UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Applying social-ecological systems thinking to the urban quarter of old Sana'a and its associated garden Al-Sallal, Iman Khaled


For centuries, the urban quarter of the old city of Sana’a along with its accompanying garden followed an exclusively traditional way of life that was contained within the quarter’s bounds and which involved a high degree of mutually beneficial and co-evolving interactions between partnered human and natural systems. The waqf foundation was in charge of ensuring that water supply was continuously available and abundant for the gardeners, who were responsible for irrigating the garden and sustaining water sources. The garden’s produce supported the gardeners’ families and the city’s central market. In return, it received its source of nutrients from the solid waste of the quarter’s inhabitants and livestock through a sophisticated sewage system. With the arrival of modernization, the essential role that the urban garden held began to wane and dwindle until the garden was no longer able to provide for the quarter. As such, this thesis provides solutions that aim to restore the quarter to the vibrant and dynamic state that it once possessed in the past by critically examining its changing nature over time through the lens of social-ecological systems, one of regenerative design’s fundamental principles. The inspection uncovered a complex portrayal of interrelationships and cross-interactions between ecological elements and social groups within the quarter, and between it and new Sana’a. The resulting conclusions primarily deduced that the deterioration of the urban quarter’s social-ecological system originates from the mishandling of water and food sources by authoritative groups. Furthermore, while many of regenerative design’s core principles are universal, all have been primarily executed in North America and there have been no efforts to explore how they would unfold in a different cultural context. Also, there exists a small number of scholarly works that investigate the notion of social-ecological systems in relation to the built environment. By addressing these issues, this thesis discovered that the notion of religion and the design of water and waste systems majorly influence the quarter’s functionality thereby providing valuable insights that reveal how the concepts of culture and social-ecological systems within the built environment are significant for the progression of regenerative design theory.

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