Domestic Window Design and Interior Daylight in Jeddah: Designing for Saudi Women
Shatwan, Alaa Mohammed
Architecture in Jeddah city in the western region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has gradually undergone a significant shift in style, a consequence of the implementation of contemporary Western architecture after the oil boom in the country in 1970. Contemporary buildings with letterbox windows have become popular in the area, replacing the traditional appearance of local buildings characterised by the Roshan (a type of window used in vernacular Jeddah architecture), and many of the characteristics of contemporary architecture do not seem to fit the local context. As a consequence, the needs of modern Muslim women have been disregarded in favour of a new aesthetic, in the course of implementing recent changes in technology and architecture. Research on the current trajectory which architecture has recently taken in the country is needed to explore these consequences. In particular, this study focuses on window design, considering openings as pivotal element between daylight control and cultural religious and personal aspects of today’s Saudi women. The aim of this study is to examine daylight and window design to better accommodate women’s needs in flats in Jeddah built from 1970 to 2016. The window is analysed in this study as a pivotal element of the transition between vernacular and contemporary architecture in Jeddah, with implications for the interior quality of space in blocks of flats, including wellbeing and daylight conditions and functional and symbolic values. The first part of my data collection is dedicated to survey photography and floor plan drawings for blocks of flats in Jeddah. Then, primary data are generated through interviews with women to understand their perceptions in relation to window design and daylight in their living room spaces. The third dataset is based on daylight calculation, which involved computer modelling applied to interviewees’ flats in Jeddah. These phases have unearthed a clear discrepancy between the design principles employed by the decision makers, and the wishes of the female population, who actually use the residential spaces for the majority of time. Whilst the former consider the amount of daylight which is sufficient, the latter perceive their homes to be dark and unhealthy. The fourth part of this study comprises interviews with architecture professionals (professors of architecture, municipality officer and architects) to determine where this discrepancy originates, and to what extent a reconsideration of design tenets or guidelines can help to resolve the issue. The study concludes with an examination of the reasons behind the current issues of inadequate daylight and privacy for Saudi women. It revealed daylight was less than 100 lux in most participants’ flats. The levels ranged between 50 lux and 70 lux, which does not meet the target for the Saudi climate. This has a negative effect on women’s wellbeing and satisfaction. It also reveals that women’s needs in home design are not a major consideration for architects. Also, it shows that the absence of detailed building regulations regarding window design and daylight levels is the major reason for this issue. The results show that there is a significant difference between the answers from women and the answers from professionals in terms of the small gap between buildings and daylight levels (P=0.005). Also, the results show that there is a statistical difference between women’s and professionals’ responses about whether daylight levels or measurements are considered when designing living room windows (P=0.019). In conclusion, this study proposes a set of guidelines to policy makers that building regulations should be updated to consider the findings of this study in order to provide better new regulations that consider women’s needs in the design of flat windows.