Adaptation of housing design to culture change in Syria : concepts and practices in the city of Lattakia
Ismail, Reem Hekmat
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Rapid cultural change in contemporary life is affecting housing use and design in Syria, with these becoming more ‘out of line’. This study investigates the nature of cultural change and its impact on housing use in general as a way to explore to what extent it is affecting the appropriateness of housing design in Syria. The study is theoretically based on a social constructionist approach due to the complexity and multidimensionality of the study, especially in understanding how people interpret their housing use and cultural identity. The academic literature review focuses on the links between culture and housing design and reviews the changing nature of these in Syria in the face of modernization, westernization and globalization. Based on a case study approach, the research focuses on one of the cities in Syria most affected by such changes (the coastal tourist city of Lattakia). The research investigates the contextual nature of cultural issues in relation to built environment in the city, drawing on qualitative research methods at both macro and micro levels considering the holistic yet individual implications of the subject of study. Empirical investigations were conducted with appropriate samples of representative households in two formal ‘generically designed’ housing areas - i.e. those not designed for a specific client and not self-designed/built, but designed by either government or private sector architects for a general population. The first housing area was developed by the state with subsidised housing (Youth Housing), which represents a lower middle class group. The second area was the university area (Tishreen University Area), which represents a middle class group with houses designed speculatively by the private sector. In these two areas, research methods included: 39 household interviews using face-to-face questionnaires, photographic documentation, analysis of documented licensed housing design plans, and direct observation. Semi-structured interviews with 11 actors involved in generic housing design (academic architects, professional architects and developers) were also conducted. Two key housing use/design issues were chosen to be investigated as key cultural indicators in housing and also very changeable in the pre-war Syrian context: concepts and practices of privacy in the home (family privacy, intra-family privacy, and women’s privacy) and trends in food preparation and consumption. The study provides detailed social and cultural information on actual house use and residents’ aspirations on a number of implications arising from these factors, as yet unavailable for Syria. One outcome of this research is to recommend design approaches more attuned to current cultural change through a deeper understanding of inhabitants’ actual social patterns and needs - through e.g. guidelines for bigger kitchens with dining space, which reflects the change in food preparation and consumption, increasing the number of bedrooms to provide more intra-family privacy, and providing study/work space in the dwellings.