Transformation of the traditional settlements of southwest Saudi Arabia
This study presents an exploration of the transformation of the built form in traditional settlements in southwestern Saudi Arabia. A survey of several settlements of the southwest of Saudi Arabia was undertaken, looking at the irregular built forms of several traditional settlements in order to extract an urban pattern or a rationale from what may appear as capricious disorder. The investigation revealed that these built forms emerged from a complex mix of considerations, including climate, security, economic, political, socio-cultural factors and religious precepts. The study begins with an examination of the arrangement of the settlements and shows that this evolves largely from traditions which provide a foundation for the underlying structure of the built environment. By understanding this foundation, one can observe how the transformation adapts or assimilates change in the various physical components. In order to maintain a built environment which is responsive to the needs of its residents in a rapidly changing society like Saudi Arabia, a balance between modernization and traditional values is required. The examples in the survey hold valuable lessons for contemporary planners, urban designers and architects hoping to achieve a similar balance.