congress team:
 Olga Chepelianskaia (Russia/France), François Vienne (France/Singapore) & Nasim Iranmanesh (Iran)

Al-Baraha derives from the Classical Arabic word Al-Barah which denotes a 'large and vacant land'. Al-Baraha is a unique term to the Gulf vernacular of Arabic and refers to the open spaces between houses and neighbourhoods. These spaces are critical to the vibrancy of Gulf urbanism, as it provided much needed breathing room for the residents of dense and compact courtyard houses. They acted as public plazas where men typically gathered after prayers and spaces for children to run around and play. Physically, it is a public space that connects houses and neighbourhoods together, and spiritually it connects people together as places for play and gathering.  

Standardised one-size-fits-all urban planning and design approaches have largely failed cities. The COVID-19 crisis only highlighted an existing lack of inclusive open and public spaces, and displayed inequalities in how urban dwellers experienced exposure and restrictions related to the pandemic. The climate change crisis had earlier demonstrated how strongly a lack of a unique, local context tailored urban fabric can deepen a city's vulnerability to more and more frequent and intense extreme weather events. Finally, most of the newly built urban fabric blends into faceless concrete jungle cityscapes, which makes cities lose on socio-economic opportunities associated to a resilient, liveable, vibrant and unique built environment. More to that, a rapidly growing remote working style is likely to disrupt our assumption of continuously growing cities and, on the contrary, make many climate vulnerable and unliveable cities uncompetitive and gradually deserted by a qualified work force.  

It is time to bring the notion of uniqueness at the core of urban development. Here, bringing together local knowledge and cutting-edge technologies, design thinking processes, cohesive and participatory approaches will help respond to the need of making our urban habitats inclusive and affordable while also making them sustainable and liveable. We, as urban practitioners and urban thought leaders, are at the threshold of a new urban development era, and our practices, collectively, as city builders will make a deep impact on the way future communities will grow, learn, live and dream. Our timely action is as critical as ever. Over 75% of the infrastructure the world will see in 2050 doesn't exist today. This means that our today's decisions will lock the world into a living pattern for decades to come. 

In this frame, the Track 5 on Uniqueness and Connectivity wants to bring to the forefront break-through solutions to the problems of today's uniform urban development. It will delve into integrating heritage and innovation, harnessing the potential of unique green and blue ecosystems rather than damaging them, connecting people and places across gender, social status and cultural practices, and making spaces for people first and foremost. We call for creative knowledge sharing on the following topics:   

  1. Practice: The role of designers and planners goes beyond large scale concepts and architectural morphologies. It gives them the responsibility to emerge unique solutions from each unique local context to design unique spaces, cities and communities that are contextual, healthy, resilient, and most importantly, human centric. What are, in the world, the best practices of creating a diversity of urban spaces that are human centric and enabling public places for all while creating opportunities for growth?   

  1. Unlocking multi-scale approach to spatial design - unlocking potential for urban resilience: how shall we challenge traditional approaches and define connectivity throughout urban design and placemaking? How site-specific and context sensitive approach to placemaking (inclusive of urban morphology and urban fabric complexity) could ensure healthier, better connected and efficient public realms in their unique contexts? 

  1. Connecting holistic knowledge for unique places - transdisciplinary approach to placemaking integrating climate change awareness: Climate change is by no doubt one of the century's biggest challenges existing and new cities face as they grow. How can integrated and adaptive green infrastructure contribute to help shaping more sustainable and climate resilient cities at different scales while rendering unique places to their inhabitants and building healthy and sustainable communities? 

  1. Tools - how can new tools, and planning and design methodology (parametric design, digital twins, etc.) help complex urban systems become resilient, sustainable, vibrant and liveable?   

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