Nation-building: Beirut, Damascus, Istanbul
Instructor: Ramzi Naja, ARCH II 2016
Max Enrollment: 12
Date/Time: Jan 12-15/1-4 p.m.
Description: The term "Nation-building" is going through something of an emergence as the nation state is questioned and the so called "third world" is witnessing unprecedented development. South America, Africa, East Asia, and the Arabian Gulf are all somewhere in the process, whether at a later stage of defining identity or at the seminal point of planned systematic growth. More interestingly, however, the conflict in Syria has brought back the confusion that comes with the search for identity vis-a-vis architecture and planning, particularly given the complexity of the conflict and the extent of the damage. Similarly, in cities such as Beirut and Istanbul, nation-building maintains its significance as a socio-political issue, where internal conflicts are very much related to the physical manifestations of identity crises, also known as the antagonism between government projects and capitalist developments.
This course will examine the nation building process that allowed Damascus, Beirut, and Istanbul to segue from Ottoman cities to primary cities in their respective nations, specifically through the lens of architecture. The Hilton in Istanbul can be compared to the Holiday Inn in Beirut, while the Lebanese parliament and the Syrian parliament carry their own dialectic. All three cities experienced an interesting tension between imported architecture and local modernism, often negotiated by figures such as Sedad Eldem in Turkey and Assem Salam in Lebanon, both of which rigorously produced a "national modernism." Parallels can be drawn to architects such as Rifaat Chadirji and Hasan Fathy in Iraq and Egypt respectively, who were doing similar work as a form of resistance to the dissolution of an architecture tied to the vernacular.
While the course will study the architecture in these three cities from the independence era to present, the study will relate directly to typology and politics, territorial developments, and the concept of the nation-state, as well as its re-questioning given the current conflicts in the region. The goal of the course is to understand the agency of architecture in nation-building, and subsequently project these findings on the present state of the cities in question, but also on cities across the globe. No prerequisites are necessary, mild readings will be required, but a large literature will be recommended. The course will allow students to generate a methodology for understanding the political agency of architecture in conflicted territories, which is also largely applicable to the problematic of blandness in contemporary architecture.