell within their traditional range...the Aslam and Tuman of the larger part of the Shammar known as Sinjarah took the position that they were encouraged by the king, near Rafha camp rather than crossing the Iraqi border to reach the waters of the Euphrates.” “Camel Trough Troubles,” Rafha, 18 June 1950, box 11, folder 21, Mulligan Papers.
  18. „Shooting Incident May 2 at Rafha Pump Station on Tapline Route“, Foreign Service of the U.S. Rafha Weekly Report, 3. Mai 1950, Box 11, Folder 21, Mulligan Papers.
  19. „Bedouin Survey Rafha“, Rafha, 13. Juli 1950, Box 11, Ordner 21, Mulligan Papers.
  20. "Schedule of General Specifications Attached to Letter Agreement of 24 March 1963 between Government and Tapline", in "Tapline", undated, Al Mashriq,
  21. "Pipeline Road," April 26, 1963, William Chandler's personal papers, Boise, Idaho, courtesy of Blaine Chandler and Gail Hawkins.
  22. "King Saud Visits Sidon Terminal," Pipeline Periscope, vol. 5, no. 7 (November 1957): 1.
  23. "Labor Situation, Lebanon," December 2, 1966, Chandler Papers.
  24. "Oil Pollution of the Sea," September 20, 1966, Chandler Papers; "Oil on the Beaches"Pipeline-Periscope, Bd. 16, Nr. 7 (August 1966): 2.
  25. "Sidon Fishermen facilities dedicated",Pipeline-Periscope, vol. 9, no. 4 (May 1961): 6–7.
  26. "Tapline Float the point at the Sidon Spring Festival"Pipeline-Periscope, Vol. 11, No. 6 (July 1963): 2.


Interview with Senan Abdelqader

Senan Abdelqader and Nora Akawi


They operate in a context in which architecture and planning were and are being strategically activated as tools for the occupation of Palestine. Palestinians in Jerusalem constantly face obstacles designed to hamper their livelihoods with the goal of controlling demographics in favor of a Jewish-Israeli majority. We see this being done through zoning and planning regulations and the construction of infrastructure that is fragmenting Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and stifling their projected growth, and through systematic home demolitions. They explained that because of these obstacles, only 30 percent of the housing needs of Palestinians in Jerusalem are met and that the eastern part of the city has been largely informally developed. Your urban development project in the Arabic city of Al Sawareh was shaped entirely by this condition. And its result, while it can be called a success, reveals the system put in place by the Israeli authorities to make Palestinian planning in the city impossible. How did your involvement in this project begin?


We started working on this project in 2009. At that time there were many isolated efforts by residents of Arabic Al Sawareh who submitted plans to the community. They tried to change the zoning of their land from non-developable areas to be able to build with permits and avoid demolition. As you mentioned, one of the many obstacles facing the Palestinians in Jerusalem is the stifling of urban growth. This agenda has clearly been incorporated into the master plans since Israel occupied the rest of Palestine in 1967 and brought East Jerusalem under Israeli community jurisdiction. Most of the Palestinian land in East Jerusalem has been designated as "open public space" to make building on these areas illegal. Since 1967 the population of East Jerusalem has grown enormously, especially in Jabal Al Mukabber. People began moving out of the denser areas and building on the outskirts of Al Mukabber in Al Sawareh in Arabic.

Of course, many faced the demolition of their homes and other forms of Israeli military and legal obstruction to construction. In response, they began work on master plans. The community accepted a small number of these projects. But as community officials received more and more of these plans, they resorted to another avenue to stop this planned development. They made the pseudo-professional claim that with the increasing number of master plans submitted in isolation, a larger plan for the entire area would need to be drawn up. Of course, we know that when the Jerusalem Municipality creates such a condition for the Palestinian neighborhoods in the city, it certainly does not do so with the intention of developing and planning the area, but quite the opposite. We expect that the aim is to delay the process and create more obstacles. It was at this point that I was approached for the project. We had many meetings with the area's residents and landowners to first discuss whether we should even take on this task, knowing that it is part of Israel's plan to build another barrier. It wasn't an easy decision. After much discussion, we came to a consensus that we should accept the project and develop much-needed plans for this part of Jerusalem that had never been planned before. It was important to us because it is the natural extension of the Jabal Al Mukabber neighborhood south of Silwan and very close to the old town. Our main goal was to transform these lands from being marked as open areas, inaccessible to their Palestinian owners, into lands where they can develop and live in the heart of Jerusalem.

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Arab Al Sawareh website, 2009. All images courtesy of Senan Abdelqader.


You mentioned that the planning process was a collective effort that you led in your office with the landowners and that this transformed your office space into a platform for civic engagement and participation. Can you explain how this happened?


The most important aspect was that we involved the property owners in the planning process. Of course, we all knew that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve our goals since Israel's political agenda in relation to the Palestinians in Jerusalem openly contradicts these goals. But I explained that our strategy would be to aim high and whatever we could achieve we would count as a win. This was the optimistic beginning of the project, especially since the residents were repeatedly and systematically confronted with obstacles. As I mentioned, before I was introduced to the project, people had already begun isolated planning efforts to define their lots and change the designation of their land from non-buildable to buildable areas. Our goal was to bring these efforts together in an urban community project. One of the interesting challenges was to introduce local modern concepts to meet the needs of a highly urbanized society, while maintaining the social and cultural arrangements by which they started developing the plans for the area. We have developed a housing project, taking into account the social impact of dividing and subdividing land into plots and the organization of the buildings, green spaces, public spaces, housing, etc. We have developed a plan, an urban vision, with planning guidelines for the area. This empowered the community to submit more detailed proposals for their lands as part of a larger collaborative project. And to do more than claim – to claim – their right to build and develop their land after having a fuller understanding of what they need from an urban design perspective and how this area should develop: a local modern urban space with public institutions, cultural institutions and commercial activity. Not just living.

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Community meeting for the Arab Al Sawareh project, 2009.


How did Israeli officials and city government decision-makers take your proposal?


Initially, we aimed for 7,500 residential units. It was a high-density proposal, but also a direct response to the housing needs of Palestinians in Jerusalem. In 2009, during an important community meeting attended by the city engineer and his deputy, the proposal was immediately rejected. They asked, "Are you planning to bring a million Arabs to this area?" In that very language. This was the beginning of the process. At some point we were forced to reduce the proposal to 2,500 housing units. We had two options. The first was that we would decide to stop work entirely and restore the situation to the status quo. The second was that we would continue to work on changing the zoning of the area from non-buildable to allow for building. After completing one of our discussions with the property owners and local residents, we decided to assume that at least a change in zoning would allow them to build, albeit at a lower density than originally intended. Of course, as soon as land is rezoned from "open", "public" or "green" to buildable, its value increases drastically. But more importantly, once Palestinian landowners in Jerusalem have the opportunity to build legally, even if at lower densities, it cements the fact that their land can be developed and cements their right to cultivate that land and live on it.


So did the process go as you expected? Was it really just another plot to further stifle Palestinian growth in the city?


Absolutely. We have opposing goals. Our goal is to secure the infrastructure that would allow the Palestinians to stay, live and grow in Jerusalem, and the goal of the Israel Municipality is to confine that infrastructure to the point of suffocation. In the planning process, there were conditions that we wanted to achieve and that we deliberately kept ambiguous - in the proportions of building proportion, number of residential units and plot area. They introduced staff – referees – whose only job was to check the numbers and count after us three or four times. We continued to have planning meetings into 2014 and the relationship went from being suspicious to being hostile. At this point they decided to accept our proposal not as a master plan but as guidelines. On the one hand, this land in Arabic Al Sawareh has been redesignated from open non-buildable land to buildable residential land through collective planning work in the infamous Jerusalem 2020 Plan – on paper. For reasons I mentioned earlier, this is important as a statement of policy planning. On the other hand, other conditions were worked out and created by the municipality and the district committee for planning and construction to make this plan unattainable, impossible to realize. With our proposed plan adopted as the planning guide for the area, landowners in Al Sawareh Arabic can now submit master plans for a specific zone to complete the construction permitting process. This is where the trickery begins. Master plans covering an area of ​​less than 50-100 dunams [approx. 12.5–25 acres] are not even considered. Landowners need not approach the municipality with plans until they have reached consensus with all owners of at least 50 dunams together. Bear in mind that the largest land holdings in this area are 3-4 dunams, and even these are usually shared among several family members. They are asked to bring ten to twenty families together to work on a common, detailed plan. This is not possible anywhere in the world. This is just one example of how we are forced to work within a system designed to lead to failure, locked into states of indefinite suspension, working towards plans that are impossible to implement. This is a very frustrating reality and a destructive state of affairs that is representative of the occupier's way of working and mentality.

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Project Arab Al Sawareh and Surroundings, Senan Abdelqader Architects, 2009.


During the conference you explained that the situation in Jerusalem is radically different from other Arab cities, even isolated: it is occupied, controlled by a permanent settler-colonial military regime, and as a result your architecture is about persistence, to survive and most importantly to resist all the very powerful forces trying to push you out. You also said that while all of these forces and conditions aim to constrain local Palestinian aspirations for the city, you are still working to give them some sort of representation through architecture. And in more than one instance, your architecture is also representative of suppressed and silenced local, collective, Arab, Palestinian aspirations for the city. This applies to the Arab Al Sawareh planning project, but also to others such as the Mashrabiya House or the sports and cultural center in Beit Safafa. How can you start using your architecture for criticism through design?

(Video) Architecture and Representation: the Arab City (Session 3)


Shortly after I moved to Beit Safafa, the need for a cultural and sports center kept coming up in several informal conversations with friends, neighbors and members of the community. We drew up a proposal that was immediately rejected by the community because Beit Safafa residents do not need such a center. They should use the center in the Sur Baher district, six kilometers away, for sports facilities. Ten years later the project was later revived and we started the design process. We designed a space to house cultural, educational and sporting activities for the youth of the neighborhood and conceptually the project was conceived as infrastructure, not a traditional building. After many revisions, we arrived at a design proposal that met all the technical requirements for the project's approval, but that wasn't enough. There is a very specific Israeli typology for a sports center thatmatethat we should replicate. We have used some of the characteristics of this typology, such as B. Standard dimensions of certain programs, but we have reinterpreted the program and the organization of the various functions to adapt them to our goals for this facility in our specific context. The community officials wanted to see an Israelimatewith the standard two to three storey, standard openings, windows and doors. We are interested in a local cultural, educational and sports center for the people of Beit Safafa that grows from within, is open and acts as an infrastructure for the neighborhood. Community officials even advised some community members that if they wanted a center approved, they should hire a certain Israeli architectural firm, which happens to create a very large percentage of community-approved designs for educational and public sports facilities in the city. The emergence of a local interpretation of an architectural program with an Arab-Palestinian local identity and culture threatens the Israeli bureaucrat.


Despite being a private project, the Mashrabiya House has gained local public prominence in Beit Safafa as well. It has become a collective statement and political critique. How did you develop this critique through design?


The building stands as a critique against several impositions on local Arab culture and the city's livelihood. An important element of the building is the reinterpretation of the traditionalmashrabiya, reimagined to respond to its specific local political, social, cultural and environmental contexts. In Jerusalem we are forced to build with stone, a law passed to the Israelis by the British Mandate. The city's seemingly seamless material continuity, from old to new, is intended to symbolize a connection with place. This form of colonial cultural appropriation of Arab-Palestinian culture and building technology is of course fallacious, especially since the use of stone in building has become a thin layer of 3 to 5 centimeters that wraps around the building, where the stone loses its functionality entirely . In order to counteract the loss of value of the building material stone with this cladding technique, we have reinterpreted the woodmashrabiyaUsing traditional stonemasonry methods, a stone envelope was built around the building, offset by 1-2 metres. Through this critical act, the design responds to the requirements of a stone facade while fulfilling the traditional function of themashrabiyaas an architectural element that forms the boundary between public and private and provides climate regulation. The stone shell protects the interiors from the harsh summer sun and winter rain and wind while allowing a constant flow of fresh air through its gaps. It is also designed to run a passive cooling system. It is open both at the bottom and at the top, so it acts like a chimney, pushing the hot air up and replacing it with cool air drawn in from the gap at the base of the ground floor. Another important aspect of the draft responds to previously discussed discriminatory planning regulations aimed at keeping Jerusalem's Palestinian population at a low 30 percent in favor of a Jewish-Israeli majority. In the Arab quarters of Jerusalem, construction is limited to 50 percent of the land. While the stone shell conforms to building codes, the gap between the outer and inner shell gives us the flexibility to expand the living spaces in the building. Instead of the permitted 500 square meters of built-up area, we can use around 2,000 square meters of living space around the two shells through the interplay of interior and exterior space. Others are now following this type of response to the restrictions imposed by regulations, and the Israeli authorities are being forced to grapple with it as the building has become quite representative of the neighborhood.

Architecture and Representation of the Arab City - Columbia GSAPP (22)

Architecture and Representation of the Arab City - Columbia GSAPP (23)

Architecture and Representation of the Arab City - Columbia GSAPP (24)

Mashrabiya House, Senan Abdelqader Architects,

Mashrabiya House, Senan Abdelqader Architects,

Mashrabiya House, Senan Abdelqader Architects,

Architecture and Representation of the Arab City - Columbia GSAPP (25)


Architecture and Representation of the Arab City - Columbia GSAPP (26)



In our recent conversations, you indicated that the most important factor shaping architecture for Palestinians in East Jerusalem is the lack of a certain feeling:Kampf(which in Arabic is the combination of trust, knowledge and certainty). Your practice, both in the office and in your teaching and other work with academic institutions, is a continuous examination of these questions and is significantly shaped by them. Is it possible to plan for the future in a political context where the asymmetry of power and violence traps people in an endless present? Or can we, as a group or individuals operating from within this field of power relations between occupier and occupied, construct an architecture capable of reflecting our own subjectivities and aspirations? And finally: Can we construct imaginations under occupation? We learned more about how these questions shape your design practice, but can you tell us more about how they impact your teaching?


For about a decade I have been leading a research unit on informal architecture at Bezalel, studying the way the unplanned development of the eastern part of Jerusalem took place. We examined the specifics of neighborhoods such as Beit Safafa, Silwan and Jabal Al Mukabber and developed urban and architectural design approaches that took into account the complex political and social specifics of these places. But the situation in Jerusalem has become much more difficult in recent years. Of course, we also face an Israeli government that has absolutely no intention of changing this state of affairs - a government that is increasing violence and repression at every turn. Jerusalem is the focus, as is Bezalel. On the other hand, the curriculum, faculty and students (with some exceptions, of course) remain completely blind to their political environment. The introduction of more complex and politically charged topics into the classroom is met with rejection and uneasiness. And in our design and planning work in the office, we find ourselves in constant, perpetual delays, sometimes even in open confrontations with a community and planning office ruled by a military mentality. On the one hand, this frees and motivates us to fight for our demands and our rights openly, transparently and without diplomacy or discretion. On the other hand, staying and continuing the work is itself a struggle, especially in Jerusalem.

An important answer to your question, especially with regard to the teaching of Palestinian students in Israeli institutions, is the language. What does it mean when Palestinian students go straight from home to university from high school and the language they have to learn is Hebrew – a language that for them was the language of the military, of war? And in a social and political context where Arabic, and its Palestinian identity in general, is not only oppressed, but often confronted with oppression and hostility? Now imagine that the Palestinian students come to study in an Israeli academic institution and attend classes in Arabic, their mother tongue. All their understandings, emotions and approaches change. I'm working on that. What's happening now is that when the Palestinian students come to Bezalel, for example, they get a constructed understanding of what it means to stand out in that context, and it means to stand out on Israeli terms. If they don't break out of that position, which is not an easy task, whatever they can bring out of that position will come out of a colonized mentality - there's no way for anything other than that. But if you're with Palestinian students in their language speak and work - the language of their home, their mothers, their fathers, their families, their streets, their friends - they begin to produce confidently from their culture, their place and their peculiarities. It becomes a collective realization that says:Wait a minute, I - and we - exist. Only then can Palestinian students begin to critically examine the concepts and ideas they internalize that are foreign to them. Take the concept ofdu-kium(Hebrew for coexistence) that we sometimes see in studio design projects. Where did that come from? Nowhere in our language, in our conversations at home, with family or among friends, does the question come upcoexistencecome up.Du-kiumis an Israeli construct, consistent with the creation of a seemingly level playing field in a context of asymmetrical power. For a people under occupation, it is not just about tolerating the other, but about fighting for liberation. I think this is important and I keep fighting for this issue of the language of learning and teaching. It's not about language being outside of production; it is about building a body of knowledge and work that emerges from a local Palestinian thought process.


The capital

Timotheus Mitchell

Talking about architecture and representation runs the risk of assuming a simplification: on the one hand, that the world exists as a built environment, and on the other hand, the importance we attach to the built environment. in thecolonization of EgyptI asked how modern humans came to experience the world in such stark, binary terms. Here I would like to explore alternatives. There are ways of looking at questions of meaning, meaning, and representation that defy simple oppositions of material and representation that instead allow one to consider all the possibilities that forms of inscription, forms of value, and forms of meaning are embedded in each architectural work. The issue of representation that characterizes this volume can be addressed, among other things, through a different approach to the history of the Arab city and the political formations that shaped its built landscape.

To explore this question, I will sketch the history of a political-economic institution that has shaped modern cities and modern life: the corporation. We consider the enterprise as a form of business organization that now plays a major role - among other areas - in the construction of cities. But the company is also a way of organizing the relationship between the future and the present. Through the corporate corporation, the construction of cities can both create the future and appropriate it in the present. This power is at once a matter of materiality and representation. in theDubai: The City as a CompanyAhmed Kanna describes Dubai as a city-state created and controlled by holding companies. These companies built its mega-towers, its enclaves, its malls, its ports, and its artificial islands. There are many similar examples of such corporate development: the Solidere project in Beirut and the Sawiris Downtown project in Cairo, to name just two. While the company's centrality to the city is latent in many of the essays in this volume, I would like to turn to the company's history not just as a business entity, but as a political entity.

Examples of the city as a corporate body in the Arab world date back to the colonial era. In Europe there is a longer history. The corporation was originally the city, or at least the city. Historically, the law of incorporation created a collective entity, a corporation that could act independently and survive the death of its founders. The city was the prime example of this power to create an enduring and self-sustaining agency that serves a collective purpose. Other examples in medieval and early modern Europe were the university, religious institutions, and later the overseas colony.

Colonies provided the link between older forms of corporations and the emergence of a new model in the late 19th century: the for-profit corporate corporation. Units colonizing Manhattan, such as the English East India Company or the Dutch West India Company, developed the power to monopolize trade routes and trading settlements. Shares in future profits from these colonial monopolies were sold to investors, creating the public company.

Towards the end of the 19th century, new monopolies emerged in the form of railway companies and large oil companies, as well as real estate companies, which organized large-scale urban and rural development. The power of corporations to act collectively, to enjoy exclusive control over territory and resources, and to survive through generations, was now used to sell shares in the future revenues that such corporate control promised. The joint-stock company had become a large trading company.

While the public limited company was always a future-oriented structure, its transformation into a large company reflected a change in the future relationship. Beginning with the colonial trading company, through the railroad, the oil industry and the modern megalopolis, the corporation was shaped through the construction of permanent structures. This durability was developed in the new technologies of ship design, steam power, military hardware, and steel and reinforced concrete. Railway companies, for example, built a long-term revenue machine out of rails, traverses, viaducts, terminals and rolling stock. Since not only the physical structure but also its operation had to be permanent, the apparatus required equal control of territory, expulsion or elimination of the native population, and control of the workforce. New technological and political powers constructed a new temporal relationship: the future as a permanent income structure.

The changed relationship between present and future created a new form of political economy. Businesses could now expect a revenue stream that could flow for ten, twenty, or even fifty years. Entrepreneurs didn't have to wait decades to realize this revenue, however. Anticipated future earnings of the company could be sold to investors in the form of shares at a discount in the present. Maintaining the value of these stocks through the promised dividends became a "cost" borne by the company.

These costs were a burden for the future. In the case of a railroad, for example, it became an additional expense in running the railroad line, which was paid for in higher fares and freight charges for users or in lower wages for employees. In the case of apartments, real estate entrepreneurs' initial profits became the "cost" of renting that unit over the following decades. The next generation would bear these growing burdens.

The persistence of transportation systems, energy grids, and urban structures, and the political orders built around them, has provided the means for speculators in the present to impose fees in the future. The great wealth of a minority of entrepreneurs in the present has been acquired by the increased cost of living of a majority in the future. There is a technical term for this future burden: capitalization. The main mechanism of capitalization to move the future into the present was the corporation.

By far the most important form of capitalization today is real estate. In advanced industrial countries, about half of a country's capital exists in the form of productive assets, but the other half is created in residential real estate. Real estate represents the most widespread application of the techniques of enriching a minority of entrepreneurs in the present by stealing wealth from a future generation. The entrepreneur does not sell a housing unit at the cost of construction (including profit) but at the discounted value of the rent or mortgage payments that may be billed to his future occupants. Because this future revenue can far exceed the cost of construction, the difference is presented as the "value" of the property itself. This spatial and debt structure does not only work on a large, municipal scale; it also permeates all levels of development. Take, for example, Ashraf Abdalla's description of the children's park in Cairo, which turned out to be a vehicle to lure small artisans into debt systems.

If residential real estate accounts for 50 percent of wealth in countries like the United States, it accounts for far more in much of the Arab world, although real estate functions differently in every city and country in the region. For example, it plays a very special role in non-oil countries; that is, in states that reap the benefits of being in an oil region and reinvesting oil revenues, but are not significant oil producers themselves. These include Lebanon and Egypt, but also Dubai. The Emirate of Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates, an oil-producing country. But 97 percent of its oil comes from one of the other emirates, Abu Dhabi. Dubai has very small amounts of oil. It is important to make such distinctions and then architecturally compare Dubai's theme parks and Abu Dhabi's slightly different architecture.

In what particular way are permanent future sources of income converted into present prosperity in the urban orders of the Arab world? Thanks to these oil revenues - whether directly as an oil producer or indirectly through their reinvestment - most of the wealthy in the Arab world have not been forced to build their wealth through the rather chaotic, short-term competitive world of manufacturing material goods. Those who have wealth usually want to expand and reproduce it by creating income streams that will generate income much more reliably in the future. And that's why real estate investments always appear next to oil revenues. It's the most logical and direct way to turn exceptional oil revenues into a long-term future that can be capitalized in the present.

Real estate in the Gulf is also influenced by another particular aspect of the region, its desert ecology. Rapidly building large cities in an arid environment, as is the case not only in the Gulf but also in places like Cairo, potential building land on the outskirts of the city is almost entirely state owned. This is unlike most other cities in the world where developing land on the outskirts of the city would already be privately owned. This urban state creates a relationship between the momentum for transformation - to generate much greater opportunities for future wealth through the speculative construction of real estate - and a form of politics in which the state itself has exceptional access to development sites. When we talk about powerful families in the Gulf, this special relationship—between deserts, the state (or the powerful families claiming ownership of the desert), and the movement of revenue into the construction of the permanent structures we call real estate—must be understood.

However, the process of capitalizing, building enduring futures and turning them into speculative gifts does not characterize every building or architecture, which is why we should distinguish between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. To provide a schematic comparison, since Dubai was very short on oil, the strategy of those in power there was to transform the emirate into a port city where capital was amassed through speculative real estate. However, in Abu Dhabi, where there were no concerns about the availability of oil revenues for decades to come, architectural projects did not have the same mandate to generate an immediate return, bringing a different tenor to the architecture and speed of construction.

So, finally, to address the issue of representation, the difficulty in any attempt to place architecture within the problems of representation is not thinking about the production of meaning, whether because the building itself is meant to produce meaning or because the building is do is intended to reflect a pre-existing national cultural significance. The difficulty lies in the ease with which we slip into the assumption that on the one hand there is the building and on the other hand what it represents or what it means. We are not dealing with two separate axes, the built and the concrete. The benefit of placing architecture in the larger history of capitalization is that if you think of an example like the railroad, or parallel examples in urban development, at every single point you get involved in these processes of calculating, registering, Planning, being involved is a drawing to be understood in the context of trying to build a lasting future and at the same time convincing people in the present of the lastingness of that future. Representation plays a role here not only as a general question about the significance of the built world. It works in very specific ways in relation to architecture's role in constructing the forms of capitalized futures we live with.

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© 2016 by the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York

This book was prepared by the Office of the Dean, Amale Andraos, and the Office of Publications at Columbia University GSAPP.

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(Video) Architecture and Representation: the Arab City (Session 4)

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataNames: Architecture and Representation: The Arab City (Symposium) (2014: Columbia University) | Andraos, Amale, 1973- Editors. | Akawi, Nora, editor. | Blanchfield, Caitlin, Editors. Title: The Arab City: Architecture & Representation / Edited by Amale Andraos and Nora Akawi; with Caitlin Blanchfield. Description: New York: Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, 2016. Identifiers: LCCN 2016006572 | ISBN 9781941332146 Subjects: LCSH: Architecture and Society - Arab Countries - Congresses. | Identity (Psychology) in Architecture - Arab Countries - Congresses. | Nationalism and Architecture - Arab Countries - Congresses. Classification: LCC NA2543.S6 A6274 2014 | DDC711/.409174927 – dc23 LC record available at


1. GSAPP 2011 EoYS Architectural Drawing + Representation II
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4. Georges Corm Lecture, Arab Contemporary Political Thought: Secularist or Theologist?
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6. GSAPP 2011 EoYS CCCP AAR Programs
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