Lifescapes Beyond Bigness, the book.

Khaled Alawadi,

Ken Schluchtmann,

Urban Architecture,


Lifescapes Beyond Bigness was the title of the national participation of the United Arab Emirates at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.

  1. Blog
  2. News
  3. Lifescapes Beyond Bigness, the book.

Lifescapes Beyond Bigness, the book. Lifescapes Beyond Bigness was the title of the national participation of the United Arab Emirates at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Now the book is out and it contains all the data collected by the curator, Dr Kahled Alawadi and his team as a compilation for the future development of the UAE.

Lifescapes Beyond Bigness is an eloquent title that from the outset clearly showed the desire of the UAE to explore the different architectural landscapes on a human scale and to highlight the part that architecture and urban design plays in shaping the choreography of social life. Curated by Dr. Khaled Alawadi, Emirati architect and urban planner, and Assistant Professor of Sustainable Urbanism at Abu Dhabi's Masdar Institute, part of Khalifa University of Science and Technology, where he founded the MSc. in Sustainable Critical Infrastructure program, the results of the research behind the installation at the Biennale in Venice (link article: https://www.floornature.com/blog/biennale-architettura-2018-lifescapes-beyond-bigness-13899/), have now been collated into a book.
A book that tells a fascinating story to engage architects and urban planners - not only in the Emirates but everywhere - sparking discussions on the particular urban and human fabric of these places; it also showcases relatively unknown places and hidden stories in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. 
Using sophisticated mapping and observation techniques that capture the physicality of the static landscape as well as the dynamism resulting from the human interaction in urban life, the book - like the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia - gives you a real taste of human-scale landscapes in the United Arab Emirates. A landscape that is lightyears away from our imaginary idea of the Gulf state, tied to stereotypes first of modernism, then of tall, iconic towers. Because standing in the shadows of these architectures with a capital “A” was - and is - a reality on a human scale that is also partly spontaneous. The results of self-building, of personal needs, like the dovecotes or the kitchen gardens planted in amongst the houses to grow zero-km food. Because not everyone can afford to shop at the supermarket but even more importantly nobody wants to give up the locally produced culinary delights, which also survive thanks to urban gardening that was practised long before the term was coined.
The key authors and contributors in the book address issues that modern and post-modern planning has neglected. They review the essential principles that shaped the built environment in the United Arab Emirates from the 1970s to 1990. The book explores a little known and hidden aspect of the urban planning of the United Arab Emirates to help present-day designers and architects, to shift the research and practice of urban planning in order to generate new ideas for the city making of the future. They raise some very interesting points, and not just for the Arabian Gulf nation. Unlike the landscape characterised by Bigness, where regulations and formalities control human movement, the everyday urban layout of human-scale landscapes is the result of natural instincts and desires that don't necessarily follow a set of codified rules or formal programmes. As the examples in the book show - spontaneity, naturalness and informality in everyday life are not necessary elements that connote degraded urban environments. They are often simply natural responses to our social life, and the designers and architects and urban planners of modern and emerging cities need to take a leaf out of this book and learn to take into account these elements, working with them rather than against them.

Christiane Bürklein

Lifescapes Beyond Bigness
by Dr. Khaled Alawadi
Published by Artifice, 2019
Find out more: https://artifice-books-on-architecture.myshopify.com/products/lifescapes-beyond-bigness
Images: Ken Schluchtmann – diephotodesigner.de