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Khobar City Plan and the New Public Space in Saudi Arabia

Abstract

The launch of Khobar city plan  in 1947 as the first ever planned city in Saudi Arabia marked  a radical change in public space making, which shifted from pre-industrial intimate and human-focused public realm to automobile-ridden open-ended public space. This study examines the impact of this radical shift by focusing on one particular street, King Khalid street, which was once the bustling urban core of the new city of Khobar. Data were collected from multiple sources given the inconsistency in the documentation of the planning and development process of the city. This included relevant popular as well as specialist literature, archival maps, historical photographs, and interviews with local residents who grew up or lived in the city for most of their lives. In addition, brief fieldwork was conducted  to assess and examine the current street conditions. In comparison to the desolate current condition of King Khalid  street, this study reveals multiple factors which helped to galvanize  the exceptional position  of this street in the past as a primary public space within a seemingly consistent gridiron city. These factors include accessibility, scale, architectural characteristics, economic offerings, and the general urban experience. The study concludes  by discussing  ways to resurrect the street based on parallel experiments from the region.   

Published:
Pages:215 to 234
Section: Society
How to Cite
Alshehri, A. and Almana, L. (2021) “Khobar City Plan and the New Public Space in Saudi Arabia”, The Journal of Public Space, 6(1), pp. 215-234. doi: https://doi.org/10.32891/jps.v6i1.1323.

Author Biographies

Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia

Atef Alshehri is an architect and urbanist with a professional experience that covers a wide array of activities in media, practice, and research. His recent practice includes high profile anchor projects and strategic regional developments across Saudi Arabia. Atef maintains a wide scope research agenda concentrating on the cultural and urban development of cities in the MENA region. His research contribution is recognized through a number of publications, conference participations and academic fellowships at leading institutions, such as the University of California-Berkeley and Cambridge University. His latest publications appeared recently in peer-reviewed journals, such as the Middle East Quarterly, Islamic World of Art and ABE: Architecture Beyond Europe. In addition, Atef ‘s media experience covers journal editorial activities, and most recently a film production on the development of architectural practice in Saudi Arabia. Atef holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran and Master of Architecture with honor from Washington University in St Louis, USA. Atef country experience, besides Saudi Arabia, covers the United States, UK, Germany, and the GCC countries.

ARUP
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Lulu is a chartered landscape architect and urban designer with a passion for creating better cities for the future. She is involved in a range of projects, with special interest in city center regeneration and creating inclusive public spaces designed for the local communities and local environments they sit in. She currently works as a senior landscape architect in Arup’s Integrated City Planning team in London where she is leading design projects from concept design through to detail stages.

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