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Seminar on Contemporary Urban Design Theories and Practices

The American University of Sharjah (AUS) in collaboration with IAARA organized the seminar "Contemporary Urban Design Theories and Practices" in Sharjah.

AUS Lecture Hall
Sharjah, UAE
May 27-30, 2008
American University of Sharjah
Event & Scientific Coordinator
George Katodrytis, Director of Scholarship and Outreach, AUS
1.      Best Practices and Local Leadership Program of UN-Habitat
2.      American University of Sharjah
3.      International Art & Architecture Research Association
4.      International Center for Training Urban Managers (I.C.T.U.M)
5.      International Urban Space Journal
A presentation at the contemporary urban design theories and practices seminar at the American University of Sharjah on May 28, 2008
Samia Rab
Chair of the Department of Architecture
Conservation Ethics in Sustainable Urban Design
The fast rate at which cities in the region are urbanizing is eliminating, threatening or preventing conservation of urban heritage. Recent discourses on "sustainable" urban design and development have increasingly conflated largely a host of economic and environmental processes. A review of "sustainability" that is more critical and relevant to heritage conservation activism and professional activities is needed.

Peter Jackson
Advisor of the Ruler of Sharjah
Is There a Future for Our Traditional Environments?
The traditional settlements to be illustrated are all, until recently, economically viable and sustainable. They have ceased to be so because our aspirations and lives have outgrown our history. Is there a sustainable future for settlements that have ceased to provide shelter or livelihood to the community? Or is the only opportunity for survival of these traditional environments to become museums or merely as vaguely preserved memories of the past? I will look at six traditional settlements in northern Oman and the UAE, which demonstrate the rich diversity of the region. What the first six all have in common is authenticity, but they are decaying at an ever-accelerating rate.

Dr. Jerry Kolo
Professor of the Masters of Urban Planning, AUS
Contemporary Urban Design Practice: Public and Private Participation and Management Strategies
Urban design is arguably the oldest specialization in the urban planning profession. Design practice originated as a technical activity, but contemporary practice shows the evolution of design into a value oriented practice, where all the stakeholders in a community or project determine the content and outcome of the design process. Today, urban design is an interdisciplinary, collaborative, multi-purpose and multi stakeholder activity, aimed at shaping the built environment. Design gives meaning to space, and meaning is conveyed through people's use of space. Ultimately, functionality of place is the "leitmotif" of urban design. This paper posits that functional places result from mutual partnership between designers on one hand, and all the other stakeholders on the other. What strategies have proven to be effective in fostering this partnership? How do designers and corporate, civic and individual entities work effectively together? This paper will review three categories of strategies for public-private participation in the urban design process. The categories are planning strategies, community improvement strategies, and design management strategies. The effectiveness criteria of the specific strategies reviewed will be identified, in order to arm planners with insights on how to adapt the strategies to local conditions in their municipalities.

George Katodrytis
Director of Scholarship and Outreach, AUS
Dubai: Political Urbanism
The presentation looked at Dubai's constructed imagination and urban evolution since the 1950s through architecture and urbanism. This late 20th century accelerated urbanism is based on outstanding - and at times controversial - decision making by the city's rulers. The new Arab city of the 21st century has reversed "urban politics" to "political urbanism".

Rami el Samahy
Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, USA & Academic City, Qatar
Defining the Public in Doha
As their final thesis projects, six architecture students from Carnegie Mellon University are spending the semester in Doha investigating and designing public spaces and buildings for Qatar. But what does "public" mean in a place undergoing such rapid physical and cultural transformations?
The Charm Bracelet Project
During the Fall of 2006, students from the Urban Laboratory design studio of Carnegie Mellon University's School of Architecture collaborated with the Pittsburgh Children's Museum as well as the local community and international designers in an ideas competition that sought to link and cross promote cultural attractions in Pittsburgh's Northside neighborhood. The students and faculty played an instrumental role in data collection and analysis, community consensus building, and providing visionary design proposals centered around the creation of family destinations.

Ahmed Ebrahim
X-Architects, Dubai
Re-Desert, A Climate Responsive Urban Habitation
While projects within Dubai are typically based on the premise of a theme, our Desert project takes sustainability as a non-theme, making the shift from asking first “what does it look like?” to “what does this do?”. Making a rigorous comparison of common Dubai practices and the project with the secret name* it is obvious that there is a choice for Dubai between a purely revenue orientated machinery and a context sensitive “Dubai” urbanity- an answer to the local conditions and needs.

Dr. Erik Ferguson
Professor of the Masters of Urban Planning, AUS
Parking as a Mediating Influence Between Public and Private Spheres in the Built Environment
A presentation on parking as a mediating influence between public and private spheres in the built environment." This includes elements of the empirical work that Dr. Erik Ferguson is currently doing in Doha for the Transportation Master Plan for Qatar as well as some more theoretical aspects presented at various conferences over the last two years.

Dr. Varkki Pallathucheril
Director of the Masters of Urban Planning, AUS
Smarter Than SmartCode: The Next Urban Design Challenge
Since its first use in the early 20th century, "Euclidean" zoning has been been the planner's tool of choice in shaping the built environment. SmartCode (Duany, Plater Zyberg, 2005) is a relatively recent alternative, using transect planning and form-based codes, that seeks to promote more sustainable urban patterns than is possible with conventional zoning. In this presentation, Dr. Pallathucheril discussed ways in which SmartCode falls short of the ideal and how it might be enhanced.
Panel Discussion Moderator
Dr. Fatih Rifki, Dean of the School of Architecture, AUS
International Art &
Architecture Research
A s s o c i a t i o n