The oil boom of the 1960s and economic changes thereafter have resulted in many
changes to the structure of the traditional towns in Libya. Therefore, this thesis addresses
problems generated by the recent urban architectural developments introduced in the
three towns' Murzuq, Ghat and Zawilah, south Libya which have ignored the
requirements of their indigenous culture. The objectives of this research are to create a
framework for the future that will guide urban and architectural developments in response
or in line with the holistic indigenous culture and support the cultural and social
transformation of the three towns as well as to introduce principles for architecture that
have an ecological response in the case study.
To address the problem, the research adopts the tool and methods of the school of cultural
ecology which has the capacity to address social and cultural values in relation to the
natural setting of these towns and their unique and distinctive environmental conditions.
Cultural ecology is characterised as an approach to understanding human -environmental
or social -natural phenomena; it was adopted as a driving force for this investigative study
of these three ancient desert towns. An open -ended questionnaire and interviews placed
the research focus on qualitative interpretations as a route towards appreciating the deep
motivations that emerged from these cultures. Recently, cultural ecology has been seen as
the bedrock for introducing many theories and ongoing researches on environmental
issues, such as environmental ethics with their different notions, Gaia hypothesis and
The research adopts the philosophy of the school of cultural ecology that brings to the
forefront a set of theories in the field of social and cultural research such as adaptation,
motivation and structuralism. Adaptation is a process whereby an organism apparently
fits better into its environment and way of life. The human needs are identified through
Maslow's theory of motivation, which sheds light on how these needs are met.
Structuralism is presented here as a tool to understanding, which transforms the theories
of adaptation and motivation in a more complex way to understand the development of
culturally -rich lifestyles and settlement patterns in resource -poor and stressful
environments. There is a clear connection between cultural ecology and structuralism
where surface structure (phenotype) and deep structure (genotype), as espoused by
structuralism, correspond to the notions of culture surface and culture core.
The thesis consists of four parts. Part One introduces the research and the theoretical
framework over three chapters. Following an introductory chapter, Chapter Two locates
the topic in its theoretical context by introducing many notions related to the man -
environment relationship. Chapter Three sets out many notions related to the research
umbrella, which is the school of cultural ecology.
Part Two consists of the empirical work and covers the field study over four chapters.
Chapter Four describes the background of the case study, Chapter Five the piling of
people's responses to an open -ended questionnaire and further interviews. Chapter Six is
a further analysis of people's responses by using different techniques and Chapter Seven
explores the analysis in more depth by identifying how people's answers reveal the
presence of discernible methods of culture core and culture surface.
Part Three consists of Chapter Eight and it introduces specific theories that complement
the theoretical section as well as gives a further explanation of many points that arose in
the empirical analysis.
Part Four, with Chapter Nine, presents the research's conclusion and recommendations.
In this part, the fieldwork is integrated with the theoretical aspects of the study. The body
of knowledge in this thesis will help designers and decision makers with principles that
return to the theme of providing architectural designs that maintain a balance for the
ecology, where ecology is intimately bound into the cultural context.