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Hot Cities – Lessons from Arab Architecture
Tuwaiq Palace Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Photo: Rashid & Ahmed Bin Shabib

The consequences of climate change are becoming more apparent. As a result, global warming not only causes extreme weather and heat phenomena in already warm climate zones, but it also affects the so-called temperate zones. Cities, particularly metropolises, whose buildings are frequently built from concrete and glass, are unprepared for such shifts. The difficulties are correspondingly large. The exhibition “Hot Cities“, on display at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein from April 29 to November 5, purposely reverses the perspective and concentrates on the metropolises of the Arabic-speaking world. The aim is to find out how these cities and their inhabitants deal with the extreme climate of the region and what can be learned from solutions in architecture and urban development there to make our built environment more climate-resistant.

The exhibition, produced by Ahmed and Rashid Bin Shabib, attempts to demonstrate whether and how a combination of vernacular, meaning local traditions, and modern technology might bring solutions to serious future concerns. Case studies of urban building projects will provide answers to climate change-related problems. According to the release, the exhibition “ties in with the curators’ academic exploration of ecological issues, whose book “Anatomy of Sabkhas” was a major contribution to the United Arab Emirates’ 2021 Golden Lion-winning pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale.”

The exhibition is meant to function as a mobile archive of strategies for dealing with heat throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Building traditions and innovations from various eras and architectural styles will demonstrate how adaptation to local climate conditions can be the foundation for a vibrant urban culture – “from ancient times to the present, from vernacular to postmodern.”

They state that “Hot Cities” is “an attempt to reorder the lexicon of Arab architecture according to the criteria of climate adaptation and residential aesthetics, focusing on everyday approaches and solutions.” Simultaneously, the exhibition encourages viewers to “reflect on the timeless lessons of the past and rethink their own attitudes towards the future and sustainability.” A colloquium will also allow experts from theory and practise to exchange professional perspectives on new ideas and the future of hot cities.

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