URBIC is a system that combines Urban Studies terminology with the Arabic language and unites them visually with their English meaning. The reason behind developing such a system is the cultural boundaries and difficulties we face in a multilingual country. For instance, Arabic is the national language of Lebanon, but people are usually educated in French or English. Discussing urban issues using Arabic terminology is almost impossible. Discussing urban issues in technical terms to non-professionals poses problems, even if the language is shared. This project simplifies urban terminology so that it can reach a broader audience by following one simple guideline: The meaning of the English term is translated visually and literally through the lines that shape the Arabic equivalent term. Therefore, the universal language of visuals reconciles multiple cultural identities and brings the profession closer to its real users.

Jury Statement

For centuries, ornamental explorations of Arabic script have been diverse and mesmerizing. The great visual richness manifests both in an elaborated application derived from handwriting, as well as in abstract geometric patterns and ornamentations. This is particularly true in the architectural context. The URBIC experiment combines these visual traditions with current urban design themes in a surprising approach. Concepts of urban planning are reproduced as characters in Arabic translation; they convey meaning visually without abandoning readability. Tracy Bassil combines her passion as an Architecture and Digital Media student with the local visual culture of Beirut to raise awareness of urban challenges like accessibility, densification, urban sprawl, and environmental equity. In a playful way, this reminds us of our social responsibilities building the physical and digital infrastructures for future generations. Even though not all symbols appear perceptible at first glance to the Arabic reader, the jury was impressed by the convincibility of the global visual language, its unique approach to hybridity, and the design quality of the 45 symbols.

Tracy Bassil

I am an Architecture student expecting to graduate in Spring 2017 with a minor in Digital Media. The broad spectrum of design intrigues me, especially graphic design, animation, urban planning, and industrial design. I am also interested in the way national identity is expressed or repressed in architecture, arts, and social interactions