CEO: TURATH: Architecture & Urban Design Consultants
I read this book at a later stage in my academic and professional life, specifically in 2001 while spending a sabbatical at the University of California, Berkeley. I even read it twice as I did not understand much of it the first time around. This book not only introduced me to the concept of “discourse,” but also helped me understand how ‘ideas’ are formed and how they are related to practices of power, which is conceived beyond the over-simplistic binary structural separation of ‘empowered’ and ‘dominator’ on the one hand, and ‘marginalized’ and ‘dominated’ on the other. I was able to project many concepts I have learnt from this book onto real-life situations through projects I have worked on relating to building, architecture, and place transformations. This book, together with other writings by Foucault, triggered me to reveal, qualify, and grant voice to disguised and subjugated ‘local’ realities and knowledge.
I have developed an interest over the years in the epistemologies of knowledge. This book on the phenomenology of architecture introduced me to notions of place, and to an understanding of a higher order and of a different nature of such notions. Norberg-Schulz, who was influenced by Martin Heidegger, helped me arrive at a phenomenological understanding of place beyond its physical qualities and even beyond a ‘romantic’ and over-simplified relationship between place and the individual. The meaning of place accordingly reveals itself to you based on the nature of your level of engagement and understanding. Again, and as is the case with the first book in this list, a second reading of this book - and especially after reading Heidegger as well - revealed ‘hidden’ concepts that were not clear to me the first time around I read it, and helped me arrive at a different level of understanding of place.
This remarkable narrative on Modern architecture presented to me architectural, technical, and territorial transformation that took place in Europe and the United States during the past three centuries. Embedded in social theory and political economy, I consider this book a fundamental reference to the understanding of Modernity as a cultural movement of change and transformation that also affected the rest of the world - including our Arab World - towards the end of the first half of the twentieth century.
I find Edward Said a fascinating personality, and his book Orientalism an eye opener. It is true that he borrowed many concepts, and specifically the relationship between the production of knowledge and the exercise of power, from Michel Foucault, but he brilliantly projected these concepts on the Orient to be conceived as discourse and discussed how the West ‘appropriated,’ talked about, described, and inscribed the Orient during the past two centuries. The details of such a process are so fascinating. Even today, many local Arab institutions and individuals unfortunately still perpetuate such concepts in their practices in many fields related to cultural production, architecture, education, and tourism, to mention a few.
I have developed over the past twenty years or so an interest in public space, not only in terms of understanding its processes of production, but also its design and occupation. This fascinating book, which concentrates on contemporary trends in the design of open and public space, addresses the challenge of delineating and building a new identify as well as searching for a new meaning for this transient and continually-transforming category: open and public space. The book looks at space beyond the binary division of ‘building’ and ‘landscape,’ and rather investigates landscape urbanism through emerging ‘surfaces,’ ‘verticals,’ ‘enclosures,’ ‘shelters,’ and ‘events.’
November 2, 2014