Technology, Tradition and Survival: Aspects of Material Culture in the Middle East and Central Asia

By Richard Tapper; Keith McLachlan | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

Sustainable Buildings: Middle Eastern Traditional Systems for the Future

Susan Roaf

Central Asia and the Middle East have the richest stock of building types in the world. They are shaped by a wide range of constraints including geographical, social, material, technological, climatic, religious and temporal influences, and are characterized by design features that give them unique regional identities. They can be viewed from three historical perspectives; those of the past, the present and the future. While many see them in the context only of museum pieces, they have an important role to play in the development of future buildings. For global, economic and political reasons, we will need, in the new century, buildings that are more culturally and climatically appropriate than those modern buildings that are fashionable throughout the region today and that are so destructive of the environment.


The past

This region of the world is home to the oldest civilizations on earth. The earliest excavated settlements such as Jericho date from around 9000 BC, and it was in Mesopotamia, the Cradle of Civilization, that the first cities, civilizations and religions grew. 1 This antiquity enables us to see the history of building types in the region with a depth of view that clarifies the processes underlying the creation of regional building traditions. I shall outline briefly some of those forces, particularly those of climate, that have shaped the varied building types of the region.

The relationship between the productivity of land and the density

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