With / Without

Friday, February 13, 2009 11:39


With/Without – essential reading on the social make-up, design and architecture of Middle Eastern Cities.

The dramtic transformation of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other Qatar cities over recent years has become a popular discussion topics between planners, architects and developers and real estate agents. While the Gulf countries: UAE, Qatar and KSA make the shift from oil to the promotion of real estate, tourism and energy and concerns grow that ‘starchitect’ buildings and a developer-led society will lead to the loss of cultural identity in the long-run.

In Istanbul the demolition of the Sulukule neighborhoods of the Roma people contrasts with the growing trend of gated communities that are rapidly transforming the the city’s urban environment.

What about Bierut, Teheran, Cairo?

Published in 2007 and launched in Dubai at the International Design Forum May 27, 2007. With/Without was the first publication to address “spatial products, practices, and politics in the Middle East” and is essential reading for anyone who is interested in the social make-up, design and architecture of Middle Eastern Cities.
WITH/WITHOUT – Spatial Products, Practices and Politics in the Middle East was co-published by Middle East arts organization Bidoun and Moutamarat, edited by architects/critics Shumon Basar, Markus Miessen and Bidoun editor Antonia Carver.

The handsome publication is an anthology that casts an eye across the broader swathes of the Middle East today. “The idea is that you, as the reader, will move through the pages and in doing so, traverse geographic, symbolic and ideological distances”.

The content is divided into fourteen typologies – street, park, villa, housing block, museum, business park, relic, refurbishment, mall, university, museum, site, suburb and skyscraper – that are illustrated by the authors through essays, interviews and photographs.

The book isn’t exclusively dedicated to Dubai — subjects cover the redevelopment of Martyr’s Square in Beirut; the residential ‘satellite cities’ surrounding Cairo; gated communities in Istanbul; and the creation of a new Iraqi flag in the post-Saddam era –- but seems to stem from there by juxtaposing its ‘newness’ with the rest of the region’s ‘oldness’, the editors write “while Dubai builds an unprecedented realm of new newness other parts of the Middle East grapple with physical and symbolic histories again and again. Relics come up against re-invention and revolution. Micro-mutations in Middle Eastern politics or economics are part of our shared ‘local’ news around the globe”.

The book doesn’t question whether the visible transformation of Dubai is right or wrong but through a collection of creative interpretations stimulates ideas for designing a future of good — and local — spatial/political practices.

The 30 contributors come from interdisciplinary backgrounds, among them: journalist and political analyist Issandr El Amrani on Cairo’s al-Azhar Park, BBC contributor Ursula Lindsey on The Yacoubian Building, the Moroccan photographer Yto Barrada, Director of the Iraqi National Archive Saad Bashir Eskander, Rem Koolhas and Lebanese historian Fawwaz Trabulsi.

Two years later, contrary to having become a dated publication With/Without still helps readers, through its plurality, to perceive the life beyond the ‘talk’ of these cities and provides insight into the contemporary urban scenario of cities that is so often depicted by “unwitting neo-colonial accounts that hinder any constructive move forwards” and it penetrates in between the “neo-liberal coffee table gloss-dross and neo-left moralising” raising the question “What is the Middle Eastern city today?”

Publishing houses:

BIDOUN was created as a platform for ideas and a forum for exchange, dialogue, and opinions about arts and culture from the Middle East. We publish quarterly Bidoun magazine and Bidoun Books, and curate and commission artists’ projects and events. www.bidoun.com
MOUTAMARAT was created in July 2005 as a joint venture between Tatweer LLC, a Dubai Holding Company, and Saudi Research and Publishing Company. www.moutamarat.com


The editors of the book are: Shumon Basar, a writer, editor, curator and lecturer, who holds positions at the Architectural Association and the Royal College of Art; Antonia Carver, an editor of Bidoun (www.bidoun.com) and Middle East correspondent for the Art Newspaper and Screen International; and Markus Miessen, a spatial consultant, cultural producer, and writer teaching at the Architectural Association in London, and a doctoral candidate at Goldsmiths.

Book details:
Editors: Shumon Basar, Antonia Carver, Markus Miessen
Managing editor: Antonia Carver
Design: Jana Allerding, 9714
Format: 15×22 cm, 265 pages
Publisher: Bidoun/Moutamarat
Price: $25 / Dhs90
ISBN: 978-9948-03-453-7

distributed via bookshops in the Middle East, Europe, UK and US. Distributor: Central Books (www.centralbooks.co.uk). For details for the US/Middle East, contact antonia@bidoun.com.

To read the introductory text by editors Shumon Basar, Markus Miessen and Antonia Carver or order With/Without online click here

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3 Responses to “With / Without”

  1. Jody Ranck says:

    February 13th, 2009 at %I:%M %p

    interesting book on cities, new urbanism in the Middle East: http://bit.ly/ee1YW

  2. jranck says:

    February 13th, 2009 at %I:%M %p

    interesting book on cities, new urbanism in the Middle East: http://bit.ly/ee1YW

  3. Callie LaDay says:

    November 23rd, 2009 at %I:%M %p

    Fantastic site you have here. I love reading on the web about things in Dubai! It’s such a delightful place. I don’t have time to read everything right now, I found this site when looking for something else on Ask.com, but I’ve bookmarked your homepage and will visit again soon to see the latest news. My family and I used to work in Dubai, and we still have many fond memories. Visit my site if you’d like to read more. Thanks again for a very fun blog. Have a great weekend!

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