• Two Thousand Years of Non-Urban History
    Hamed Bukhamseen and Ali Ismail Karimi
    Kaph Books, 2024
    Civil Architecture:
    Hamed Bukhamseen &
    Ali Ismail Karimi

“Fish trap,” Nabih Saleh, Bahrain, 2019. Digital photograph. Photo: Hussain Almosawi and Mariam Alarab

This publication studies examples of formal planning practices in the Arabian Peninsula prior to the advent of the oil economy and uses them to inform new modes of design for the region. The narrative of the oil economy has overwritten previous traditions of landscape and territory. This is evident in the long spans of highways that disinterestedly cut across the Arabian desert, the vast reclamation of the sea along the Gulf coast, and the clearing away of agricultural land to build cities. The idea of landscape has become synonymous with the urgent need to subdivide, plan, and develop property as the de facto engagement with territory. Technocratic solutions to the problems of living in an arid climate have replaced practices entrenched in land knowledge, and the availability of desalinated water and imported food has oriented the economy towards rent-based urban development, backed by oil revenues. The publication acts as a primer to the Arabian Peninsula, compiling narratives related to agriculture, the coastline, seasonality, and geology to set the context for architectural intervention. Two Thousand Years of Non-Urban History also features work by Civil Architecture, pairing examples of pre-oil formal planning and ecological practice with design interventions, and proposals for the region.

Civil Architecture is a cultural practice, founded by Hamed Bukhamseen and Ali Ismail Karimi, preoccupied with the making of buildings and books about them. The work of Civil asks what it means to produce architecture in a decidedly un-civil time, presenting a new civic character for a global condition and offers alternate futures for the Middle East.

Hamed Bukhamseen is an architect from Kuwait and earned a BFA and a BArch from the Rhode Island School of Design, and a master’s of architecture and urban design (MAUD) from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD), where he is pursuing his doctoral studies. His research is concerned with the developmental projects undertaken by sovereign wealth funds and their sociopolitical impact within their host nations. He has worked as an architect in Japan, Germany, and the United States, and as a faculty member at the Kuwait University College of Architecture.

Ali Ismail Karimi is an architect whose work explores public space, ecology, and the extractive landscapes of the Middle East. He worked in Belgium with OFFICE KGDVS, and in Chile with Alejandaro Aravena/Elemental, and taught at the University of Bahrain as an adjunct professor. His writings have been published in various media outlets including San Rocco, the Architectural Review, and e-flux. Karimi earned his MArch from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and was recently a visiting critic at Rice University’s School of Architecture.