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University of Melbourne (2016)

Where the rivers run dry : an inquiry into the design of wadis in the Arabian Peninsula

Moosavi, Sareh

Titre : Where the rivers run dry : an inquiry into the design of wadis in the Arabian Peninsula

Auteur : Moosavi, Sareh

Université de soutenance : University of Melbourne

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2016

Résumé
This study addressed the challenges of designing wadis (Arabic for dryland rivers) as public open spaces. Wadis are dynamic systems with hydrological regimes shifting between long periods of drought and sudden flash flooding. Over the last decade, city authorities in the arid region of the Arabian Peninsula have focused on reviving wadis as urban public open spaces and have generally commissioned international practitioners for their design. This often leads to wadi systems that have to accommodate both flash floods and public use. While designing such wadis systems can be very challenging for the designers, there are no studies that investigate how they can simultaneously respond to the hydro-ecological dynamics of wadi systems, and create public spaces within the particular socio-cultural context of Arab Muslim societies. The aim of this thesis was to uncover how international designers engage with ecological and cultural dynamics in designing wadis as public open spaces in the Arabian Peninsula. In this regard, a case study approach was adopted, focusing on three projects : Wadi Adai and Wadi Al Kabir in Muscat, Oman, and Wadi Hanifah in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which involved designers and engineers from Western countries. These case studies were analysed using a combination of discourse analysis, textual and spatial analysis of design documents, and semi-structured interviews with practitioners and clients. Two main aspects were investigated : the design teams’ responses to water flux and ecological dynamics, and their engagement with culture in designing wadis as new forms of public open space. Results showed that designing wadis as public spaces requires a cross-disciplinary understanding of their water dynamics, notably the variability and unpredictability of their dry-wet cycles, in order to tackle flood risk issues and preserve their ecological performance. Considering the temporal changes in the wadis regardless of the scale of the project, understanding the systems in their entirety, and designing through testing and experimentation help a better engagement with uncertainty and flux. In cases where access to reliable data is limited for testing design ideas through digital modelling and simulation, in situ prototyping can lead to robust solutions and facilitating change. Overcoming data unavailability can also lead to innovative solutions that would not otherwise be explored by the designers. This thesis has also revealed methods of working with cultural particularities despite existing challenges such as lack of precedents, limited means of community consultation in the region, as well as dealing with a shifting Arab identity due to social and demographic changes in the Gulf region. The international designers used secondary data, observation of current use of public space and deepening their understanding of Islam and its effect on the locals’ daily life to overcome these limitations. Their approaches in translating cultural knowledge into spatial outcomes were mainly driven by current patterns in the use of existing wadis and other public parks ; but also by their aspiration towards challenging the status quo of use of public spaces through providing new outlooks and forms of recreation. Results from this investigation contribute to building currently scarce knowledge of designing wadis as public open spaces. With global warming changing the climate, the findings of this research are likely to become increasingly relevant in informing global design practices in dry and drying environments

Mots clés : dryland rivers wadis landscape design process flux ecology culture public open space Arabian Peninsula Middle East

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Page publiée le 12 juillet 2017