The tension between global and local architecture

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Thetension between global and local architecture



Dissertationsubmitted in partial fulfilment for the degree of (insertyour degree title),Faculty ofarchitecture




DateOf submission


Iowe my sincere gratitude to (Supervisorname)and (Associatesupervisor name(s))who were the ideal thesis supervisors. Their advice, insightfulcriticisms, and encouragement supported the writing of this thesis innumerous ways. I would also like to thank ………………….,……………… and …………………….. whose committedsupport of this thesis was greatly needed and sincerely appreciated.


Thepurpose of this dissertation was to focus on the effect ofglobalization on locally built environment with particular concern onthe tensions between global architectural forces and localarchitectural identity as exemplified in Benghazi-Libya. The newmillennia presented multidimensional phenomena in the world ofarchitecture local architects find themselves tied between thepresent and past cultural architecture.

Thepurpose of this dissertation paper was to explore the impactglobalization forces on architectural designs in Benghazi City andits surrounding region as a way of understanding the decline intraditional and rise in modern architecture culture. Literaturestudies abound that due to rapid globalization great changes inpolitical, social and economic aspects of societies has erodedtraditional aspects of life.

Thisstudy adopted a case study approach in exploring the friction betweenmodern architectural designs and local architectural identity. Thestudy sought to answer the following questions does globalizationhave any significant impact on the architectural designs of Benghazicity plan? Has globalization led to tension between local andinternational architectural designs?Inorder to answer these questions, the study adopted various researchmethodologies qualitative and interpretative analysis case studiesfrom existing built environment in Benghazi city, magazines andin-depth interviews from the locality.

Table of Contents

Abstract i

Table of Contents iv

1 Introduction 1

1.1 Background and Context 1

1.2 Scope and Objectives 1

2 Literature Review 2

3 Research Methodology 3

4 Results……………………………………………………………………………..4

5 Conclusion 5

Summary 5

6.3 Recommedation 5

References 6

1Introduction 1.1Background and Context

Rapid urbanization, technological and globalization features have standardized built environment depriving human ecology local, social and regional identity. This standardization trend has presented a malaise in building methods, styles and materials used. In recent years, emerging global cities have become centre of study by social scientists, architect and geographers among others in evaluating the impact of new technologies influence in causing worldwide spatial and economic development (Chris, 2006).

The tension between local and global forces in architectural design has existed with the two forces alternating between safeguarding established traditional architectural forms and promoting inventions and new technological architecture. Globalization is associated with homogeneity, while others see it as heterogeneous creating diversity rather than continuity. Fundamentally, globalization creates discontinuity in sustainable development particularly in spatial structures. In addition, globalization leads the society to act in a matrix of local and global forces, resistance and domination (Proshansky, 1978). These aspects bring out the research problem in this study in assessing the impact of globalisation on architectural culture of developing countries.

The early, 20th century architects observed that, the modern age required new architectural methods in response to new technologies, industry, and mobility in political and social orders. The architectural designs in the world today, are influenced by two pronged forces globalisation of commerce culture and design culture. The commerce culture is characterised by changing consumer business agendas, opportunities and expectations. Architects are constantly studying what other global architects have created through magazine’s photograph and international journals (Chris, 2006). In this respect, local architectural design projects are determined by vernacular features such as sites, architectural forms, symbolism and political consensus (Bianca, 2000). Globalization wave continues to erode place identity in the context of social and physical architectural values. This study focuses on this background context of external influences on local architecture as a basis to explore further, the impact of architectural globalisation in Benghazi City.

1.2 Importance of the study

There have been great changes on built environment in many Arab cities in North Africa and Middle East countries with major transformations been witnessed in architectural designs due to forced modernization. There is massive importation of architectural language leading to erosion of traditional architectural values. After the February 2011 revolution in Libya, there have been great structural changes in the political, social and economic spheres of Libya. Fundamentally these changes are aimed at changing housing, economic and other basic infrastructures (Sibley, 2007).

The architectural design in many Libyan urban cities was influenced by early modernists and international style architecture. After the Arab spring revolutions, the reconstruction of urban cities began. The architectural designs adopted in these cities were influenced by two forces the first force was the indigenous architectural design, forms and decorative ornamentations. This force demands continuity of social, historical and geographical identity preservation of local architectural dialects. The other force was new technological inventions and internationalized architecture that seeks to transcend local constraints and conventions (Chris, 2006).

Debate on globalization impact has dominated the architectural sphere with planners, architects and the general public engaging in discussion on the positive and negative effects of globalization. In these discussions, some associate globalization with neo-colonialism characterised by quest for occupation, promoting cultural and social domination while others see globalisation as a multifaceted phenomenon bringing in new opportunities and challenges.

Underlying these arguments is the fear of local and regional identity loss from the emerging architectural imprint which is more international (Proshansky, 1978) this has resulted in tension between the local and global architectural designs in terms of sustainability and energy efficiency agendas. Many are of essence that the green design of architecture contradicts globalization values. Having worked in numerous international bodies and advisory boards that presented international models, architectural standards and codes, I realized that they lacked local elements. Therefore, in this study I seek to evaluate the impact of globalization on local architectural values with particular concern on Benghazi city as a case study.

1.2Scope and Objectives

This study seeks to explore the effects of local and global forces on building architecture of Benghazi City and its surrounding. Specifically the study will try to analyze globalization process and its impact on architectural designs, the potential positive and negative impacts on the environment, climate and energy efficiency. In addition, the study seeks to analyse the coexistence of local and international forces in the development of architectural designs for built environment in the city and its surrounding.

The study will also evaluate the future direction of globalization trend on architecture and methods of managing negative impacts of the tensions in line with improving living conditions of the locals. As a result, this study seeks to inform on new and existing practices of architecture during the transformation and reconstruction phase in Libya after the February 2011 revolution. Knowledge gained in this area may be useful for local architects and the State in general. This study seeks to answer the following hypothetical questions

  • Does globalization have any significant impact on the architectural designs of Benghazi city plan?

  • Has globalization led to tension between local and international architectural designs?

2Literature Review

General overview of Libyan Urban Cities

Despite the proliferation of many urban plans and architecture in Libya, there has been less research, documentation, analysis and criticism about the issue few researchers from Libya and Italy have touched on the subject, this could be attributed to the close government Libya has had for over 40 years that hindered any significant theoretical and academic search on the subject of architecture. In the recent years, there have been great development projects imported to Arab countries in complete disregard of the physical and local ideologies.

As a result, many Arab cities are losing their local image, ability to meet local needs and uniqueness. These cities have experienced changes in cultural architecture with local indigenous architecture been replaced with westernised forms. These changes are as a result of attempts to free from the past by adopting international social aspects without prior consideration of changes in the society. The resultant effect has been conflicted on the architectural sphere with some chasing international architectural frameworks, attempting recovery of traditional architecture and others trying to merge traditional architecture with modern methods.

However, all of them are in quest to develop local architecture despite their contradicting methods. In this case, surviving indigenous values provides bonds among the societies while the westernised institutions adopted contradict the vernacular architecture. People feel comfortable and part of the environment that reflects their cultural values and identity, however, with a change in globalisation that has led to erosion in local architectures this in turn has left local architecture grappling with a dilemma of assimilating globalization with indigenous heritage (Hummon, 1986).

Due to forced modernisation, there has been tension between imported values and traditional ones: this is evidenced through the insensitivity directed at international architects, planners and contractors who are undertaking major architectural projects in Benghazi and Libya in general. How to adapt new technology and foreign architectural designs while maintaining local identity is a research problem.

Benghazi city was founded in 525 BC by the ancient Greeks, but its name has roots from the Italian colonial period. Under Ottoman Empire, the city was an important location for merchant trade. During the Italian rule, many buildings, railway and sea walk were constructed. The city was associated with royal families and held National institutions. Many historical architectural buildings did not survive World War II and therefore, the city was reconstructed after years of heavy bombings during the World War II. The 2011 revolution which began in Benghazi was the hallmark of the city’s current episodes.

Theoretical perspectives on urban city planning

Writing about urban design, Montgomery Charles, 2013, observed that cities revolutionize depending on the way people think about urban life. As a result of growing population in urban cities, Charles argued that, urban cities could be transformed into places of happiness by improving on the design sidewalks, subways and developing towers. Urban cities could be transformed into happy cities with low carbon and which all can help in building. In general, the way cities are planned develops identity link with people and alters the way they feel, behave and think.

According to Bruce et al. 2008, in their book ‘City spaces-Tourist places,’ they theorized that, urban cities should be designed in ways that allow for recreation spaces. In their study of city life and tourist places, they found that tourism in the city was enhanced more through creating leisure resources that make city life livelier. In his work, ‘How to study public life,’ Brigitte 2013, observed that there is more in designing urban cities.

In many developing and developed countries, cities are populated leading to diminishing resources public space. They argued that, life in the city could be made more habitable through effective city planning that considers adequate public infrastructure. In addition, they recognized that, improvement in city designs could be possible with planners studying city life to understand the importance of public space. It is through understanding of city life (human behaviours) that city planners could design structures that have urban elements. Their assumption was that, knowledge of urban life could aid in decision making and overall planning of streets, parks and other public spaces.

Victor Dove &amp John Massengale, 2013, in their book ‘Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns’ recognized that, street design should be an indispensable guide of creating 21st century cities and towns. City planners should analyse elements that make excellent streets by focussing on how to shape public spaces, correct building heights and street ratios. In their argument, the architects observed that, making great streets enhances city life people feel comfortable, safe and excited by the neighbourhoods (Alan et al. 2014).

In the Ted, 2013, ‘The habitat of the future and how to get there’, the book asses that, modern cities should be renovated to accommodate growing urban populations, ensure sustainability, efficient and beautiful environments. Without transformation, modern cities are bound to face dire consequences pollution, overcrowding crime and social fragmentation. Townsend, 2013, that, in the modern world technology and human settlements are inseparable and as such urban planning and design of cities need to incorporate these aspects urban environment should be combined with infrastructural architecture to address day to day social, economic and environmental problems (Bruce et al. 2008).

Another scholar, observed that, technological boom did not come to kill cities but to flourish them. According to Gehl &amp Rogers, 2010, cities should be designed in such a way that they are lively, safe healthy and sustainable places. He further added that urban landscape should be designed to capture the five human senses cities should be designed to make them lively, reduce crime, create public spaces and reduce overcrowding. John, 2013, opined that, ‘city plans are not created through complex statistics, any particular decision making or problem solving, but great cities come as a result of human values and principles that address the tactile, sensory as and sustainable qualities of the environment and what is best to humans’.

According to John, 2013, city planning should allow for sustainability, diversity, open spaces, incentive, adaptability, density and identity. City planning should be organized to allow for sensible and sustainable resources use. He further added that, ‘cities need to reinvent themselves, define alternative future without disrespecting the past.’ Without good planning cities could be areas of pollution, overcrowding and wastes. Visionary cities should have manifestos that demand for collective rather than individual designing of all aspects of city life. In his book, ‘vertical village’, Birgitte 2013, argued that city transformation occasioned by ‘urban villages,’ should foster a connected community instead of isolating citizens through tower blocks (Proshansky et al. 1983).John Massengale (Author)› Visit Amazon`s John Massengale PageFind all the books, read about the author, and more.

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The history of the development of architecture in Benghazi

The city of Benghazi passed through various historical stages the secession of colonial regimes from ancient Greek, Ottomans and through the Italian period produced various architectural features in city buildings many were demolished during military combats during World War II. However, few Italian and Ottoman architectural features still stand today. The architectural design of this city was characterised with simplicity designs involving local building materials stones, bricks and palm tree trunk for roofs. These architectural features were in tandem with social values derived particularly from traditions, religion and social life. During the Ottoman Empire 1551, the architectural features adopted reflected the local environment and Islamic values. In many cities the architectural feature of the building reflected castles, palaces, mosques, schools and markets.

The architectural design adopted was simplistic and held spiritual form and substance curved stones, domes and marble. After the Italian occupation of Libya in 1911, Mediterranean architecture was incorporated with local architecture in Benghazi city. However, in the 1970, during city reconstruction to eliminate informal settlements, the Italian architectural feature formed an integral part of city design of buildings. During the royal government of Libya (1952-1969), the architectural landscape of Benghazi reflected large distinctive expressions in the form of domes, ornaments and arches on buildings, with vast green open spaces and beautiful gardens outside.

The architectural feature of modern Benghazi and other Libyan cities reflects construction in all areas leaving small room for quality planning. Lack of public participation in architectural designs of buildings in accordance to their beliefs and cultures have led many of residents making changes on their residential buildings. Locals use different colours and materials to distinguish their buildings from international architectural designs leading architectural character not compatible with local heritage (Montgomery, 2013).

The city is now characterised by inhomogeneous mixture of architectural features which have lead to loss of identity, purity and unity. The modern day architecture differs from the past building and landscape designs of cities need the traditional heritage. Instead, modern architecture is characterised by skyline towers and glass facades. Despite the tension in local and global architectural design features, it is the right of human behaviour based in changes in time, beliefs, customs, economy and future visions to make changes in architectural features of buildings (Bruce et al. 2008). I therefore, propose to explore the impact of globalisation on local architecture with a particular focus on Benghazi City.

3Research Methodology 3.1Research Plan and Design

We need to understand better the impact of globalisation on local architecture. Case study would be the best mode of inquiry in this study. This research method suits this study in that, it allows for collection of multiple data and analysis. In order to explore the impact of globalisation on architectural culture of Benghazi, a case study approach would ensure that, detailed, in-depth and real life data is collected. In particular, use of multiple methods in the case study would help assess the perspective presented by the hypothesis in a holistic way. The setting and case study reviews are appropriate for this study data would be collected through qualitative in-depth interviews, reviewing archive documents, taking pictures and through observation. The incorporation of multiple methods in data collection and analysis, would ensures that objective, detailed and clear data is sourced in order to bring out the picture of tension between local and global forces on architectural designs.

3.2 Methods of data/ information / evidence Collection

The method I plan to use will provide valid data that I need to answer my study research questions. In this case, in-depth data will be collected on local and foreign architectural designs through site observation, in-depth interviews with the residents and extensive review of historical architectural documents in the archives. In order to collect this data, I plan to visit Benghazi City and observe the architectural landscape of the city, then visit the Libyan Library archive to review architectural documents, prepare open structured survey questionnaires for 30 people for gathering in-depth details about local people perception on the impact of foreign architectural designs in their locality. The use of multiple method of data collection enhances validity of facts by eliminating investigators bias.

In addition, I will explore online architectural photos of Benghazi city, compare past and present view of buildings, streets and open gardens. Data collection is determined by the subject matter observation of architectural drawings and photos and analysing available documents in the case under study (Soy, 2003). In this dissertation, in order to answer the research questions postulated in the thesis and gather information a documentary review of master plans, newspapers, videos and magazines would better help understand the implications of globalisation on Benghazi architectural landscape.

3.3 Methods of information/ data/ evidence analysis and interpretation

Analysis of data would be done through qualitative and interpretive analysis of recorded information and seen structural details in the case studies. Data collected through in-depth interviews will be qualitatively analysed against literature review to verify local people feelings about the impact of globalisation in the locality. Facts obtained through site observations will be compared with historical photos, videos in the archives to draw comparison on architectural changes. Qualitative data gathered from in-depth interviews will be analysed in relation to theoretical facts gathered in the literature review.

In order to enhance deep understanding of the details, close analyses of documentary evidence would be taken as well as photos. The use of multiple methods in data collection ensures that there is internal validity of data collected to limit observer’s bias measuring what one wants to see and not what is there. This method of research ensures that the researcher is not limited to any methodological tool, there is holistic detailed investigation and that data can be collected over the period place and time convenience.

A case study of Benghazi City District

According to documentary research data, Benghazi city has high population growth due to many people migrating from rural areas to the city this has led to large numbers occupying the city which has resulted in physical and urban problems due to lack of residential units, infrastructure and other services. Assessing documentary records of Benghazi city indicate that, many architectural building in the city have foreign modern architectural designs most building has Italian architectural features while many retain the Turkish architectural features. Few buildings have retained the local vernacular architecture.

Documentary records indicates that Benghazi City have undergone a major transformation that have seen great changes in architecture. There is massive importation of architectural features that are western in character. Scholars observe that, this has been as a result of modernity and technological development. The city is divided into many neighbourhoods founded during the Italian rule with modern urban sprawl buildings. The city has conglomeration of old and modern architectural buildings with the beaches having modern condominium resorts.

Although the traditional architecture of Ottoman and Italian rule occupies the streetscapes buildings have architectural designs that have many balconies, stone archways and open courtyards. During the Italian rule in 1922, many buildings adopted eclectic architectural language of western architecture. The city was heavily bombed during World War II and, therefore, many buildings have modern architecture features that historical architectural buildings.

The architecture of Hamra Street in Beirut

The Beirut city is a conglomeration of modern architecture which revolutionized in 1920 and 1930 with the importation of building materials. The modern architectural features were greatly influenced by European and technological design concepts. More changes in architectural features happened after civil wars which brought new architectural styles and ideas of postmodernism. More buildings with modern designs were developed in 1960 bringing in versions of European modernisms. Hamra Street is characterised by cluster of stone facade buildings linings in arcaded streets and alleys. The architecture of the area takes after the French and Venetian architecture with a mixture of Arabesque and Ottoman Architecture. The street has a large concentration of 19th century red roofed buildings (Rapoport A, 1991).

4Results analysis

Evaluation and interpretive analysis

The above case study answers the first study question on the impact of globalization forces on the Benghazi city architectural design and surrounding regions. Assessing these case studies shows that, there is evidence of great affliction of local architectural culture with western architectural and intellectual productions. The various architectural projects in Benghazi, skyline towers with glass facades are in complete contrast to local cultural identity (Oncu A, 1997). However, architectural theorist advocates for modernizing urban architectural plans by incorporating local identity to allow for lively cities with open public spaces, extensive pavements and recreational areas. While these modern buildings in Benghazi take universal architecture, they lack identity with the region. Local architectures find themselves caught between two opposing forces past and present which exist as a result of their religion and culture (Darrin, 2012).

However, there are positive aspects of globalization and modernizing architecture the building structures allows for public space, glass facades allowing more lighting. Close study of the city architecture shows a blend of technology with local cultural elements. For instance, many buildings in Benghazi still retain the dome shaped, Archie’s that were common in traditional Islamic styles and heritage (Morgan, 1914). While many support postmodern building architecture embraces theoretical architectural designs of open cities, with public spaces, many postmodern buildings indicate prevailing international trends without considering local identity of the society with which the building is situated. The design concept of these buildings ignored the local heritage, history and Islamic culture as epitomized by theoretical architects (Birgitte, 2013).

The architectural feature of modern Benghazi and other Libyan cities is that of construction in all areas leaving small room for quality planning. The city plans lack visionary architectural features espoused by modern theoretical architects who advocated for modern cities be renovated to accommodate growing urban populations, ensure sustainability, efficient and beautiful environments. The architectural feature of Benghazi indicates lack of public participation in architectural designs of buildings according to their beliefs and cultures have led making changes by the local people on residential buildings. This is contrary to architectural theorist John, 2013, who argued that, ‘city planning is not created through complex statistics, any particular decision making or problem solving, great cities come as a result of human values and principles that address the tactile, sensory as and sustainable qualities of the environment and what is best to humans.

After assessing documentary archives of Benghazi city, it was evident that locals use different colours and materials to distinguish their buildings from international architectural designs leading architectural character not compatible with local heritage this was enough evidence that globalisation of architecture has brought tension with local architectural values. According to John, 2013 ‘city planning should allow for sustainability, diversity, open spaces, incentive, adaptability, density and identity’ (Oncu A, 1997).

The city is now characterised by inhomogeneous mixture of architectural features which have lead to loss of identity, purity and unity. The modern day architecture differs from the past building and landscape designs of cities lack the traditional heritage. Instead, modern architecture is characterised by skyline towers and glass facades. Despite the tension in local and global architectural design features, it is the right of human behaviour based in changes in time, beliefs, customs, economy and future visions to make changes in architectural features of buildings (Adam, 2008).

5. Conclusion

Cities are increasingly becoming alike faced with similar prospects and problems all over the world. In the 21st Century and aftermath of Arab spring revolution, architecture in many cities appear to be grappling with the western ideals of architecture that epitomizes modernism, efficiency, affluence and retaining the traditional and historic vernacular architecture as symbols of pride, identity and heritage. Owing to the influence of globalization and social, cultural forces, the tension between globalization and anti- globalization in the world of architecture will continue for decades to come (Saqaaf, 1986).

Many countries will strive to retain their traditional architectural features regardless of which forces in the modern world. However, most architectural designs in the Libyan cities indicate shift to western architectural designs which have eroded local heritage this is as a result of many years under colonialism. While few city architectural designs reflect Arab cultures in their built environment, they do not reflect local identity due to loss of Arab architectural identity (Lewis, 2002).

In adapting to globalization, it is vital to benefit from local heritage values in order to embrace modernity that incorporates historical values of a given area. As such, place identity and peoples aspiration, should produce homogenized developments that promote place identity ties with locals. Globalisation does not always result in positive aspects, particularly in embracing international architectural designs that do not take into consideration local effects (Gee, 2013).


Libyan Cities could benefit from globalization and retain local identity, the state must face the future with new methods local architectures need to possess different skills which would enable them confront modern technologies with traditional cultural heritage this would enhance them absorb foreign cultural influences without losing local identity when designing local architecture. This is only possible by encouraging local designers to retain dominant styles in the region. Architects should consider perceived opportunities of globalization and threats, and balance them with national identity. Local architects should think of ‘glocalization’ as interplay of local and global architectural features (Schoon, 1992).


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Work plan


Task and location

2 Weeks

National Library Archive in Benghazi City- Review historical documents, videos, photos and magazines with architectural details of Benghazi City during the Ottoman, Italian and the current regime (Transitional government)

1 week

Site visit and observation- Benghazi City central business district, the Mediterranean beach (Lungomare sea-walk), palaces, banks, mosques, other monumental buildings and historical buildings. Take pictures and field notes.

1 week

Location Central business district of Benghazi and residential area

Conduct in-depth survey on people’s perception about changes in traditional architectural designs (also interview the city planners)

2 weeks

Gather and compile all data collected in a qualitative way (photos, responses for in-depth interviews and information from documentary reviews).

Use descriptive style to interpret the data drawing comparison with theoretical literature reviewed.

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