Urban Identities

Urban Identities

Despite the media’s politically-driven headlines, the four metropolises of Ankara, Baghdad, Tehran and Tangier pulsate with vibrant cultural histories and activities across the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). Mudun مدن Urban Cultures in Transit explores these cities from a micro-perspective, highlighting their architecture, urban neighbourhoods and the protagonists who shape them. Comprised of contemporary photographs, models and texts, the exhibition conveys the dynamic atmosphere of individual locales and the relationship of inhabitants to their spatial surroundings.

Collaboratively produced by the Vitra Design Museum and the publishers of Dubai-based magazine Brownbook, the show questions the significance of architectural heritage left by the 20th century; asks where have political conditions impacted and transformed the urban structure; and queries what kinds of intercultural identities are engendered in the diaspora? Centred on an examination of the contemporary urban culture in the MENA region, this unique display presents these metropolises as a space for critical debate, sub-cultures and an artistic avant-garde.

Divided into three sections – Architecture, Places and Societies – the exhibition identifies the architectural heritage of Modernism, the current situation in urban agglomerations and the stories of people living in the diaspora as examples of how urban spaces shape cultural identity. The first section, Architecture, encompasses 10 models of public buildings selected by architect Fatma Al-Sehlawi and fabricated in fired clay by Xeina Malki. Completed between 1960 and the present day, buildings such as Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art and the Baghdad Gymnasium showcase how architecture was thought to strengthen the identity of a community.

Places sees curator Mohammed Elshaded create large-scale collages of 10 cities based on texts and plans from Ankara, Birzeit, Tripoli, Rosetta, Baghdad, Damascus, Khartoum, Tangier, Tehran and Sharjah, while Societies invites the author Amira Asad to profile people from the MENA region who live in the diaspora: Kurdish communities in the USA, Yemenites in Singapore, or Tunisians in Paris. A series of a further 10 collages comprising images, texts and sound, depict intercultural insights from individuals and communities.

Mudun مدن Urban Cultures in Transit, until 20 August, Vitra Design Museum Gallery, Weil am Rhein.

For more, visit: www.design-museum.de. #VDMmudun #urbanculturesintransit

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1. Qatar University in Doha, Qatar Designed by Kamal El Kafrawi, 1974-1983 © Markus Elblaus. Courtesy of Vitra Design Museum.