Cities and Urban Spaces / The image of the city

As cities are built by and for human civilisations, thus socio-economic and cultural changes in society leave evidence of their impact on the forms and types of public and private spaces contained within them. These sites, individual buildings and their connections ‒ the streets, squares, parks and gardens ‒ embody messages about the life of individuals as well as the collective community. As centres for the dissemination of knowledge and science and where culture, trade, commerce, power and poverty are diffused, the density of sites for worship are concentrated more in urban formations than they are in rural settlements.

The period spanning the 19th century to the early 20th century is a milestone in Arab‒Ottoman and European interaction: as a fast-changing modern Europe was emerging, so methods, materials and techniques from there were introduced to the Arab and Ottoman world. This encounter significantly changed the appearance of Arab and Ottoman cities; in some instances creating so-called colonial architecture built by European architects employing their own architectural languages, or architecture built by local architects that absorbed a selection of local traditions and interpreted Western architectural vocabulary to suit the local tradition. In line with this, an indigenous architectural modernity was introduced to Arab and Ottoman cities that applied Western styles and techniques to local traditions.

Working NumberNameHolding MuseumDateMaterialsCurator Justification
LB 104Photograph of Bab Idris streetBeirut Municipality1919The presence of a new-style housing structure is significant, as are the additional city gates and the modern tramlines.
IT1 097Alexandria: The Consuls’ Square RebuiltItalian Geographical Society (SGI)First years of the 20th centuryThe square is testament to the building activities of Isma‘il Pasha under whose patronage residences for foreign consuls were built around the square. The square became the heart of Ottoman diplomacy with Europeans and a hub of Alexandria’s trade (the Bourse). Focusing on the square’s European-style arrangement and residences, it was designed by a French architect to evoke the style of Europe and the statue in the background is by a French sculptor.
LB 102Postcard of Khan Antoun Bey SquareAl-Mashreq – Levant1889This square is a significant example for the West’s encounter with local life and traditions: the offices for trade were located on the ground- and first floors near the harbour; foreign consulates were accommodated on the upper floors and were able to make use of an inner courtyard, which in the style of the traditional khan-system, they could use for parking their carriages and resting their horses.
TR2 020Dolmabahçe Mosque and SquarePera MuseumLate 19th centuryAlbumen PaperA European-style square where tramlines and carriages, landscape architecture, European-style buildings and a mosque are all evidence of the historic-cum-modernist vocabulary of public space.
TN 086Statue of Cardinal LavigerieInstitut Supérieur d’Histoire Contemporaine de la Tunisie19th century PaperA European-style figurative statue stands prominently in a public square. The buildings around the square suggest how the traditional Arab‒Ottoman architectural style was absorbed by the contemporary European style.
LB 045The Tell Clock Tower1906The clock tower, which was a new addition to the skyline in Arab and Ottoman cities, symbolically marked the importance of the daily routine in the ever-burgeoning, more industrialised world of trade and commercial activity.
SA 001Al-Madina al-Munawwara Station1908Railways and railway stations were the focal point of transport networks and the city.
LB 064Tripoli railway station1911Tripoli Railway Station comprises elements that are familiar in the local architectural tradition and others that are borrowed from modern European architecture.
TR2 008The Istanbul Main Post Office1903–1909The Post Office became the landmark of the new era. Istanbul’s main Post Office was designed by local architect Vedat Tek in the First National Style of Ottoman architecture and was constructed between 1903 and 1909.
LB 061National Evangelical Church of Beirut1848Christian places of worship are important elements in the structure of Arab and Ottoman cities. The style of this church belongs with the European Gothic Revival, but refers symbolically to the era of the Crusades.