Chair: Gil Shenhav, Canaan Shenhav Architects
Click a presenter to see a video of their presentation, and the accompanying paper and PowerPoint presentation.
Akram OgailySVP, TCT Global Director
Moshe TzurFounder & Owner
Moshe Zur Architects and Town Planners
Michel MossessianDesign Principal
The Middle East is in the midst of a construction boom that is quickly transforming cities into international destinations. The speed at which some cities are developing is cause for both celebration and concern, as the consequences of unconstrained development can be long-lasting. As a result, architects and urban planners in the region are working to improve the ways in which the products of vertical urbanism are integrated into the urban realm. This session focused on urban planning improvements – both real and conceptualized – across three distinctive Middle Eastern cities that integrate the concepts of vertical urbanism in unique ways.
Akram Ogaily, SVP, TCT Global Director, Hill International, began with a presentation on urban planning in Dubai. He lamented the current state of planning in Dubai, citing fragmented urban spaces divided by wide arterial roads and unsustainable structures as an effect of rapid urbanization. A major concern of Ogaily was the lack of any local culture in Dubai’s many skyscrapers, saying the design approach leads to “superficial art forms” without any relation to context. He ascribed this extraordinarily rapid pace of development has made it difficult for local cultural norms to adapt to high-rise typologies, and that modern urban planning trends are often decimating historic Middle Eastern city centers to make them more accessible to private automobiles. As a response, he stressed that successful developments must be immersed in local cultures and designed with collaboration between architects and official city planners. As a play on Louis Sullivan’s famous maxim “Form follows function,” Ogaily espoused urban planning ideas that could be summed up as “Form follows culture.”
Moshe Tzur, President, Moshe Tzur Architects and Town Planners, then presented on urban planning considerations in Tel Aviv. He began by describing the historical context of Tel Aviv as a primarily modernist low-rise city from the 1930s and the extreme changes that have taken place in the city in recent years, transforming it with clusters of high-rises in specific districts. Tzur next introduced his tower complex, which seeks to create urban continuity between multiple neighborhoods and low-rise and high-rise structures through tenets of vertical urbanism. In the process of describing the project, Tzur compared it favorably to several significant public spaces around the world, including the Pompidou Center and Rockefeller Center, making the argument that large open spaces and pedestrian friendly environments serving as connections to the greater city are crucial to the success of high-rise complexes.
The final presentation of the session was delivered by Michel Mossessian, Design Principal, Mossessian & Partners, who is working to redevelop a downtown section of Doha through culturally and contextually significant architecture. Mossessian’s presentation focused on questions regarding vertical campuses vs. horizontal campuses for major corporations. He discussed the recent proliferation of major horizontal corporate campuses, and examined the possibility of transferring these ideas to a vertical setting, with a strong emphasis on public spaces as the focal point for a project. Mossessian stressed the importance in creating a local gathering spot for the general population and tailoring the design to the local climate. In the Middle East, this includes creating outdoor covered rooms, which can lower the air temperature by 20 degrees centigrade on the hottest summer days. The porous design of his Doha project was enthusiastically embraced by local officials who have since decided to make it the future international high-speed rail terminal of Qatar.