TDSR 25.1 Fall 2013

Editor’s Note

Conservation Design in Postwar Beirut
Robert Saliba
Simulated Imperialism
Stephanie Malia Hom
Architecture, Matter and Mediation in the Middle East
Pamela Karimi
Myth, Modernity, and Mass Housing in Cleveland
Jennifer Donnelly
Reimagining the Highland Longhouse
Helena Webster

Book Reviews

 
 
 


Editor’s Note

Conservation Design in Postwar Beirut
Robert Saliba
This article provides a critical overview of the conservation of colonial heritage in Beirut’s
central and pericentral districts. It argues that in Lebanon’s postcolonial/post-civil war context,
conservation activities have inevitably been linked to the political, cultural and economic
realities of the present as well as to the attitudes of various stakeholders toward issues of modernity,
national identity, and authenticity. The article starts by explaining the evolution of Beirut’s
colonial townscape during the late Ottoman and French Mandate periods. It then discusses recent
strategies of urban and architectural conservation along three lines of thought: the marketbased,
the concept-based, and the institutional-based. The article concludes by framing both
the debate over and practice of conservation in Beirut within national and regional contexts.

Simulated Imperialism
Stephanie Malia Hom
Simulated imperialism is a paramount dynamic of the contemporary. It marks the mutual
articulations of empire and hyperreality that build signifying distance into imperial formations
and their discriminatory operations. The Disney empire is one of its most pernicious
forms. This article looks to Disneyland to bring simulated imperialism into sharper relief
by detailing its three interlocking movements: the signification of imperial processes generated
by simulacra; the amplification of colonizing projects through simulation; and the
interpellation of hybrid subjects between (im)mobility and (in)animation. It takes the It’s
a Small World ride as its primary example. One of the oldest attractions at Disneyland, it
provides a multicultural tour of a metaphorical global village wherein animatronic children,
stylized in cultural stereotypes, sing and dance in the name of world peace. Yet this
simulated world is one of deceptive heterogeneity. In fact, It’s a Small World reveals an
idealized world to be one erased of all difference in favor of a white, English-speaking, and
culturally American utopia. It thus spatializes the forceful presence of empire within its
all-embracing discursive formation. To theorize simulated imperialism using this example
is to position empire within the domains of unending semiotic breakdown and the globalized
(im)mobilities that presently order our excessive, networked, high-carbon societies.
This opens a way to think through imperial formations from the destabilized margins of
signification, and from these limits, to search out radical possibilities for subversion and
resistance in the spaces between the imperial and the hyperreal.

Architecture, Matter and Mediation in the Middle East
Pamela Karimi
This article presents a series of case studies that capture aspects of how architecture may
be informed and mediated by material things. Due to the historical burden of the architectural
canon, material culture has not always merged easily into studies of Middle Eastern
architecture. But instances are numerous in which buildings have been appraised vis-à-vis
material culture. In this article, I foreground the place of material culture in the historiography
of Iranian architecture, in particular. The range of objects that function as material
mediators is vast, but I have limited the scope of my investigation in three ways. First, I
look at objects that involve aesthetic design considerations, such as furnishings, decorative
items, and applied imagery. Second, I look at three-dimensional objects whose functional
capacity is more significant than their aesthetic value, such as wall claddings. Third, I look
at materials that are conceived as immaterial due to their apparent indiscernibility in everyday
life, such as pollution (caused by gasoline-burning engines) and dust (a pervasive reality
in the desert). While materials like oil and dust might escape our attention, they play an
important role in granting a unique identity to the built environment of the Middle East.
Finally, I highlight the importance of technology and the emergence of immaterial, virtual
pathways that mediate between people and their built environments.

Myth, Modernity, and Mass Housing in Cleveland
Jennifer Donnelly
During the Great Depression planners and architects in Cleveland, Ohio, initiated sweeping
housing reforms, and by 1943 seven public housing estates had been constructed
across the city. The initial success of these residences solidified Cleveland as an important
vanguard in the history of public housing in the United States. At the center of the myths
and realities of housing reform was the notion that modern dwellings could alleviate the
social and urban conditions of impoverishment. The symbolic burden of this vision was
placed on the residents of public housing, whose corporality became the pivotal space of
modernization and reform.

Reimagining the Highland Longhouse
Helena Webster
In the context of contemporary debates about Scottish devolution and identity this report
investigates the re-emergence of the highland longhouse typology on the Isle of Skye after
nearly two hundred years of decline. Following an introduction to post-devolution discourse
on Scottish identity and to the postmodern notion of “reimagining,” the report looks
specifically at one architectural practice, Dualchas Architects, which has been active on the
Isle of Skye for the past seventeen years and is attempting to reimagine the highland longhouse
for the highland community today. The report concludes by suggesting that through
the act of reimagining, a process of taking from the past that which serves the practical,
political and cultural needs of the present, Dualchas Architects have triggered a renewed
interest in the highland longhouse as a progressive and specifically “highland” architecture.

Book Reviews
Heritage and Sustainability in the Islamic Built Environment, edited by Bashir A. Kazimee
Reviewed by Hasan-Uddin Khan

The New Asian City: Three-Dimensional Fictions of Space and Urban Form, by Jini Kim Watson
Reviewed by Ng Wai Keen

Architecture of Regionalism in the Age of Globalization: Peaks and Valleys in the Flat World, by Liane Lefaivre and Alexander Tzonis
Reviewed by Elisa Brusegan

Colonial Frames, Nationalist Histories: Imperial Legacies, Architecture, and Modernity, edited by Mrinalini Rajagopalan and Madhuri Desai
Reviewed by Lawrence Chua

The Neoliberal Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, Late Capitalism, and the Remaking of New Orleans, edited by Cedric Johnson
Reviewed by Karen Trapenberg Frick

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