GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Privatization of urban space in eastern Arabia
Paper Proposal Text :
This proposed paper analyzes the urban component of the recent and current uprisings in the Middle East. Examining the nationalist urban spaces in Cairo (Tahrir Square) and Tunis (Kasba Square), and comparing these two cases with Manama uprising in the Lu’u Lu’u Square, this paper argues that the physical character of public space created through governmental initiative are necessary sites of democratic social action in cities. While much of the current writing on revolutionary uprisings in the Middle East presents the social media as the new metaphor for public space, this paper discusses the necessity of physical urban space in cities to achieve social justice.

In order to develop a timely framework of analysis and design of public urban spaces in eastern Arabia, we first compare the distinct notions of public space put forth by philosophers such as Hannah Arendt and Jurgen Habermas. We then examine the role of physical public spaces in two past revolutions: the French revolution of 1798 and the Iranian revolution of 1979. Finally, we reconnect the current discourse on public space with the ‘spatial turn’ in social theory (Soja, 1989) by identifying physical design factors of public urban spaces that have successfully fostered democratic action. These urban design parameters include location, accessibility, shape, scale and enclosure, texture of envelope and symbolic architectural value of the surrounding urban fabric.