Research Induction Essay
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I have always been a modern person because I find the modern times more beautiful and pleasing to the eye. I used to like change because I can adapt well, but now I have learned to appreciate the beauty of tradition. I thought that traditional meant boring and old-fashioned, now I think that tradition and culture are creative in their own unique way.
To be more specific, I am interested in the architectural styles of Saudi Arabia’s Muslim villages and how they encompass culture. Muslim villages are all pretty much the same because of their traditions and religious practices. Actually, the aesthetics of their villages and landscapes are obviously an asset. However, many changes have started to take place as the years go by. Being a specialist in contemporary crafts, I used to have a bias when it comes to turning a certain place into a more modern and more urban style.
But as this study progressed, I realized the importance of culture and history. Sometimes, transforming a place can destroy its legibility as well as the rich history that they carry. This study concentrates on how to translate the traditional architectural styles into contemporary ones without destroying the culture.
Critique of Relevant Literature
The city of Al-Alkhalaf is one which is deeply bound in culture. It was originally built as a settlement for only one family, but through the years, it has evolved. It has encountered many changes in terms of structures and aesthetics. Change is natural and usually people are behind this. To further give an emphasis on the study, I have chosen three articles, namely: Al-Alkhalaf: The Evolution of the Urban Built-Form of a Traditional Settlement in Southwestern Saudi Arabia, Environmental Cognition in the Vernacular Landscape: Assessing the Aesthetic Quality of Al-Alkhalaf Village, Southwestern Saudi Arabia, and The Architectural Form and Landscape as a Harmonic Entity in the Vernacular Settlements of Southwestern Saudi Arabia. All articles were by Mohammed A. Eben Saleh.
These three articles were carefully chosen because of very distinct reasons. First, all three articles dwell on related topics and they were written by only one author. This makes the information and style more consistent. Second, all three articles are about Al-Alkhalaf Village, which makes it easier to compare and contrast the data and the arguments. Third, the three articles were all carefully written and their methods are similar. Their approaches to the situation were also alike in some ways. For example, they all conducted surveys which became the primary basis of their observations and conclusions.
The three articles chosen all provided enough information about the Al-Alkhalaf Village. Another similarity about the three chosen articles were that they all revolved around the difference of the contemporary styles of architectural design and form, as well as the traditional value of the village. The three articles cited the importance of being urbanized and adjusting to the changing cultures of the different countries, as well as the importance of culture and the customs of the Muslim people. Aside from this, the three articles also related the effects of the change and the culture to each other.
The first article, Al-Alkhalaf: The Evolution of the Urban Built-Form of a Traditional Settlement in Southwestern Saudi Arabia, was the most informative of the three in terms of facts and observations about the village of Al-Alkhalaf, especially when it came to the built-form’s environment and evolution. Each element of the environment was discussed according to their description and their purpose to the society so that the readers might have a closer look at the environment. Saleh (1998, p. 652) wrote that climate does not only affect the agricultural aspect, but also the urban planning. Overall, it seemed like the article was more against the contemporary styles because it provided more consequences than benefits. It was well-written and very logical. The writer’s point could easily be understood, and suggestions on how to continue tradition were also offered.
Meanwhile, the second article focused more on the appreciation of the landscapes, traditional aesthetics and the changes that Saudi Arabia has undergone the past years. It described a method to evaluate the visual quality of the vernacular landscape. The article also focused more on the concept of the Arabs when it comes to the relationship between people and the environment. The main argument in this article was that the culture and tradition of the aesthetics were important to keep.
At first I was all about change and modernization, but now I learned the importance of history and the values embedded in a certain structure because of this article. It was well-written, the most interesting among the three. The argument was very clear, and I agree with all the points of the writer in this article. I agree that if changes must be made to accommodate the contemporary lifestyles, the traditions and history must still be respected. Perhaps the changes that can be made are in the terms of the materials used, or else fix the structures, but not necessarily redesign and transform the environment and culture. This article emphasizes that structures are known because of their purpose and how they serve the society, not because of aesthetics, and I agree to this argument.
The third article is more on the vernacular settlements and how they are related to the cultural and social environment. The main argument is that harmony is disrupted as a result of modernization. It also argues that any attempt at modernization which does not take into account the cultural values is considered as a failure. I also agree with what the author says about how people continue making new environments and tend to disregard the past. There is no continuity of culture and heritage.
When it comes to methodology, the three articles have much in common.
In the first article, the writer conducted photographic surveys and interviews with open ended questions. The questions began with simple questions connected to the utilization of the different structures. The questions then become more controversial as they dwell with sensitive matters, like the privacy problems they are experiencing
As part of the historical documentation, the objective of the photographic survey was to identify patterns and evaluate the significant features of the environment. I used to think that surveys did not provide much help, but now I think that this was a good method because the documentation was essential to be able to achieve continuity with the past structures, forms, and values of the village. When it came to how data was gathered, the way the interviews were conducted was for me, a good technique, because the interviewees are not pressured at first to answer difficult questions.
In the second article, more specific details were taken into consideration. An examination of the village was conducted. There was also an analysis on the general history and culture of Al-Alkhalaf. The interaction between the different societal factors was also observed. A survey was also conducted regarding the vernacular landscape’s features which were under the threat of destruction. Since the second article concentrated on the changes that the village has undergone in terms of architectural forms, the examinations proved to be useful. However, the writer confessed that the study lacked aerial maps, which are also supposed to be helpful in this kind of study.
The third article also conducted surveys. This time, the surveys were more like evaluations about the different structures and landscapes and how they add to the environment. Through this, the answers provided information on how physical forms relate to behavior of the people. This proved to be an effective approach for this study, but in other studies, might not be as successful.
All findings of the three articles were informative and were relevant to my study. I liked the fact that all three articles were connected to each other. They were separate studies and researches but they all provided help in my study. Through the three articles, I learned about the different factors connected to aesthetics and form. I learned that in designing architectural forms, it is not only the physical aspect that should be taken into consideration. The primary factor is still the culture of the people and how they will be able to apply their lifestyle to the structures that designers plan to change.
Although the articles were logical and the arguments were good, the writer seems to be biased towards the tradition and culture of Al-Alkhalaf. Although there were some points in the articles that stated that change is a natural way of life and people must learn to adjust to it, the main points in all articles were still leaning towards the traditional way of aesthetics and architecture.
In terms of reliability, all information that the writer used as basis or reference were taken from research materials, observations, and answers to the survey questions. A noticeable thing though among the three articles, was that the information was consistent and often repeated. In terms of argument, the writer had sufficient claims and warrants to support the points in the article. The articles were well thought out, the methods and approaches were sufficient enough to provide data.
I noticed that the writer made many generalizations. The articles and studies were supposed to concentrate on Al-Alkhalaf alone, but the article provided many statements about how culture and modernization mix when it comes to architecture. In reality, some countries do not have such issues as this because their areas are not as culture and religion bound, unlike Muslim countries. The religious practices and rituals of the Muslim are one major factor as to why modernization has become an issue in the village of Al-Alkhalaf. I used to think that everyone should learn to cope with changes brought by the contemporary world, now I realized that we should understand every area that we are dealing with.
While reading the articles, most of my perspectives changed. I used to want to reinvent everything in a more urban style, now I have become sensitive about places. Before I didn’t think about the historical value of the area, now I am willing to do research and understand the beauty and the richness of the place. I have learned that not everything should revolve around aesthetics.
The world is continuously changing and developing. Sometimes, it seems as if people are looking for change, to improve something and to reinvent something. When it comes to architectural designs and structures, most designers and planners automatically go for the modern styles, since it is more up to date and pleasing to the eye. They look aesthetically pleasing but however, these structures also have negative effects on the environment as well as the relationship of the people to the society. For example, Al-Alkhalaf has experienced sudden changes. From a simple and traditional built-environment, changes have appeared in the structures and towers. This resulted in an environment that does look modern, yes, but also looks scattered and not united. Another effect was that the rich culture was not taken into consideration anymore because of the change in designs of the homes and pathways. Privacy has changed for the people living there. Muslims also have a lot of traditions and rituals which may also be affected when these sudden aesthetic changes continue to happen. To conclude this, I state that it is important to be open-minded about the changes that can help Saudi develop further in the field of architecture and structural design. However, it is also important to study the history and culture of the place so that no damage to these treasures might be done in case the aesthetics will change. I am positive that there is a way to incorporate the modern and contemporary styles in the area but still be able to keep the rich culture alive through the aesthetics because in reality, the aesthetics of Saudi have proven to be an asset. Structure and form may be important especially when it comes to the modern days, but we should never forget to look back at our history.
Salleh, MAE, 1998, ‘Alkhalaf: The Evolution of the Urban Built-Form of a Traditional Settlement in Southwestern Saudi Arabia’, Building and Environment 34, 1999, pp. 649-669
Salleh, MAE, 1998, ‘Environmental Cognition in the Vernacular Landscape: Assessing the Aesthetic Quality of Al-Alkhalaf Village, Southwestern Saudi Arabia’, Building and Environment 36, 2001, pp. 965-979
Sellah, MAE, ‘The Architectural Form and Landscape as a Harmonic Entity in
the Vernacular Settlements of Southwestern Saudi Arabia’, Habitat International 24, 2000, pp. 455-473