Türeli, Ipek. “Small’ Architectures, Walking and Camping in Middle Eastern Cities:” In International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Volume 2, Number 1 (pp. 5-38), edited by Ipek Türeli. Bristol: Intellect, 2013.
Economic recession, conditions of restricted spending and austerity politics have led architects to seek ways of expanding architecture and to a mainstreaming of ‘small’ architectures, small-scale designs and short-term interventions, many of which focus on contesting and remaking public space. Mass mobilizations of the past years, especially the protests of the so-called Arab spring, pose new opportunities for the field. This essay first frames the six case-based articles, included in this special issue, within the literature on the politics of public space and protest. It groups the case studies around two main categories of analysis: the transformative effect of mass protests on formal public spaces (walking) and the agency of protest occupations (camping). Second, the essay identifies a lack in literature of the role (or lack thereof) played by designers in contemporary mass mobilizations in the Islamic world. It further seeks to respond to that question by providing an overview of various approaches to social engagement in architectural research and practice, under the broad categories of ‘humanitarian design’ and ‘activism by design’ with an attention to the historical specificity of the Islamic world, the examples from which tend to be of the first, humanitarian, type.
Keywords: activism by design; architecture and social engagement; mass demonstration; politics of public space; protest encampment