As the effects of climate change make themselves felt, cities need to adapt to the global rise of temperatures. But how can we live in hot cities? This is the question behind the exhibition ‘Hot Cities’ on show at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery until 5 November 2023, which highlights how architects often traditional vernaculars and modern technologies to respond to the challenges of the future. The exhibition is based on the ecological research of the curators, Ahmed and Rashid bin Shabib – which recently won the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2021 for their contribution as authors of the book Anatomy of Sabkhas – and presents urban case studies that provide answers to many questions now raised by climate change.
The exhibition is a travelling archive that delves into the architectural and urban strategies used in the Arabic-speaking world to adapt to extreme heat. The project aims to present capabilities of living in extreme heat and how urban culture can flourish by adapting to the surrounding climate conditions. It is comprised of examples from twenty Arabic-speaking cities that span different time periods and architectural styles – from ancient to contemporary, and from vernacular to postmodern.
In one sense, ‘Hot Cities’ is an attempt to create a dictionary of Arab architecture through the lens of climate adaptation and living aesthetics that emerge in everyday use. At the same time, it is also an invitation to rethink our relationship with the future and discourse of sustainability by revisiting the timeless learnings from the past. Their knowledge illuminates the tireless work of many generations and the immense potential handed over us.
The archive helps the visitors to understand how we can live in hot cities in a threefold manner by engaging with different media and forming an intersection of ideas. The archive consists of architectural models that illustrate the intricate links between aesthetics and climate adaptation, a library of architectural vocabulary for each of the twenty cities, and a colloquium where practitioners and scholars gather to share their expertise on the topic. This forum serves as a platform for experts to share their knowledge, exchange ideas, and inspire new ways of thinking about the future of hot cities.