Ankara, Baghdad, Tehran and Tangier are vibrant metropolises of the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). They pulsate with an innovative cultural life – despite the political headlines. The exhibition »Mudun مدن Urban Cultures in Transit« views these cities from a micro-perspective, examining their architecture, urban neighbourhoods and the protagonists who shape them. Featuring contemporary photographs, models and texts, the show conveys the dynamic atmosphere of individual locales and the relationship of inhabitants to their spatial surroundings. The project is a cooperation between the Vitra Design Museum and the publishers of Dubaibased magazine Brownbook.
What is the significance of the architectural heritage left by the twentieth century? And where have political conditions impacted and transformed the urban structure? What kinds of intercultural identities are engendered in the diaspora? »Mudun مدن Urban Cultures in Transit« puts a focus on these questions. The exhibition examines contemporary urban culture in the MENA region – an area whose metropolises provide space for critical debate, sub-cultures and an artistic avant-garde. This is illustrated by examples from the Middle East and North Africa, presented in the form of architectural models, photographs and texts. The architectural heritage of Modernism, the current situation in urban agglomerations and the stories of people living in the diaspora demonstrate how urban spaces shape cultural identity.
The exhibition is divided into three thematic sections – »Architecture«, »Places« and »Societies« – which portray buildings, urban neighbourhoods and people. The first section, »Architecture«, encompasses ten models of public buildings selected by architect Fatma Al-Sehlawi and fabricated in fired clay by Xeina Malki. Completed between 1960 and the present day, the depicted structures include Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art and the Baghdad Gymnasium after plans by Le Corbusier. At the time of their construction, they were regarded as symbols that would strengthen the identity of a community – or an entire nation. The models are surrounded by contemporary photographs. For the section entitled »Places«, curator Mohammed Elshaded created large-scale collages that represent ten cities. They are complemented by texts and plans from the cities of Ankara, Birzeit, Tripoli, Rosetta, Baghdad, Damascus, Khartoum, Tangier, Tehran and Sharjah. In the final section, »Societies«, the author Amira Asad profiled people from the MENA region who live in the diaspora: Kurdish communities in the USA, Yemenites in Singapore, or Tunisians in Paris. In ten collages comprising images, texts and sound, urban communities or protagonists offer insights into their intercultural lives and the city spaces they have helped to create.
»Mudun مدن Urban Cultures in Transit« features contemporary photographs and models that convey the dynamic atmosphere of individual locales. The Brownbook magazine archive served as an important source for the exhibition. Over the course of an entire year, the magazine’s editors and the Vitra Design Museum discussed the content and design of the exhibition in collaboration with a large group of curators. The foremost aim was to give visitors a direct experience of these cities and their inhabitants. The title of the exhibition, »mudun«, is the Arabic word for »cities« – the plural form of the word »medina«.