The New Silk Road

Arabic Cultural Area


Xi'an, China


A liquid morning rose; from the sky, fresh as a rose, a quivering light fell, endowing each house, each tree with a palpable shape and a magic newness. The earth must have risen in just such a light the morning the world was born.
-Albert Camus

Secluded behind a massive earth wall the New Silk Road: Arabic Memory comes into view through a landscape of desert, oasis and shorelines – artifacts of ancient Mesopotamia. A procession through an expanse of sand dunes and desert transitions the visitor from urban Xi’an into Arabic time travel. The passage encourages the visitor to visualize the infinite expanse of Arabian deserts and reflect on the landscape which helped to form Arabic and pre-Arabic cultures.

The ambitions of the New Silk Road Park competition demand innovative spatial and organizational responses to bring the Arabic world into view. Our starting point is the desire to “provide an experience echoing pf the moment of transit, and convey the rich and subtle nuances of the timeless landscapes and the nomadic cultures irrigated by the famous trail”, as stated in the Project Brief. Our spatial sequences present tableaus for visitors, artists, and scholars constructed of multiple vantage points expressive of the plurality of Arabic society similar to the kaleidoscopic vision of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. The two –dimensional physicality of Islamic calligraphy extrapolates to a three dimensional kinesthetic experience.

The New Silk Road: Arabic Memory is presented as a cinematographic compression of time and space wherein unfolds a panorama of stories. Arabic culture shadows appear episodically within the cinematic digital score, imbuing the project with a sense of infinite memory. The visitor’s experience is informally guided along three north – south routes; traversing the Desert Transit Route, Village Transit Route, and Sea Transit Route with the aid of digital media visitors accumulate experience. The routes are spatial episodes, accruing a continually branching pan-Arabic perspective. A digital overlay throughout the site interweaves pan –Arabic subtexts amplified in the Silk Web Cafés – media enhanced Archive and Exhibit realms.

They could see the endless flat desert beyond, broken here and there by sharp crests of rock that rose above the surface like dorsal dins of so many monstrous fish, all moving in the same direction.
-Paul Bowles

The modern Silk Road is a digital version of the original; a network connecting global nodes with wire, cable, satellite and air travel. Information central to the contemporary global economy, collapses space and time in the quest for speed and efficiency, enforcing the remoteness of physical commodity. As one of the primary sources of oil, the vast wealth of the Arab nations has created consumers of the modern equivalents of the luxury goods passed through the ancient conduit between China and Europe. The modern Silk Road feeds focal Arabic cities such as Dubai, Jeddah, Amman, Cairo, Kuwait City and Doha with travel, banking and digital communication.

The New Silk Road: Arabic Memory joins the tradition of Arabian calligraphic intent with its origins in symbolic visual reference and, multiplicity of meaning and interpretation. The New Silk Road: Arabic Memory establishes a complete presence on the site buy physically projecting Arabic daily existence and celebrating the historic connection between the Arab world and the Silk Road and the less tangible connections the Arab world makes through the modern Silk Road, inform a journey through a physical manifestation of Arabic space. Purposeful in its intent to engage community, the New Silk Road: Arabic Memory is an approachable celebratory community center; a living tapestry that is woven and read, felt and lived, as it travels back in time, spirals and unfolds toward contemporary Arabia and beyond to the future