Urban Design Theory Application Cultural Studies Essay

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Barnett defines the field of urban design as a topic that deals specifically with the appearance, functionality and arrangement of cities and towns. Urban design is a discipline that requires specific focus on the use, development and shaping of "public space" among urban cities. Given its direct link to architecture, landscaping and urban planning, other architectural disciplines emerged from this principle (7).

Whereas the field of urban design appears to be very simple for many, this notion is not necessarily true as urban design practice requires a great deal of knowledge on political economy, social theories, economics and the sciences which are fields interrelated with urban design (Barnett 7).

Hillier B. and Hanson J. states that the urban design theory is not an ordinary architectural discipline as it deals with the management and design of "public space". Public space lies at the core of urban design as the latter involves the proper management and utilization of the public space or public domain (26).

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In order to properly understand the theory of urban design planning, it would be necessary to define the term "public space". Hillier B. and Hanson J. defines this term as the totality or summation of spaces freely utilized by the general public on a day-to-day basis which encompasses the main roads, streets, parks, plazas and other known public infrastructures that are offered by the government for public use. This would even include certain privately owned spaces like gardens, building facades, and any privately-owned space intended for public use. All of these spaces are referred to as "public space" and are considered at the core of the application of urban design theories and principles (30).

According to Holmes, A., urban design, planning and analysis is all about the effective application of the relationships and characters that exist among people, building and spaces as well as the people's perception on the proper utilization of all these three aspects (4).

This paper on the "The Urban Design Analysis Application on Arabic-Islamic Cities" delves into the actual application of the urban design analysis among Arabic-Islamic cities. Specifically, this paper will apply the principles of urban design planning to analyze the street system in the Arabic-Islamic cities and the advantages and disadvantages of such street system that currently exists in these cities.

The Urban Design in Arabic- Islamic Cities: Evolution, Elements and Structure

Based on the Hakim Becim book, the process of urban development in Arabic-Islamic cities has so greatly evolved that its influence, particularly its physical components, have already become part of the vocabulary of the people. The author referred to this as the communities' design language, a principle that has been established out of tradition and is a by-product of over 3,000 years of town building and development in the Middle East. Throughout the long history of urban design planning narration of the author, it has been found out that the physical components, the design language and the vocabulary origins of the names used in the towns, regions and buildings have greatly evolved in time (55).

In further studying the Hakim Becim book, the author stated that Arabic-Islamic cities have now become mature and complex as a product of historical evolution and the major elements comprising it. Today, the urban settlement in Arabic-Islamic cities is known as Medina which are differentiated from Rabad which refer to suburbs (56).

As recorded in the pre-historic evolution of major settlements, the Hakim Becim book stated that al-Maqdisi, a known Arab-geographer once constructed four different settlement types which he referred to as Amsar (metropolis), Qasabat (provincial capitals), Mudun (provincial towns) and Qura (villages). These are far different from today's modern-day term for settlement known as Medina (56).

Interestingly, throughout the process of building Arabic-Islamic cities, religion is at the core consideration in urban planning and design. According to Abu Hanifa of the Hanafi School of Law, the city or Medina is defined as a vast settlement composed of a system of main through streets called Suqs governed by an appointed residing governor who executes his duties including adjudicating the problems which may arise among the people under his jurisdiction (57).

The Arabic-Islamic cities therefore do need to meet certain requirements in order to be considered as a Medina. First, it is necessary for a Medina or a city to have a Mesjid- al hami known as Friday mosque where people are given sermon every Friday. The Mesjid- al hami is also supposed to serve all the residents within the jurisdiction of the city. A Kadi or the governor is also required to be present in order to fulfill his executive duties for the residents and dependents residing within the city. Suqs or the main through streets must also be present in order to serve the people's needs (57).

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Aside from the Medina other elements comprising the Arabic-Islamic cities include Kasbah, a citadel attached to the wall which surrounds the Medina. Kasbah serves as the governor's refuge against the people's revolt to overthrow his reign and authority. Normally, this citadel is strategically positioned within a military establishment for the purposes of added protection. It may even be situated in a sea front, water course or cliff. In the traditional Islamic city called Tunis, the Kasbah is situated at the highest elevated position dominating the urban complex (57).

The Rabad, another element which comprises the Arabic-Islamic city's overall urban design, pertains to the quarters and districts located at the central part of the Medina or in simple terms, the town's immediate vicinity. In the Tunis, two Rabads carrying different names are located in the Northern and the Southern part. One is the Rabad Bab Souika (north) and the other is the Rabad Bab Jazira (south). Being an important city element, the Rabad, is surrounded by impenetrable walls for security and protection purposes called the Sur (60).

The Sur is also another important element which comprises the Arabic-Islamic city's urban design which is specifically intended for protection. It is made up of three protective elements which are: the wall proper, the Bab or the gates and the Burj or defensive towers. In the city of Tunis, the two Rabads, the Medina and the Kasbah are all covered under the protection of these impenetrable walls or ramparts called Sur (60).

The Bab or the main door is also an essential urban design element among Arabic-Islamic cities. This pertains to the door or gate entrances which are by-products of great military expeditions in the past. Two types of gates, the bent and the straight through, are also being used in the city of Tunis which are called the Bab Bahr and Bab Saadoon (straight through) and Bab Jdid (bent entrance) (60).

The Burj, which refers to the fortified towers strategically positioned along the Sur or the ramparts also comprise the many different elements of urban design in Arabic-Islamic cities. In the Tunis, one Burj is located inside the Medina walls, three on the Kasbah and another three on the outer walls of Rabad (60). The street or the Shar' or Tariq Nafid is possibly one of the most important elements which comprise the complex and mature urban design elements of the Arabic-Islamic cities. The streets in Arabic-Islamic cities are very important that it must be designed and built on a system or network of thoroughfares dispersed city-wide which are connected to the main gates and the city's core part (61).

Interestingly, the street system in the Arabic-Islamic cities is designed to meet certain width and height requirements. In fact, the requirement should be that two fully loaded camels may be able to pass by these streets without any difficulty or hindrances. Since the streets are owned by the public, it is also under the direct supervision of the Kadi or the governor who supervises the people's affairs within the city (61).

The street system within Arabic-Islamic cities is composed of first-order streets, comprising the street system's backbone, connecting all the Babs or major city gates to the Medina's core which is occupies the position of the mosque. The second-order streets on the other hand, known as the Mahalla are streets connecting the primary streets with the major quarters. And finally, the third-order streets known as the minor quarter streets are the ones providing linkage and access to areas that are inside Mahallas or streets which are not serviced by second-order streets (64).