Continuity and change of identity in the home environment : development of the private house in Hofuf, Saudi Arabia
The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of searching for identity in the house form in the city of Hofuf. Studies so far carried out into material culture in general and into the development of the house, specifically the use and meaning of space, in Saudi Arabia have not dealt with the matter of identity and how it relates, in its various manifestations, to house form. The main question to be considered is whether the house form in Hofuf responded to the need to express individual and collective identity. The assumptions behind this study were firstly that people's actions in relation to the home environment have been influenced in some way by continued traditions, secondly that these actions have been the expressions or attempted expressions of people's identity whether individual or collective, and thirdly that the exisiting identity of the contemporary home is a mix of of continued, developed and new traditions, meanings and experiences. This study has adopted the ethnographic approach because it is difficult to understand the relationship between people and their physical environment without going deep into their everyday lives. The interaction between people and physical form required from the researcher a study of the physical home environment in Hofuf as it has been in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Moreover not only the physical environment had to be investigated, but also how people understood and interpreted the meanings of physical forms. It was these considerations which led the researcher to measure many houses, to take many phtographs, to collect many floor plans, and to conduct many interviews with residents in Hofuf. The development of private home in the the city of Hofuf shows that there have been strong traditions and experiences which have maintained the significance of the home environment in general and the private home in particular over a period of time and through a series of changes in the its perceptual and associational aspects. In particular the contemporary private house in Hofuf shows, despite changes in layout and perceptual aspects, the enduring associational meaning and use of space within the home environment. The desire to express personal identity in the features of the house combined with the need to maintain privacy requirements, and other factors such as a greater demand for individualised sleeping spaces, has led, in the contemporary Hofuf house, to a potential crisis, where the increasing size of houses threatens to make them economically unviable. This situation has to be dealt with, perhaps through quantitative studies using the findings of this present investigation. In this way it may be possible for future planners and designers to retain the enduring and essential symbolic meanings of the private home while adapting and restructuring the physical home environment.