Experts Ponder Sustainable Urban Development

Roger Harrison, Arab News
Publication Date: 
Tue, 2006-04-18 03:00

JEDDAH, 18 April 2006 — The Jeddah International Urban Forum and Exhibition (JIUFEX) entered its second day yesterday with the intended aim bringing the concerns of sustainable urban development to the fore. With the imminent development of King Abdullah Economic City and the massive expansion of tourist facilities in Makkah, the conference is perfectly timed.

“It is essential that we transfer ideas and a state of mind and the technology of sustainable development to decision makers and builders,” said Eng. Hisham Khashogji the event organizer.

The event focuses on sustainable urban development and its relationship to the physical environment, preservation of existing architectural heritage, social and economic issues and modern development that reflects Arab values and heritage in the design.

Dr. Faisal Al-Shareef, an academic and chairman of the Makkah branch of the Saudi Imran Society, described the first day as, “very rich indeed.”

“Over forty papers were submitted for the sessions,” he said, “and each session had one keynote and four additional speakers and workshops.”

The first day covered the relationship of urban development to society. “Some think that sustainability means that things are unchanging and last for ever,” said Al-Shareef. Referring to urbanization, he said that change was inevitable; “But it should be compatible with society and the environment.”

Sessions concentrated on the function and issues surrounding high-rise buildings in the urban environment, development of service centers in Makkah for pilgrims and the means of evaluating them with a quality assurance scheme. Even the details of provision of sidewalks in the urban landscape — an increasingly important subject with the increasing density of development in Makkah and Madinah — were examined in the sessions.

The rapid expansion of modern architecture in the Kingdom has raised concerns about the preservation of traditional architecture.

Addressing this issue on the first day, Prince Sultan ibn Salman, chairman of the Supreme Commission for Tourism, delivered a speech that examined the impact of urban development on the preservation of the Kingdom’s architecture and the place of environmental tourism — both in natural and urban environments — in development.

“The concept that is guiding modern development is ‘green architecture,’ said Dr. Magdy El-Bastawisy, associate professor of architecture at Um Al Qura University in Makkah.

“The architecture and design of buildings must interact sympathetically with the physical environment. They must be economic but also largely renewable and built only after an environmental assessment of their impact has been carried out.”

The growing concerns about the compatibility of urban development and the preservation of the country’s architectural heritage was highlighted recently by the presentation of the Prince Sultan ibn Salman Award for Urban Heritage, designed to highlight the importance of combining architectural tradition and modern living.

The ancient town of Rujal Ama’a, recently restored by the inhabitants, in the Asir region brought the issue into the limelight during a visit by Prince Charles recently. The conference concludes today.

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