Function follows form: holiday resorts in the age of globalization

Zeynep Aygen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


More than one hundred years ago Louis Henri Sullivan (1856-1924) stated that ‘form ever follows function’ (1896). Accompanied by Loos statement that “ornament is crime”2 further modernist definitions to the internationalization of design concepts suggested unified design principles for the whole globe. The response to this doctrine soon followed the introduction of regionalism in many parts of the world, especially in the Middle East and South Mediterranean where bio-climatic design concepts were accompanied by a growing appreciation of vernacular architecture. Hassan Fathy (1899 or 1900-1989)3 and Ramses Wissa Wassef (1911-1974)4 in Egypt, Sedad Hakki Eldem (1908-1988)5 in Turkey and Dimitri Pikionis (1887-1968)6 in Greece are prominent representatives of this approach, belonging to a generational cohort, which countered internalization by reviving and re-interpreting vernacular local traditions and the previous period of colonialism by emphasizing traditional identities. However they all embraced still the principle of the priority of function, which is a natural part of vernacularism and bio-climatic designs. Today, in the age of globalization we have a very different picture. In spite of the countervailing need for the continuation of regionalism more and more countries invite international design teams to contribute to their regional mega projects, partly to attract and satisfy global investors. In most cases the commissioning of an internationally famous architect makes an essential contribution to this policy, as this name will promote the project. In return their design must appeal to the region to attract global investors and customers interested in that region; however it should offer global iconography too, to assure the ‘others’, who do not belong to the region that they will not be excluded from the region. The author suggests a new terminology to describe this new phenomenon: ‘globalized regional’. There are globalized regional company headquarters, university campuses and bank buildings all over the world, with a concentration in the Middle East and South Mediterranean regions, pointing to a new trend. One of the clearest outcomes of such a globalized regional trend can be followed up in the architecture of holiday resorts, which tries to combine regional symbols with global fashions. Different types of holiday resorts such as holiday villages, hotels, spas and second homes spring up today mainly in ‘exotic’ countries, with a covert orientalistic implication. Tourism has been globalized to the extent that a seasonal change is the expectation of most holiday makers, who are ready to fly long distances on a regular basis. This trend has caused a building boom in the holiday resort sector in the Middle East, Southern Mediterranean and Far East to meet the needs of the consumers from colder climatic zones. Obviously architecture is a major selling point; phrases like ‘modern local style’, ‘combination of local architecture with modern elements’ or ‘traditional architecture’ dominate the tourism web sites, all of them trying to fulfil the need of the customer of being ‘elsewhere’. But to what extent is this architecture traditional, regional or local? Is the soul of the forties bio-climatic, regional architecture still alive in the Middle East or is it today only the form which matters? Even Hassan Fathy had to submit to using concrete against his own mud-brick concept, when he designed the Dar al Islam in Abuquiu, New Mexico. Indeed, it is rather the image today, which defines regionalism and not the content. With the exception of a dozen projects, many with Aga Khan Award recognition, most traditional architecture represented in holiday resorts is a hollow form, stripped of its vernacular function. The paper will investigate this phenomenon, based on case studies from the Middle East and South Mediterranean regions to prove the hypothesis that function follows form in the architecture of the globalized regionalism and not form the function.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRegional architecture and identity in the age of globalization: the Second International Conference of the Center for the Study of Architecture in the Arab Region. Vol. 3
EditorsJ. Al-Qawasmi, A. Mahmoud, A. Djerbi
Place of PublicationAmman
PublisherCSAAR Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9789957860240
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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