Rethinking Bibi-Heybat: Birth, death, rebirth of Baku's oil field
MetadataShow full item record
Large urban parks are extensive landscapes that are integral to the fabric of the cities in which they are situated. They offer diverse recreational outdoor spaces to fulfill experiential needs and to help consolidate the public’s sense of collective identity and outdoor life, hosting a broad range of people and constituencies. The ultimate virtue of large urban parks, when combined with social activities and interactions, is to enhance and evolve the sense of community, citizenship, and belonging in a locale. Vast urban parks allow visitors to take refuge from the busy lifestyle of cities and to be exposed to the charms and peace of nature, while discovering intimate places for retreat, renewal, and isolation. Large parks are also treasured for their ecological functions, in addition to their experiential and cultural benefits. These vast tracts of land provide a habitat for a rich ecology of plants, animals,birds, aquatic, and microbial life. Furthermore, these great outdoor nature theaters act as a cleaning, refreshing, and enriching influence on cities. Despite these obvious benefits, parks, especially large urban parks, are often overlooked or dismissed in the fastest-expanding cities; instead, most development attention is focused on mass housing, skyscrapers, hotels, condominiums, and signature buildings. This is true in Azerbaijan, as demonstrated in the environs of the capital, Baku. Alongside Dubai and Shanghai, Baku is now one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. The current government-sponsored construction boom is dramatically altering the urban face of Azerbaijan’s capital—but how long can such a breakneck speed can be maintained, and at what cost? The main impetus behind the rapid growth in Baku, and the exploitation and expansion of its urban environs, is the current oil boom—and yet most of the city’s residents have not yet realized the riches or promise of oil wealth. The unregulated construction boom has destroyed many historical neighbourhoods and traditional communities; the cultural, historical, and architectural landscape of the entire city is changing. The new wave of construction has reached towards the southeastern fringe of Baku, where Bibi-Heybat, a former oil field, lies. After decades of environmental carelessness, negligence, and extensive exploitation of the area’s resources, Bibi-Heybat has become one of the most polluted places on Earth. This thesis aims to address this issue by remediating the site, enabling this highly toxic locale to be redeveloped for better use by the people of Baku, turning it into a site that enriches people’s lives through architecture and landscape architecture. Through intensive remediation and thoughtful composition, Bibi-Heybat will be wholly transformed. The contaminated, inaccessible former oil field will be reclaimed and healed, becoming an important missing piece for Baku residents. Free from disturbance, the unstoppable dynamic of natural ecological process will create a new landscape with grasslands, shrubs, low and upland woodland, and clean water. As the landscape develops, diversity and balance will return, creating an environment where human activities and natural processes co-exist. Land, air, and water are vital pieces of life and essential for people`s physical and spiritual health; everyone feels a basic need to return to nature from time to time. Bibi-Heybat will be an embodiment of sustainable urban landscape theories, proving that qualities of wilderness can be re-established within a large city. Large parks are an invaluable part of a healthy city, and those that do not have one will always be the poorer. By tapping into the unrealized resources and wealth of Bibi-Heybat, all the people of Baku will benefit.