Tag Archives: architecture

Some recent PhD theses

Shaba, Faysal. 2019. Urban expansion, land management and development in Tripoli, Libya. Ph.D. dissertation, Sheffield Hallam University, https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-theses/urban-expansion-land-management-development/docview/2548466438/se-2

Libya is considered to have one of the highest rates of urbanisation in the world; especially, when compared to other regions in North Africa and the Mediterranean. Tripoli witnessed rapid population growth and increasing economic development, this led to a concentration of the population in and around the city. Tripoli has witnessed an extreme expansion of its urban area which now contains a population more than 2 million. At the same time, Tripoli is a region which encompasses an area of high agricultural fertility. The objective of this study was to investigate how agricultural land in the Tripoli region could be protected from land use change brought about by rapid urban expansion. This research adopted a mixed methods approach to collect primary and secondary data. Information was gathered from stakeholders, farmers and official sources and triangulated to understand the processes behind rapid urban expansion and the loss of agricultural land. Research included field observations in Tripoli, interviews with government official, and questionnaires for farmers. Research revealed that government policies have played a significant role in creating and exacerbating the problem of urban expansion by encouraging migration to Tripoli. Furthermore, present legislation has been shown to be an ineffective deterrent. Laws are continually broken by various individuals; therefore, current legislation fails to protect agricultural land as it is not enforced properly. This research has, however, identified the existence of effective schemes, such as the National Physical Perspective Plan – Libya(NPPP) and National Spatial Policy (NSP). These schemes would promote balanced sustainable development across Libya, providing better facilities and opportunities in other regions and therefore combat mass migration to larger cities. They have not, however, been implemented due to the difficulty in persuading relevant authorities to do so. This study demonstrates the need for an efficient land use planning in Libya. It provides information to support research and planning efforts related to land development and conservation, ensuring the protection of agricultural land in the face of rapid urban expansion. This is of particular importance to Libya as the percentage of fertile agricultural land is small, around 2% of the country’s total area. The study emphasised the importance of protecting this small but significant land space for future use. The findings of this study will therefore provide a significant guide for future urban planning and will be of use to urban planners and decision makers determining policies and plans to control urban expansion. This study is essential to understanding the changes witnessed in Libya’s agricultural landscape and the need to protect it to ensure its future. Its findings will be used to provide information on effective land management, environmental conservation, and sustainable development, which will be of interest to policy planners and government officials in Libya. Preliminary findings demonstrate that government policies have played a significant role in creating/exacerbating the problem of rural-urban migration to Tripoli. Research has highlighted that national land use policies require revision to achieve future sustainability. Revising policy would enable the country to re-balance the construction of infrastructure and services, accounting for other areas.

Milod, M. 2019. Vernacular architecture in Libya : A case study of vernacular dwellings in the Nafusa mountain region. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Salford, https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-theses/vernacular-architecture-libya-case-study/docview/2344483142/se-2

This research offers a systematic analysis of the physical features of residential Vernacular Architecture (VA) of Nafusa Mountain Region (NMR) in Libya, linking them to the governance system of heritage conservation in Libya and to the Responsible Institutions (RIs). Libya has experienced different historic stages, such as the Amazigh, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Muslims, and Italian colonization. It is distinguished by a historic continuity, which has enriched its historic and architectural features. This study investigates and documents the main physical unique features of residential VA in NMR and related factors that influence Conservation Processes (CPs) within the current governance system delivered by the RIs. By clarifying the elements that make residential VA unique and by understanding current issues undermining its effective conservation, this study offers valuable and original insights for informing future conservation policies and for putting in place measures aimed at restoring, preserving, and maintaining this unique architectural and historical heritage. This research also produces new knowledge about VA of the NMR in Libya, a topic on which no studies have been available so far. By filling the gap in current knowledge, this study raises awareness about the value of the VA in the NMR and contributes to support the conservation of such a unique heritage. The research methodology for this study uses both qualitative and quantitative approaches (Mixed Methods). The researcher has selected and justified three examples of Vernacular Dwellings (VDs) in NMR and collected the data through observation, analysis of dwellings maps, photos, interviews and a questionnaire. Visual survey has been conducted by visiting relevant sites and systematically collecting visual evidence, such as photographic and technical survey including structures and technological spatial details. Spatial analysis methods have been adopted to uncover the rationale of the VA development and construction. Semi-structured interviews with relevant parties have been administered at senior, middle, and junior management level of the RIs and complemented with the review of archival documents and relevant government reports. Findings from the research outline the main challenges to VA in NMR that include a lack of appreciation and understanding of heritage among owners, scarcity of local materials and traditional building skills, lack of government support as well as insufficient documentation. All the findings were triangulated prior to the development of the initial recommendations and further decision-makers and expert validation was obtained to establish the final recommendations. Conclusions and recommendations on how to preserve residential VA in NMR context will assist policy makers in Libya, when setting strategic national plans for VA conservation, and will provide a useful point of reference for academics and researchers.

El Taraboulsi, Sherine Nabil. 2020. State building and state-society relations in Libya (1911-1969): An examination of associations, trade unions and religious actors. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Oxford, https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-theses/state-building-society-relations-libya-1911-1969/docview/2467517897/se-2

This thesis is an examination of state-society relations in Libya during the period preceding the rise of Gaddafi in 1969. It addresses the roots of Libya’s recurring state failure by examining the role played by Libyan social actors in state building during the period between 1911 and 1969. Three key periods in Libya’s history are addressed: the colonial period under the Italians (1911–1943), then the years under the British Military Administration (1943–1951) and then the period as an independent monarchy (1951– 1969). Three social actors are explored: associations or jamʿiyyat, trade unions, and religious groups. Based on Migdal (2004) and Saouli (2012), I approach state formation as a process, not as a finished outcome, and the state as a social field wherein social actors engage with one another as well as with state structures rather than a fixed entity. This approach allows a deeper understanding of the temporal dimensions of Libya’s experience with state building as well as the different processes at play through which states are formed and (un)formed. The thesis makes three key arguments. First, contrary to the majority of Western scholarship on Libya which ascribes Libya’s “statelessness” to a failure to adopt modern state formation following independence, I argue that this linear view oversimplifies a much more complex local power dynamic among social actors, and between social actors and the state (colonial and postcolonial) that manifested itself in modes of cooperation and contestation that shaped Libya’s experience with state building. This view of “statelessness” also suggests that divisions in Libya’s social fabric are endemic which is not the case. Through a social history of the period in question, the thesis shows that while contestation among social actors before and after independence had been stronger than centralizing forces, this should be explained in context and in history. Second, I argue that 8 within non-Western societies where a normative notion of the modern nation-state was imposed but was adopted by local actors and adapted to social, cultural and historical realities that are local, it is within the civic space that society was empowered to shape the state in both constructive and (de)constructive ways, and that there is a pattern to how this shaping happens that is embedded within the history of those societies. Third, the thesis demonstrates that Libya’s civic space has played a twofold role in state formation. On the one hand, it has actively contributed to the strengthening of resistance forces against colonialism, the development of state institutions and the domestication of state power as experienced in the Kingdom of Libya (1951 – 1969). On the other hand, because of societal differences, many of which resulted from aggressive colonialism, a short history of institutionalization and the entrenchment of fragmentation and regional differences, Libya’s civic space manifested processes of localism or bonding and coalescing that occurred within groups which compromised the development of a Libyan state as in the case of the Tripolitanian Republic (1918 – 1922). The thesis demonstrates that state building can be compromised by contested state-society relations and that a state in the making would need to incorporate various forms of its civic space within its bureaucracies and overall model of government to ensure its local legitimacy and geopolitical unity. Using a sociohistorical approach which includes primary data from archives in London, Rome and Tunis, as well as 80 semi-structured interviews, this research makes a contribution to a social history of twentieth-century Libya by exploring its civic space and its engagement with governing structures, colonial and independent.

Khalifa, Asmaa. 2022. Everyday leadership in self-organized groups: Rising to occasions of leadership in Libya. Ph.D. dissertation, Arizona State University, https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-theses/everyday-leadership-self-organized-groups-rising/docview/2671565211/se-2

The simplicity of everyday living creates opportunities for leadership based on individually curated personal networks that have developed overtime through the act of living and personal experience. These networks are unique to individuals; however, when grouped, they share enough similarities with others in their proximal environment, thus, allowing for the formation of spontaneous self-organized groups, based on either a felt need, a shared history, a common goal, or combination of such. These leadership opportunities heed the call for action within their community because the felt need is proximal. This exploratory ethnographic case study investigates the nature of leadership within self-organized groups and how it differs from other forms of collective action. Participant interviews and observations were used to explore how individuals interpreted their roles in the group along with how they assessed and fulfilled a felt need within their community, and the different meanings of leadership in self-organized groups.

Article: Exported Urbanity in 1970s Libya

Sometimes I come across studies on topics I never even knew could be topics. Here, an essay examining the models  of urbanity ‘exported’ to Libya by Croatian architects working on the naval base in Khoms (الخمس), Libya.

Smode Cvitanović, Mojca, Smokvina, Marina, Kincl, Branko. 2016. “Maritime Ports as the Testing Field for a New Urbanity. Centroprojekt Zagreb Design for Naval Base Homs, Libya, 1976.” In Urban Planning in North Africa, ed. Carlos Nunes Silva, Routledge, pp. 145–155. [Link to partial preview]

“Drawing on experience gained through the modernization of their own country after the Second World War, Yugoslav experts made their mark applying their expertise in many African and Asian countries, thereby taking part in the creation of those continents’ modern societies in the years that followed. A large field of expertise was as a consequence applied including civil engineering, architecture, and urban planning. A specific professional sector among Yugoslav ‘exports’ was the design and construction of port facilities. Depending on the developments adjacent to the ports, different expertise in urban planning and architecture was needed within this multi-disciplinary task. Architectural developments, as support to a port facility, were usually planned in empty areas and without a previously established analogous architectural or urban typology in the local tradition. This chapter follows the particular case of the Naval Base Homs (Khoms, Al-Khums) in Libya which received a significant contribution of urban and architectural design, the task having been assigned to the Centroprojekt Zagreb company in the mid-1970s. The chapter examines the models of urbanity ‘exported’ by Croatian architects engaged in a task whose primary function was to support the adjacent port facility.”

Article: The Tripoli Trade Fair

Poster from the Tripoli Trade Fair 1930 (Mitchell Wolfson Jr. Collection, The Wolfsonian, see McLaren 2002, p. 178 for details)

Brian L. McLaren, “The Tripoli Trade Fair and the Representation of Italy’s African Colonies“, The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 24, Design, Culture, Identity: The Wolfsonian Collection (2002), pp. 170–197.

Extract: “The most significant exhibition to be organized in the Italian colonies was the Tripoli Trade Fair — an annual display of metropolitan and colonial goods held between 1927 and 1939. This series of exhibitions closely paralleled the representation of Italy’s colonies at similar events held in Italy and elsewhere in Europe during the same period. Indeed, all of these exhibitions were intended to communicate the value of Italy’s colonial possessions to a wider audience, while also establishing stronger economic and commercial ties between Italy and North Africa. However, the Tripoli Trade Fair also was a crucial medium through which an image of Italian society was disseminated to the indigenous populations of North Africa. There was, thus, a relationship between the Tripoli Trade Fair and its potential audiences that was more complex than that at fairs in the metropole. It not only represented Italian industry and culture in the colonial context, it was also the mechanism for a complex process of exchange between Italian and North African culture. Using a wide range of material — from postcards, posters, and publicity photographs to pamphlets and catalogues — this essay examines the Tripoli Trade Fair as a constantly evolving hybrid of metropolitan and colonial identities…”


Book: Islamic Sanctuaries in 17th-century Tripolitania

sanctuari-islamiciIslamic Sanctuaries in 17th-century Tripolitania is the translation of a work by the Libyan religious scholar ‘Abd as-Salām al-‘Ālam al-Tajouri.* It gives details about the many shrines and mosques in Tripolitania (western Libya), as they were known in the 17th-century. The Italian translation of the work, shown here, is the only scholarly work on the text that I know of. Antonio Cesàro, an Arabist who also wrote a grammar of the Tripoli dialect of Arabic, teamed up with the human geographer Enrico de Agostini to also track down the sites mentioned by al-Tajouri and document them in photos and with maps.

An interesting, though probably discouraging, project would be to go to these sites today, in and around Tripoli, Tajoura, Tarhuna, Zliten, and Misrata, and document as many as possible—both those that have survived the past five years of turmoil and those that have not.

*The full reference is Tajouri, A. Santuari Islamica nel secolo XVII in Tripolitania, tr. by Antonio Cesàro. Tripoli: Maggi, 1933.

Article: Italian colonisation and the walled city of Tripoli

An article on the Italian period and its impact on the old city of Tripoli, available online:

Mia Fuller (2000), “Preservation and self-absorption: Italian colonisation and the walled city of Tripoli, Libya,” The Journal of North African Studies 5/4, pp. 121-154.

“Scholars periodically return to the study of how French administrators and architects handled the urban settings of North Africa – the ones they found and the ones they founded – beginning with the occupation of Algiers in 1830. Italian occupation of Libya began much later, in 1911, but in the 32 years of their effective rule, Italians had sufficient time to be both destructive and constructive in significant ways. Nonetheless, only a handful of scholarly efforts have been devoted to Italian architectural and urban policies in Tripoli;
and very few of those have been concerned with the walled city at all…”

Book: The Ibadite Mosques of Jabal Nafusa

The newest publication of the Society for Libyan Studies’ monograph series is a much-anticipated study of the Ibadite mosques in the Nafusa mountains of western Libya by Virginie Prevost, a scholar of the Ibadites in North Africa.

Virginie Prevost (2016) Les mosquées ibadites du Djebel Nafūsa: Architecture, histoire et religions du nord-ouest de la Libye (VIIe-XIIIe siècle). [The Ibadite Mosques of the Jabal Nafūsa: Architecture, history and religion of North West Libya (7th-13th centuries)]. London.

From the publisher’s description: “The mosques of the Djebel Nafūsa, little known and under threat, personify the continuity of traditions and faith of the Ibadites, who have retained their grip over the centuries on this rugged landscape, despite their many trials and tribulations. This book is the result of a mission carried out in 2010 with the photographer Axel Derriks and examines twenty or so mosques, bringing to light their architectural features and linking them to medieval Ibadite texts.” The book features over 150 full-color photographs, maps, and plans.

Article: Italian rural centres in colonial Libya (1934-1940)

The Built Utopia: The Italian rural centres in colonial Libya (1934-1940) | L’utopia costruita: I centri rurali di fondazione in Libia (1934-1940), ed. Vittoria Capresi, Bologna (2009).

The Built Utopia is a bilingual English-Italian ‘guide’-book to Italian colonial architecture in Libya. As the author notes in the chapter ‘A guide to travel, a search to deepen’, “this volume provides a comprehensive description and introduction to the architecture of the newly founded rural centres in Libya, created by Italian architects during the Fascist colonial occupation. The period analysed, from 1934 to 1940, includes the starting point for the construction of the rural centres, 1933-1934, which saw the establishment of the first centres for the political, religious and administrative management of the territory. The project for the last centre was designed in 1940, but it was never constructed due to the outbreak of the Second World War. Particular attention is given to two key dates, 1938 and 1939, which marked the stages of mass colonization with the transfer of rural Italian families to the coast of Libya.”

The book is available online in PDF form at the above link. A review of the volume can be found in Libyan Studies 42 (2011), p. 160.

Sketch Magazine | مجلة سكتش

A new electronic magazine has just been launched out of Benghazi, and two issues are already online. Sketch Magazine is a digital periodical focusing on architecture and design (in Arabic). Furthermore, it is produced by two young women, Aisha Abdelhaqq and Fatoum al-Fallah.



The first issue includes pieces, with plenty of photographs, about Benghazi’s architectural heritage, including buildings such as the baladiyya (town hall) and the cathedral, as well as a presentation of projects by university architecture students and a selection of creative works. The second issue has a feature on the traditional mud architecture of the Awjila oasis in eastern Libya. Both are worth your reading time!

Book: Architecture and Tourism in Italian Colonial Libya

Anyone who wants to get a feel for what Libya looked like during the height of the colonial period should read Brian McLaren’s beautifully-illustrated study Architecture and Tourism in Italian Colonial Libya (Washington University Press, 2006). Though somewhat hard-to-find and a little pricey, it is absolutely worth the purchase.

To be a tourist in Libya during the period of Italian colonization was to experience a complex negotiation of cultures. Against a sturdy backdrop of indigenous culture and architecture, modern metropolitan culture brought its systems of transportation and accommodation, as well as new hierarchies of political and social control. Architecture and Tourism in Italian Colonial Libya shows how Italian authorities used the contradictory forces of tradition and modernity to both legitimize their colonial enterprise and construct a vital tourist industry. Although most tourists sought to escape the trappings of the metropole in favor of experiencing “difference,” that difference was almost always framed, contained, and even defined by Western culture.” (From the publisher’s website).

There are academic reviews here and here.