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  • Writer's pictureElena Breeze

Global V Local - Architectural Globalisation and its Effect on Local Cultural Identity (P3)

1. Globalisation: To discuss how globalisation is affecting architecture and subsequently cultural identity we must first explore a key factor in its existence – Modernity. Kuiper suggest that the Modern era started in the 17th century and ended with the Postmodernist movement in the late 20th century (Kuiper, 2019:online) although it could be argued that the work of some more current creatives, such as architect Frank Gehry and novelist Gabriel García Márquez, suggest the movement is still alive in the twenty first century (Gay, 2007:online). In this essay globalisation will be referred to as a predominantly Western process. It was triggered by the Modernist movement which originated in Europe with the start of the industrial revolution (Kumar, K., no date:online). The industrial revolution and technological advancements that took place primarily in Europe have resulted in the “Western World” still being considered the main driving force of globalisation and modernisation (Sen, A., 2002:online), despite the fact that other countries such as Japan are arguably more technologically advanced than Europe and the United States of America (Newsroom, no date:online). Although we are no longer in the height of this Modernist era it could be argued that – if anything – the idea of a “perfect” way of living or designing is now even more prominent as technological advancements broadcast these Modernist ideals on a daily basis. Western civilisations are given priority in the media because of the inherent Western bias in modernisation and therefore globalisation. This often results in the idea that to be more


“Western” is to be more successful – thus globalisation takes place: “one of the fundamental consequences of modernity… is globalisation” (Giddens, 1990:175). The Modernist era was epitomised by the idea that there was only one right way to do things, one right way to think: the modern way. Relying on scientific explanation, industrialism and rationalisation, the Modernist movement was capitalistic in character and suggested that there was no need for differentiation in the world as the “perfect” way of doing things – be this designing, leading, or any other facet of life – had been discovered and therefore all other methods were senseless. But acting and designing in such a way means that everything starts to look the same, Danish architect Bjarke Ingel states that the Modernist movement has turned buildings into “boring boxes” that “look identical all over the planet” (Ingel, B., cited by Sayigh, A., 2019:1). Undoubtedly there are advantages of Modernist architecture, such as the ease of construction and living, use of new technology and simplicity. But these modern methods and values could and should be used without ignoring other cultural values and techniques. When we lose all of these, we lose touch with our feelings and history: Modernism is an outmoded way of thinking about design: it just doesn't reflect the way we live now. It always puts forward this idea that the past is irrelevant to tomorrow - and tomorrow is all that matters. But the past is part of who we are.” (Wonders, 2007) That being said, there are examples of modern buildings that place importance in maintaining culture and are using historical buildings to further their design and be more sustainable. For example, Masdar City in Abu Dhabi: “Masdar City combines state-of-the-art technologies


with the planning principles of traditional Arab settlements to create a desert community that aims to be carbon neutral and zero waste.” (Foster and Partners, 2014:online).


Figure 4: Foster and Partner’s ‘Masdar City’ (2014) As you can see in Figure 1 above, the city is designed to feature Mashrabiya – a traditional Middle Eastern window screen – used to create shade and allow wind to pass through buildings at the same time as maintaining the privacy valued in Middle Eastern cultures. It also has many courtyards which act as temperature regulators through “night flushing” (Abu Sirryeh, S., 2018). Taking this even further some of these courtyards contain fountains and fruit trees as a way to moisten the dry air – all methods used in traditional Arab settlements for centuries. The use of all of the above, clay and brick for thermal isolation, Malqafs (wind catching towers) as a form of sustainable cooling and narrow roads and alleyways, have resulted in the temperature in Masdar City being 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding areas. This is a glowing


example of how modernity can be used at the same time as history and culture in a way which furthers our technological advancements and sustainability:


“Unlike Abu Dhabi, a city which unthinkingly follows antiquated models and Western building principles, Masdar City has a wealth of potential to offer the world of green urban planning - something the world sorely needs.” (Baldwin, E., 2019)


This case study shows that Modernity, with all of its pros and cons, can be used in a way that is respectful and places importance on culture and history. However, the ideals of Globalisation and Modernity often ignore cultural and historical values as they tend to stand in the way of things being done as easily and cheaply as possible, but as author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn said; “if you are not willing to risk the usual, you will have to settle for the ordinary” (Rohn, J., cited by Louis, A., 2015:92). So, we need to make sure that if we design in a way that prioritises ease of construction and minimum spending, we are asking ourselves if we mind settling for the ordinary and disregarding culture and values. That is not to say that modern technologies and cheaper methods should not be used but perhaps the way forward is to find a way of using these modern technologies and techniques without sacrificing other things such as culture and history, much like the design of Masdar City has done, helping us to live better lives at the same time as maintaining our values and history.

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