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Publications

Read Water Urbanism: Aqaba online here.
Water Urbanism: Aqaba

Urban Design Studio III, Spring 2018

Faculty
Kate Orff, Ziad Jamaleddine, Laura Kurgan, Nora Akawi, Geeta Mehta, Julia Watson, Dilip da Cunha

Description
Aqaba is the only city in Jordan with a coastline. Once a fishing village and trading port, it has been designated a Special Economic Zone in order to attract investments in the form of land-based urban development. The Gulf of Aqaba is shared by four countries: Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia and boasts diverse marine wildlife. It is at the meeting point between two water systems: the base of the Jordan River Valley / Dead Sea rift and the northern tip of the Red Sea. Aqaba is at the intersection of two modes of habitation: global tourist and local denizen/worker or “Aqabawi.” Aqaba is near Wadi Rum and Petra, two sites of international, geological and archaeological importance. With its port and globally focused landscape-driven tourist economy centered on leisure, Aqaba faces many urban issues that parallel other Gulf cities including inequity and segregation.

Throughout Jordan and along the Dead Sea Rift, one can discover links between ancient water infrastructure and civilization. Amman, situated to the east of the Jordan River valley (at an average altitude of 1000 meters above sea level), is the capital of Jordan and the country’s economic, political and cultural center. The city has a population of over 4 million (of mixed nationalities) and a land area of approximately 650 square miles of territory. Agriculture and tourism industry demands on the region’s water supply conflict with daily subsistence use by poorer communities and for urban uses, all of which are further exacerbated by regional conflict, and forced population migration. The Red-to-Dead sea mega-project aims to relieve the region’s water stress and restore Dead Sea alarming dropping water level. Many water bodies beyond the Red Sea are in a state of decline with increasing environmental degradation and pollution from human waste and industrial effluent. With Syria enmeshed in a tragic and violent conflict to the North, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to the South, and Israel/Palestine to the east, Jordan has traditionally played a mediating and relatively stabilizing role. However internal and trans-border migration patterns combined with environmental stressors and overtaxed infrastructure and land development have shifted political dynamics.

Within this context, the Studio will learn about and consider territorial strategies for the region and simultaneously focus on specific sites in Jordan along transects perpendicular to Valley water systems and specific communities. We will explore the future of Aqaba as a living organism as it experiences growth, segregation, and land commodification, both on a temporary and permanent basis. We will ask, what are alternative spatial and political organizations possible relative to water new eco-agro-industrial paradigms and economic investments that will characterize next century Aqaba, and how can scenarios that are based on resource recovery advance change?

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