Home and furniture : use and meaning of domestic space, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Saudi society is undergoing dramatic social transformation, brought about by rapid industrialisation and massive urbanisation. In this period of haste, home environments have experienced significant changes. There was a strong temptation by architects to pick Western houses designs off-the-shelf and by occupants to furnish their houses with modern imported furniture. A surplus economy made such 'shopping' possible. But while the Saudi society was transforming it would be an over simplification to term it `Westernising'. The new home environment leads us to question: how does modern furniture relate to the present-day Saudi family? Does modern furniture hinder or support Saudis' cultural values and identity? The aim of this study is to identify the influence of the use and meaning of modern furniture on the home environment in Jeddah. The study examines the home environment as a system within which constituents communicate continuously to reach different stages of compatibility. People communicate to furniture by using it and shaping its form, and furniture communicates to people by conveying how it is used and what it stands for (meaning). A model of nine stages has been developed to identify the possible relationships between form, use and meaning. The model is then used to analyse r, the relationship between occupants and furniture in both the traditional and contemporary home environment. The methodology of the study is qualitative. The data collection includes in-depth interviews with older women who lived in the traditional houses of Jeddah and housewives in contemporary houses, house floor plans, site and museums visits, a literature review, statistical data of furniture and appliances imported to Saudi Arabia, and other data related to social changes in Saudi Arabia. It has been found that traditional furniture was highly compatible with use, values and occupants' expression of identity. Modern furniture was introduced mainly for its meaning function and was incompatible with cultural values. Because cultural values have resisted change, some traditional furniture is still used and new local furniture was developed. This has led to an increase in the number of rooms, as some are used to express identity while others are used to maintain activities driven by traditional values.