TDSR 19.1 Fall 2007

Beyond the Spectacle: Al-Saha Village, Beirut
Mona Khechen

Vocational Migrants and a Tradition of Longing
Trevor H.J. Marchand

New Urbanism as a New Modernist Movement:
A Comparative Look at Modernism and New Urbanism
Michael Vanderbeek and Clara Irazabal

ON CONSERVATION:
Historic District Conservation in China: Assessment and Prospects
Zhu Qian

FIELD REPORT:
The “Palaces” of the Romanian Rroma: A Claim to Citizenship
Elena Tomlinson

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Volume 19.1

Beyond the Spectacle: Al-Saha Village, Beirut
Mona Khechen
This article discusses al-Saha Village, a revenue-generating restaurant/hotel in Beirut, as a journey in hyper-reality. In the spirit of the commodity, al-Saha celebrates the thrill of the spectacle over the real; it is a model of the model of the Lebanese village of memory and collective imagination. Owned by a Muslim Shiite charity organization, al-Saha is simultaneously also a means of unification and a symbol of separation. Its stance is Lebanese, Islamic, anti-Western, and anti-global. The three main sections of the article shed light on the village concept, the nostalgic fantasies that inspired its architects, and its social and cultural invocations.

Vocational Migrants and a Tradition of Longing
Trevor H.J. Marchand
This article challenges the assumption that “tradition” is a quality pertaining chiefly to objects, stylistic conventions, or the use of materials. Equally, it refutes the notion that tradition is merely the perpetuation of ritualized practices or skilled techniques. By considering the complex relation between vocational migration, heritage, and identity among contemporary fine woodworkers at London’s Building Crafts College, it argues that tradition is a state of mind — a recurring nostalgia for an idealized past, or the desire for a utopian future. More specifically, the article investigates a “tradition of longing” for engagement in nonalienating modes of production, aesthetic work, and an authentic way of living.

New Urbanism as a New Modernist Movement:
A Comparative Look at Modernism and New Urbanism
Michael Vanderbeek and Clara Irazabal
This article situates New Urbanism, and neotraditionalism more generally, on the ideological continuum of Modernism — as a neo-Modernist movement, By comparing the social and environmental goals of Modernism and New Urbanism as laid out in their respective charters and questioning the ability of New Urbanism to achieve its goals where Modernism failed, it offers a contextual analysis of the motivations behind the movements and their implications in practice. It then presents the cities of Brasilia, in Brazil, and Celebration, in the United States, as examples of the difficulty of putting the altruistic rhetoric of Modernism and New Urbanism, respectively, into practice. Finally, it offers the lessons of history as a way to reflect on the challenges facing New Urbanism and its prospects for success.

ON CONSERVATION:
Historic District Conservation in China: Assessment and Prospects
Zhu Qian
This study examines policies and practices related to the conservation of historic districts in China, where urban conservation has become a pressing concern in the current era of economic reform and urban redevelopment. In addition to illustrating the evolution of approaches to historic district conservation, the study reveals some of the social and political problems that have arisen as a result of the weakness of current state-led urban conservation practice. It concludes by proposing a collaborative approach to urban conservation among state and nonstate actors, facilitated by changes to current institutional and funding frameworks. Such an approach might help meet the challenge posed by conflicts between the country’s urban conservation and redevelopment agendas.

FIELD REPORT:
The “Palaces” of the Romanian Rroma: A Claim to Citizenship
Elena Tomlinson
The eclectic language of “Gypsy palace” settlements in Romania has to date been largely defined through an essentialist understanding of the Rroma’s oppositional relationship with the cultural norms of the majority. This report proposes an alternative reading of the mansions built by the formerly nomadic Rroma, one that accounts for a more reciprocal relationship between hetero-representation and auto-representation. It argues that the conspicuous consumption associated with the “palaces” should first be attributed to social rituals taking place within the Rroma clans, and second to a desire by owner/builders to broadcast respectability to the outside world. In examining Rroma built space, this report emphasizes and qualifies the discursive implications of auto-representation through the account of owner/builders, and of hetero-representation through the lens of the architecture profession and the Romanian mass media.

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