Debating urban life: P&T and GAJ go head to head

Mahmoud Shahin of P&T and Islam El Mashtooly of Godwin Austen Johnson debate the advantages and disadvantages of urban life

Is city dwelling a natural state for humanity?
Shahin: From my perspective it is not natural. We as human beings don’t need cities as a natural state of living, since one of the reasons why we live in cities is because of the rapid evolvement of the human needs. This is simultaneously reflected in how cities are nowadays.

El Mashtooly: In spite of mankind’s progress in several fields, there is a significant gap in how to deal with the city. A living being has its own characteristics and the extent of the city’s response to that can mean that the human is no longer the most important factor in the city.

What are the major advantages of cities?
Shahin: Cities have a lot to offer when it comes to defining the human civilization. Living in cities exposes individuals to the diversity of communities. Simply it is all about better living with the facilities available, from transportation, education, health, industries, etc ….

El Mashtooly: I believe the quality of the places we live in has an impact on the entire aspect of our life. The advantage of designing a successful place involves bringing together the environmental, social and economic elements that are necessary for it to be truly sustainable.

What are the major disadvantages?
Shahin: When a city expands and starts to over-populate, it is then that it begins to be destructive when it comes to better living – therefore, you get crime, pollution, reduction of green and open spaces, increased cost of living and greater social challenges.

El Mashtooly: The disconnection between the human and the city can lead to bleakness and it is easy to miss the sense of belonging. It is essential to deliver places which are sustainable on all counts – places that create social, environmental and economic value.

What is the best city in the world for you?
Shahin: Barcelona. It has the dynamic and open personality of the Mediterranean cities. It is the perfect city to relax in, stroll around, learn and live. Barcelona has its own way of life which makes it unique. You are surrounded by history, art and architecture that is important in modern life.

El Mashtooly: The best city for me is one which looks natural, vibrant and you can easily read the identity and culture. I like cities which consider both human and nature together as one. I can feel this in places like Salalah in Oman, Tangier in Morocco, Ibb and Sanaa in Yemen.

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