The construction boom of the last two decades in the Middle East has brought renewed attention to the relationship between international and regional architectural cultures. Instant cities, massive speculative developments, and extreme formal, ecological, and structural experiments have all featured prominently in Western images of the contemporary Middle East.
Critical Exchange explores this changing territory of practice as seen from the viewpoint of Boston-based architects working in the Middle East. Observations, statistics, and case studies survey the cultural and professional conditions faced by these practitioners as they build in countries throughout the region. By collecting this information, we hope to move beyond typical assessments of recent architecture in its international contexts. Such valuations are often still based on the framework of “critical regionalism,” in which the global reach of modernism, portrayed as universalizing and foreign, is seen to demand forms of resistance only possible from local architects rooted in more “authentic” cultures. This opposition is inadequate to describe a contemporary situation in which architects’ cultural identities, educational backgrounds, work experiences, and research interests are increasingly interwoven across disciplinary and geographical boundaries.