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Sana’a: Transformation of the Old City and the Impacts of the Modern Era.

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Sana’a: Transformation of the Old City and the Impacts of the Modern Era.

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Abstract

The old city of Sana'a possesses a uniqueness in Yemen and in the world which can only be compared to the special quality of Venice; that is, its value lies not so much in the merit of the individual buildings, important though they may be, as in the unforgettable impression made by the whole–an entire city of splendid buildings combining to create an urban effect of extraordinary fascination and beauty.

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... In 1988, UNESCO and the General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities of Yemen (GOPHCY) collaborated to get Sanaa on the World Heritage List. Later, UNESCO warned that it might remove it from this list due to an increasing number of building modifications violating the old city's historic character, and GOPHCY helped identify and remedy the many violations (Al-Sallal 2004). The results were varied, as is well illustrated in Tunis. ...
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Over the past century and a half, most accounts of cities of the Arab world have viewed them through the lens of an organically built urban fabric, understood as an Islamic heritage, an expression of a collective and religious ethos (Bianca 2000). Planning, as a professionally conceived endeavor aiming at structuring changes in cities, was perceived as almost nonexistent in this world region. When scholars have attempted to circumvent the narrative of chaos that imbued urban history here as in much of the developing world, they have usually highlighted external political and economic determinations, and pointed out the divergent pathways of Arab cities between (neo) colonialism, socialism, aid-dependency, or the oil economy rather than specific urban management styles (Abu-Lughod 1984). However, recent scholarship (primarily in French and English, as relevant work in Arabic is relatively sparse), based on case-studies dealing mostly with the principal cities in the region, has shown that extensive planning over many decades has marked cities across the Arab world, from cutting arteries through existing built fabric to laying out infrastructure and neighborhoods at the urban edge. This scholarship has identified some unifying trends, including the model of spectacular urbanism that emerged from the Gulf region thanks to the circuits of oil money and the rise of a new political order, spreading to the rest of the region and beyond (Elsheshtawy 2008). Drawing on this historiography, this chapter proposes five threads that posit planning as a central, but contested, practice in the making of Arab cities, without oversimplifying the Arab world as a monolithic geographical entity.
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Over the past century and a half, most accounts of cities of the Arab world have viewed them through the lens of an organically built urban fabric, understood as an Islamic heritage, an expression of a collective and religious ethos (Bianca 2000). Planning, as a professionally conceived endeavor aiming at structuring changes in cities, was perceived as almost nonexistent in this world region. When scholars have attempted to circumvent the narrative of chaos that imbued urban history here as in much of the developing world, they have usually highlighted external political and economic determinations, and pointed out the divergent pathways of Arab cities between (neo)colonialism, socialism, aid-dependency, or the oil economy rather than specific urban management styles (Abu-Lughod 1984).
Chapter
This chapter presents a concise review of traditional uses of wood in the Yemen. The chapter is divided into several subsections: the first one describes the general classifications of traditional wood uses and how wood functioned in the traditional buildings. In each classification of use, a number of specific applications and wood artefacts were identified. The factors that define the structural properties and wood quality were discussed.
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The recent rapid uncontrolled urban transformation of Sana'a city is a significant example of the historic core of most Arab cities with regard to its formation, growth and development. Sana'a city has expanded from merely 3.7 square kilometers in 1962 to more than 1,600 square kilometers at the end of the 2010. When El-Sheshtawy (2004) presented the evolution of Arab cities, Sana'a city was discussed under "the cities affected by globalization phenomenon". That has had an extremely uneven impact on Sana'a. When Sana'a compared to the cities in the region, globalization is not necessarily a central issue for Sana'a city. In fact Sana'a shares the fragmentation phenomenon with the rest of the cities in the region. This is the point from where this paper starts. The approach of this paper is based on both diachronic and synchronic readings of the historical and new city. It will discuss: • Urban transformation approaches. • Phases of Sana'a urban form fragmentation. This research pinpoints the current spatial and environmental problems facing the new and the old urban fabric as consequences of urban form fragmentation. Though it doesn't aim to reach conclusive results, the study hoped to provide a conceptual background for the present debate on city's urban future.
Thesis
New Urbanism is the most recent approach with primary considerations to the social, economic and environmental problems within the urban developments; it is derived from the main principles in the traditional design. Compactness, walkability & connectivity and building energy are the main principles in new urbanism. The study investigates of the applicability of three basic principles for a sustainable urban form and design (form & density, walkability & connectivity and building energy in the urban context) by devising basic sustainable design guidelines from traditional architecture for the construction of sustainable new urban forms. The study compares the traditional urban form in Old Sanaa with the modern ones in Haddah and Sa‘wan using a quantified analysis generated and simulated using GIS, ECOTECT and SPACE SYNTAX computer modelling software to study form & density (14 parameters), thermal comfort & solar potential (4 parameters) and walkability &connectivity respectively (9 parameters). The findings show, with regard to form and density, that the traditional urban form is a good model of New with the vertical towers attached forms and compact pattern; it has high building and plot density with small blocks and plot sizes and high plot coverage. With regard to walkability, the findings show that blocks have very small lengths, perimeter, and sizes as well as a very high density of blocks and street lengths and intersections, high ratio of connected nodes and node ratio, many numbers of T-junctions type and few X-intersection type, least angular changes and high rate of the integration and choices. The Results confirm that the traditional form achieved sufficient values of the solar access, exposure and shadows over different periods of the year. It has high Shading percentages during summer and low during winter. However, it maximizes the solar access, especially on the southern facades during winter while minimizing it during summer. The overall results show that the traditional urban form is sustainable in terms of form & density, walkability & connectivity and building energy. Keywords: Urban Sustainability, New Urbanism, Traditional Urban form and Design, form and Density, Walkability and Connectivity, Solar Building Energy, GIS, ECOTECT, Space Syntax, Yemen, old Sana‘a.
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The inherent nature of heritage as a symbol of a community’s identity – whether it be dependent on national, ethnic, or religious affiliations – has made it a frequent target during warfare despite heritage destruction being a war crime according to the 1954 Hague Convention. During war, the institutions responsible for preserving heritage spaces are often unable to offer support, making it the community’s responsibility to uphold preservation methods which can be secondary to the pressing issues of safety. The protection of heritage amid war depends on numerous variables ranging from community knowledge to the available resources and capacity to enforce preservation strategies. The Old City in Sana’a, Yemen – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – has recently been at the center of a foreign-backed civil war. Since 2015, it has suffered damage from strategic bombing to its historic core. It is therefore an appropriate site for studying the relationship between architecture and war; for highlighting the toll of armed conflict upon a world heritage city; and for proposing both proactive and reactive approaches that can help mitigate further damage. By researching proposed and existing strategies for preserving heritage in war and applying them to the Old City of Sana’a, this thesis sheds light on the obstacles that heritage sites face in planning for war. Ultimately, it seeks to contribute to the continuing conversation around the protection of heritage in Sana’a and worldwide, with the hope that improvements will be made in Sana’a during a time of eventual peace. The lessons learned in Sana’a will have relevance for other World Heritage Sites, and specifically for developing cities with historic cores that are beginning to create management plans for their future.
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Note: This paper is a working draft. Please do not cite without permission. A revised version will be published in The Review of African Political Economy. Parts of the introduction were previously published in my article "The Market's Place," in Directions of Change in Rural Egypt, ed. Nicholas Hopkins and Kirsten Westergaard (Cairo, 1998). Excerpts from other parts of the paper were published in an earlier version in Middle East Report (Winter 1999).
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