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  • Memories and the City II: The Personal Past » CSBE
    Rental Laws Beirut Public Transportation Cities of the Arab East Zoning Urban Sprawl The Domination of Amman Introduction An Anatomy of the City Using Public Transportation in Amman Publications Resources Urban Crossroads Memories and the City II The Personal Past Memories and the City II The Personal Past Urban Crossroads 109 In my September article I discussed the role of the city specifically Amman in preserving the collective past and collective memories This month s article addresses the city and the personal past I will present my own personal past It has much in common with that of many others of my generation who grew up in Amman The Amman of my childhood belongs to the 1960s and early 1970s The city then was still primarily defined by its downtown area and surrounding hills and had not expanded much beyond them My family lived in Jabal Hussein and we had relatives who lived in the downtown area and also in Jabal Amman primarily near the First and Second Circles My sister s school was in Jabal Hussein the school that my brother and I went to was further out in Shmeisani which was at the outer edges of Amman The school overlooked Wadi Saqra Walking down to that valley was a trip into the wilderness It was totally un built and the busy Wadi Saqra Street that now passes through its bottom did not yet exist We walked a lot in Amman whether to visit friends and relatives go to school buy groceries or simply for leisure A pleasant memory is walking with my sister and brother during summer afternoons to one of the shops in Firas Square near our house to buy ice cream The square s popular name was Maxim Square because of the restaurant by that name located there Although traffic congestion was common there were considerably fewer cars on the street than today We regularly played and rode our bikes in the street I don t recall cars racing through the city s residential areas as is often the case today Amman was then a primarily pedestrian city The downtown area was very much part of our daily lives My mother usually would go there about once a week to buy items not available where we lived We sometimes would accompany her To get to the downtown area she would take one of the shared taxis the service cars that connect the downtown area to the nearby hills Also my parents often went downtown with their friends in the evenings to watch a film in one of the elegant movie theatres that came up there in the 1960s They then would have something to eat at Jabri or another downtown restaurant They sometimes would take us downtown at night during the summer months for a walk and ice cream I still have vivid memories of Faisal Square there particularly its elegant water fountains which were colorfully lit up at night In 1967 my parents built a

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/memories-and-the-city-ii-the-personal-past/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Memories and the City I: The Collective Past » CSBE
    Frontier Soundscapes of Amman Airport Road Parking in Amman Privilege or Right Time Zoning To Commute or Telecommute The Shopping Mall Apartment Living Sidewalks of Amman Riyadh Property Rental Laws Beirut Public Transportation Cities of the Arab East Zoning Urban Sprawl The Domination of Amman Introduction An Anatomy of the City Using Public Transportation in Amman Publications Resources Urban Crossroads Memories and the City I The Collective Past Memories and the City I The Collective Past Urban Crossroads 108 Downtown Amman in 1970 Source Wikipedia We are very much formed by our past The past helps us define who we are It makes up a good part of our identity and it serves to anchor us and to provide us with a sense of stability and guidance in an ever changing world Without links to our past we are lost and adrift There are many ways of dissecting the past At one end of the spectrum there is a collective past This is the past of the groups we affiliate ourselves with The affiliation could be based on a nationality religion geography ethnicity tribal or familial belongings or a combination of those The collective past may be a distant or a recent past It is communicated and explained to us through many ways including written materials oral traditions and the media The more recent is the past the more it is influenced and defined by our direct personal experiences At the other end of the spectrum is a personal past which is primarily based on our individual interactions with people events and places The personal past basically consists of our memories The two pasts are different in what they encompass but also are heavily interconnected and our individual identities cannot be separated from our collective ones For this article I would like to address the relation of the city particularly Amman to the collective past The upcoming article will examine the city s relation to the personal past A good part of any group s collective memories is preserved in cities It is where humanity s most important political cultural and economic activities historically have taken place It is where wealth knowledge and power most clearly have been concentrated So much of the past therefore is directly and physically expressed in the city s buildings streets and open spaces By now we have come to acknowledge the city as a guardian and preserver of the past We therefore accept the necessity of protecting buildings and monuments of historical significance In some cases this extends to include neighborhoods and urban districts However deciding which examples of architecture or urbanism from the past should be protected remains a subject of debate In the case of Amman few would argue against protecting sites such as the Roman Theater or the Citadel with its layers of Roman Byzantine and early Islamic remains This is even though these sites are not directly connected to the collective memory of Amman s residents today However beyond being

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/memories-and-the-city-i-the-collective-past/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Managing the Traditional Arab City » CSBE
    Airport Road Parking in Amman Privilege or Right Time Zoning To Commute or Telecommute The Shopping Mall Apartment Living Sidewalks of Amman Riyadh Property Rental Laws Beirut Public Transportation Cities of the Arab East Zoning Urban Sprawl The Domination of Amman Introduction An Anatomy of the City Using Public Transportation in Amman Publications Resources Urban Crossroads Managing the Traditional Arab City Managing the Traditional Arab City Urban Crossroads 107 The challenges of managing contemporary cities in the Arab world are daunting They have grown at a faster rate than have the resources of existing institutions municipal and otherwise Of the various economic political cultural and social challenges the Arab world is facing urban management is among the more serious Today s urban scene is dominated by exceedingly large cities Providing them with the most basic services whether water and electricity waste management or transportation networks in any efficient way has become an increasingly difficult task Developing them into healthy urban environments that feature ample open green spaces a healthy pedestrian life and mixed use neighborhoods where people live close to essential services seems more and more an unrealizable dream Under such circumstances it is very instructive to examine as many existing models for urban management as possible and to see which of them may be of value for addressing the contemporary challenges affecting the Arab world s urban centers Some of these models will come from other lands some will come from other times There is a wealth of traditions regarding urban governance found in the pre modern Arab Islamic heritage Among the best work written on the subject is by the Saudi Arabian planner Saleh Al Hathloul He wrote his PhD dissertation on the traditional Arab Muslim city at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology back in 1980 In 1996 he published a book based on his dissertation entitled The Arab Muslim City Tradition Community and Change in the Physical Environment This examination of the traditional Arab city had special relevance to Al Hathloul He had served as Deputy Minister for Town Planning at the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs for two decades from 1984 until his retirement from public office in 2004 Al Hathloul s study emphasizes the important role that tradition played in helping shape the urban fabric Tradition expresses the cumulative knowledge of a given society It establishes continuity between past and present At the same time if traditions are to be relevant from one generation to the other they need to be receptive to criticism and they need to be adaptable to and also capable of evolution and change In his historical research Al Hathloul concentrated on pre modern municipal manuals known as hisba manuals and also on court records from fourteenth century Tunis and sixteenth century Medina Regarding specific issues that city officials known as muhtasibs and judges often had to address many related to the street In most traditional Arab cities streets were narrow This was partly because they followed the

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/managing-the-traditional-arab-city/ (2016-02-13)
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  • The Nimby Reaction » CSBE
    Urban Fabric What Went Wrong Energy Consumption in the City Sweifieh A Case of Urban Deterioration The Growth of Buildings A Tale of Two Shops The Economics of Zoning Jabal Amman s First Circle Area Nooks and Crannies Surfaces of the City Concrete Signs of the City Empty Plots Everywhere Amman s Most Beautiful District Amman Street Maps A New Frontier Soundscapes of Amman Airport Road Parking in Amman Privilege or Right Time Zoning To Commute or Telecommute The Shopping Mall Apartment Living Sidewalks of Amman Riyadh Property Rental Laws Beirut Public Transportation Cities of the Arab East Zoning Urban Sprawl The Domination of Amman Introduction An Anatomy of the City Using Public Transportation in Amman Publications Resources Urban Crossroads The Nimby Reaction The Nimby Reaction Urban Crossroads 106 Nimby is an acronym for not in my backyard It is used to describe negative reactions to planned new uses or building projects in one s neighborhood It is a pejorative term Those engaging in it are referred to as nimbies Examples of uses or building projects that nimbies do not welcome in their neighborhoods include a major road or a rail line a large residential or commercial development a sports stadium or a landfill There is no shortage of functions we do not want to have close to where we live Although it is easy to criticize nimbies we in fact all are guilty of nimbyism There are so many urban functions that none of us want in our backyard However it is the wealthy and the influential who are usually successful in ensuring that these functions are placed away from where they live They have the ability and resources to actively lobby decision makers to support their interests In contrast those who lack the necessary wealth and influence often are not able to make much of a difference Most often they end up having to live with urban uses they oppose The challenge therefore is to ensure that all city residents are treated fairly making the nimby reaction unnecessary This is not easy to achieve considering that many of the uses that nimbies oppose are essential to urban life A few of those uses may be placed away from where we all live Landfills for examples easily may be placed in distant locations They may still cause environmental concerns Distant landfills also will require significant time effort and energy to access them But at least nobody or only very few people would have to live close to them Many other uses however simply have to be located in urban centers in proximity to or within residential areas Examples include urban transportation networks and stations subsidized housing or homeless shelters Understandably most of us do not want disruptive changes taking place where we live We all value having some peace and quiet as well as a sense of stability and continuity in our neighborhoods We therefore will not welcome developments that would bring increased traffic noise or pollution Nobody should

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/the-nimby-reaction/ (2016-02-13)
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  • The End of Globalization? » CSBE
    Underpasses Everywhere Fixing Sweifieh Urban Solutions Easier Said than Done Amman s Urban Fabric What Went Wrong Energy Consumption in the City Sweifieh A Case of Urban Deterioration The Growth of Buildings A Tale of Two Shops The Economics of Zoning Jabal Amman s First Circle Area Nooks and Crannies Surfaces of the City Concrete Signs of the City Empty Plots Everywhere Amman s Most Beautiful District Amman Street Maps A New Frontier Soundscapes of Amman Airport Road Parking in Amman Privilege or Right Time Zoning To Commute or Telecommute The Shopping Mall Apartment Living Sidewalks of Amman Riyadh Property Rental Laws Beirut Public Transportation Cities of the Arab East Zoning Urban Sprawl The Domination of Amman Introduction An Anatomy of the City Using Public Transportation in Amman Publications Resources Urban Crossroads The End of Globalization The End of Globalization Urban Crossroads 105 Large vegetable garden in Sana a courtesy of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture I recently have been coming across a few writings arguing that the current era of globalization will not last much longer This conclusion is partly attributed to increasing protectionist policies that various countries are or will be imposing as the world continues to undergo a period of challenging economic conditions Once countries with sizable economies place restrictions on trade across their borders international trade more or less comes to a halt Another opinion however bases this conclusion on a much simpler anticipated development increasing oil prices Today s globalization depends to a great extent on countries producing the items for which they have the highest comparative advantage These items may consist of agricultural products raw materials industrial products or services Assessing comparative advantage depends on a range of factors such as climate soil and an adequate supply of water for agricultural production as well as the availability of raw materials the cost of labor or the skill level of the working population No country can produce everything Each therefore identifies what it can produce at a comparative advantage and sells it to the outside world In turn it buys from the outside world what it cannot produce as inexpensively as others Such an arrangement clearly depends on limiting regulations that restrict the movement of capital goods and people across borders There also are technical technological considerations The movement of capital for example is greatly facilitated by advanced information technology and telecommunication systems In fact this is one aspect of today s global era that most probably will stay with us in the long term The movement of goods and people greatly depends on the availability of relatively efficient reliable and affordable transportation systems whether by land sea or air As the latest volcanic eruption in Iceland has shown transportation can be easily suddenly and significantly disrupted A long term negative impact on transportation however very well may result from the expected gradual increase in oil prices With this transportation costs will soar making it far less cost effective to produce items in one

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/the-end-of-globalization/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Connecting with the Built World » CSBE
    Commute or Telecommute The Shopping Mall Apartment Living Sidewalks of Amman Riyadh Property Rental Laws Beirut Public Transportation Cities of the Arab East Zoning Urban Sprawl The Domination of Amman Introduction An Anatomy of the City Using Public Transportation in Amman Publications Resources Urban Crossroads Connecting with the Built World Urban Crossroads 104 Connecting with the Built World When I started my doctoral studies in the history of architecture in the United States back in the 1980s I moved to a new university Incoming doctoral students were allowed to live for two years in the university s graduate dormitories The dormitory buildings included two constructed during the late nineteenth century and a newer complex completed in 1950 The two older dormitories were built by architects whose names have long been forgotten but the 1950 complex was designed by one of the great masters of twentieth century Modern architecture Walter Gropius We did not get to choose our dormitories and had to accept the selection that the university made for us Surprisingly those of us placed in the older dormitories felt lucky while those placed in the buildings by Walter Gropius were disappointed The Gropius buildings projected a cold uninviting feel Their rooms were tiny The walls felt flimsy and one could easily hear through them They hadn t aged well In contrast the older dormitories had spacious rooms with high ceilings and thick walls Their heavy brick facades and solid masses seemed to embrace and protect you They made you feel part of the university s long and distinguished heritage A few months later I visited my old university and dropped in on a professor of mine who had taught me a few courses on modern architecture He was someone I greatly respected he passed away a few years ago I told him how the students I knew intensely disliked the Walter Gropius dormitories He was very surprised He told me that when those dormitories were completed they were widely celebrated in architectural magazines They were acclaimed for their clean lines white surfaces as well as uncluttered forms materials and architectural details My professor was an admirer of Modern architecture and had known Walter Gropius Still he seemed to have sensed that Modern architecture had failed us on a very basic level Although we applauded its visual compositions many still preferred to live and work in older buildings In the developing world Modern architecture has left a much worse legacy There instead of simple clean forms the results often are ugly shoddily built concrete structures They do a horrible job protecting their users from the heat or cold and begin to fall apart as soon as they are completed This is not limited to buildings but also to other components of the built environment whether streets sidewalks or open spaces A decade later I returned to live in Amman after a long absence that had extended since high school years Although the time line is different here too I felt

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/connecting-with-the-built-world/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Building Challenges: Urban Transportation » CSBE
    City Using Public Transportation in Amman Publications Resources Urban Crossroads Building Challenges Urban Transportation Building Challenges Urban Transportation Urban Crossroads 103 Stacked CityCars designed by Franco Vairani courtesy of Franco Vairani MIT Smart Cities This is my third article on the challenges that face how we build whether on the scale of the house or the city The February article dealt with energy efficiency the March article discussed housing affordability this article addresses the city particularly the challenge of urban transportation As with the other two challenges this challenge is universal in scope affecting cities throughout the world both rich and poor Many urban challenges may be resolved if the necessary financial and human resources are available This applies to basic urban services such as delivering water and electricity discharging sewage keeping streets clean and collecting garbage The cities of industrialized economies usually have sufficient resources to address these needs while poorer ones don t In the case of urban transportation although a differentiation between the two worlds exists it is not as distinct as in other areas of urban management and it is common for both wealthy and poorer cities to suffer from problems of traffic congestion and inadequate public transportation The main enemy to good quality urban transportation is the private automobile which ironically is intended as a transportation solution It seems that almost anybody who has the financial and physical ability to own a car is inclined to do so As incomes increase as city populations grow and as city areas expand so does the number of private automobiles in them One of the problems that automobiles pose is that they take too much space a good part of the city needs to be set aside for their movement and parking but there are only so many cars that a city can handle The average car occupies about 1 8 by 4 meters or 7 2 square meters but very often is occupied by only one person the driver Increased automobile use creates a self perpetuating problem Cars allow people to travel longer distances which allows the city to further spread out and sprawl instead of increasing its density As the city sprawls more cars are needed and those cars have to cover additional distances to get people from one part of the city to the other The result is increased congestion and the same car trip that used to take fifteen minutes now takes a couple of hours The automobile has made the large congested city more common everywhere Movement in such cities is a serious challenge whether during the rush hour commute or when people go out for shopping or recreation in the evening and during weekends Although large cities in lower income countries are certain to suffer from traffic congestion higher income cities are not immune from it Congestion is not only endemic to Cairo Lagos and Manila but also to Dubai Los Angeles and Seoul European cities have been the most successful in

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/building-challenges-urban-transportation/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Building Challenges: Housing Affordability » CSBE
    Publications Resources Urban Crossroads Building Challenges Housing Affordability Building Challenges Housing Affordability Urban Crossroads 102 This is the second article I am devoting to the challenges that face how we build whether on the scale of the house or the city The February article dealt with energy efficiency this article addresses housing affordability Housing along with food and clothing make up the traditional list of our most basic necessities Of these housing is the most costly to satisfy It usually is the single largest expense that households need to cover usually in the form of rent or mortgage payments and in running costs that include utilities taxes and maintenance It is common for housing costs to take up about a third of household expenditures and for many home owners the house is their single most valuable possession These general remarks more or less apply to households all over the world except for the richest and the poorest of them Clearly if housing costs are brought under control new opportunities are opened up for improving people s quality of life Lower housing costs free up resources that may be used to support other expenses or to increase savings Much of what determines the cost of housing admittedly has nothing to do with building practices and is more the result of factors such as the availability of credit and the cost of obtaining it or the supply and cost of the land on which houses are located Still a good part of housing costs depend directly on construction related expenses which basically consist of the price of materials and labor The quest for bringing down housing costs has received significant attention during the modern period This quest has taken on two opposing directions One has emphasized the use of traditional materials as well as construction methods and techniques an approach most famously espoused by the late Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy d 1989 He presented his ideas in his design for the village of New Gourna in the Egyptian countryside which was constructed during the 1940s and also in his acclaimed 1973 book Architecture for the Poor The other direction is that adopted by the pioneers of architectural Modernism during the early part of the twentieth century They argued that the technological changes brought about by industrialization with its emphasis on standardization and mass production will allow for building better and less expensive houses The French Swiss architect Le Corbusier d 1965 who for many is the primary architect of the twentieth century effectively captured this new vision connecting housing and industrialization in the 1923 statement that a house is a machine for living in which remains among the more memorable architectural quotations of our time Each of those two directions of course was intimately connected to prevalent socio economic conditions Fathy lived in a predominantly rural country and wanted to find decent solutions for housing rural populations Le Corbusier and his colleagues belonged to countries undergoing rapid industrialization at that time and

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/building-challenges-housing-affordability/ (2016-02-13)
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