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Paper Information

Journal:   JOURNAL OF RESEARCHES IN ISLAMIC ARCHITECTURE   SUMMER 2014 , Volume 1 , Number 3; Page(s) 75 To 92.



Nowadays Islamic countries more than ever concentrate on identity to revive their dignity at the age of globalization. Countries of west of Asia especially Persian Gulf countries enjoy a prosperous architectural era because of oil well revenues. Saudi Arabia, from among them, is selected purposely to analyses and to understand the interaction of localization and globalization in contemporary architecture of developing countries. Saudi Arabia, as the birthplace of Islam with the growing economy of recent years, is a good context of massive constructions which result in identity crisis in contemporary architecture. Economic growth of these countries, mainly during the last 40 years, has affected various aspects of their lives. Undoubtedly, architecture and urbanism as one of the main substrates were affected by these developments. Limitation of construction technology and engineers’ abilities in these countries made the Arabs to assign the designing and construction phase of their huge projects to European and American architects and engineers with completely different background and cultural beliefs from Muslims’. Although some researches have focused on identity crisis in modern architecture, very few researches have noted the interaction and conflict between Islamic identity and contemporary architecture.
The main objective of this research is to identify and analyse the native and Islamic identity in contemporary architecture of Saudi Arabia. The main research questions are: 1- What are the main current trends in contemporary architecture of Saudi Arabia? And how have they noted to the concept of identity in their works? What is the relationship between theory (what the architects have in their minds or the goal they are following to reach as an ideal design) and practice (what is observed as the final result or understood by people) in contemporary architecture of Saudi Arabia? According to the theoretical framework, current buildings in Saudi Arabia are analysed based on five general parameters and factors: 1-Main idea forming the design (concept), 2-The Construction Technology, 3- The material in the unit, 4- The shape and form of the unit, 5- their relationship with the surrounding environment. This article has analyzed the buildings of the past two decades impartially in terms of the referred parameters. This research consists of two main parts. In the first part the architect’s opinion about his/her design was discussed. In the second part researchers analyzed the mentioned works according to the theoretical framework. The comparative analysis of the architect's comments about his work and researchers’ inferences can determine the distance between theory and practice of contemporary architecture in Saudi Arabia, then the architect’s success in achieving his/her objectives will be determined. This comparison will indicate whether the architects have succeeded in conveying their ideas to people or not. To meet scheduled objectives, fifty artworks were selected randomly from among the buildings designed in the past two decades, and were analyzed according to the main parameters. Then the quantitative data were transferred to SPSS22 software to determine the correlation between these two groups.
Conducted studies indicate that a considerable proportion of contemporary architecture samples in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are designed by foreign architects who are not familiar enough with Islam as the official religion of this country. We can see some puzzlement in contemporary architecture due to the diversity of forms and concepts. The architects’ description about their own works indicated that the main trends of contemporary architecture are in the use of postmodern forms, conceptualism, prevalent structures and modern materials. The findings indicate what architects’ statements and opinions expressed as the form of Islamic revival, is leading to imitate the famous forms of ancient architecture in practice. In fact, most of the foreign architects believe that the imitation of ancient forms and their reconstruction by modern technologies is expressing Islamic and native identity in contemporary architecture. This leads to a contradiction between the theory and practice in contemporary works, although the construction quality of the analyzed samples is remarkable. It is essential to assign projects to vernacular architects and engineers to solve these problems. Native architects with Islamic culture and beliefs will be more capable than foreign ones in expression and manifestation of Islamic identity in their works. On the other hand, foreign architects should change their strategies in dealing with problems.
Avoiding imitation of old patterns, getting more information about theories, Islamic culture, main needs and aspirations of Muslims are some of these strategies which help the architects to deal with the referred problems.
These challenges make some serious threats and challenged contemporary architecture of developing countries.
The results of this paper show that new architectural technologies and revivalist trends are the most important players in contemporary architecture of developing countries such as Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries because of their richness in cultural heritage, spiritual findings and local identity.

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