UC Berkeley, 305 Wurster Hall

Hidden Architectures and Spatial Systems of Urban Division: From Cairo to Belfast
In cities that are divided by ethno-national rivalry, public space and its architecture becomes the crucible of contestation related to ethnicity, territoriality and national identity. Physical barriers, such as Northern Ireland’s Peace-line walls, materialize the paradoxical relationship of the edge as a line of separation and attachment, as the inevitable reality of coexistence. Social and cultural polarization in the Middle East’s urban environments similarly possesses spatial structures of segregation with deeply rooted but less visible rivalry based on ideology, affordability and cultural attitudes. The hierarchical structure of city spaces and quality of life in Egypt’s urban environments developed invisible barriers that at times define unequal privileges of accessibility and service, creating two attached yet isolated universes. Rivalry based on ethnicity or social status fuels infinite battles of contestation over space and territorial gains, rendering the gain of one rival is an inevitable loss of other, looking cities in unwinnable battles over urban development, design and architecture.