UAE Launches Project to Preserve Architecture


According to reports, the United Arab Emirates has recently introduced a new initiative to recognize and preserve the country’s modern architecture.

The Modern Architectural Heritage of the UAE project reportedly aims to research, document, conserve and preserve the most significant examples of post-1960s architecture in the country.

Salem Al Qassimi, Minister of Culture and Youth, said the initiative would explore “various facets of urban heritage and its centrality to the UAE's national identity”.

“From the notable landmarks to the daily communal spaces that emerged from the 1960s onwards, a significant portion of our history is intertwined, continually fueling innovative thinking and inspiring unconventional ideas in the present day,” he said.

According to the Ministry’s website, the classification of “modern architectural heritage” includes the built environment, buildings, interior spaces and cultural landscapes. It also “celebrates” the importance of the architectural monuments and their cultural significance.

In a video about the initiative, the government listed sites that would fall under the project, including:

  • Abu Dhabi’s Bus Terminal and National Theatre;
  • Dubai’s Deira Clocktower (which is currently undergoing renovation) and Dubai World Trade Centre;
  • Al-Qasimiyah school and the Flying Saucer in Sharjah;
  • Fujairah Trade Centre and International Airport;
  • Ajman’s Independent Studios and Clock Square;
  • Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium;
  • Saqr Hospital in Ras al Khaimah; and
  • Umm Al Quwain’s Al Arabi Cultural Sports Club.

The National News reports that the project coincides with the country’s Year of Sustainability, noting that it will focus on ways that these buildings can be sustainability adapted to meet evolving environmental and social needs.

“We are rallying community members, encouraging them to foster a deep sense of pride in our nation's unique architectural identity and actively participate in preservation endeavors,” Al Qassimi said.

The Ministry of Culture and Youth had also formed a technical committee for modern heritage in 2020 to achieve the goals of the initiative. The committee reportedly identifies and classifies modern heritage in the UAE, provides technical advice on modern heritage and contributes to the preparation of policies, future directions and national strategies for managing, preserving and spreading awareness of modern heritage.

The UAE government explains that the modern architectural movement can be divided into two periods, the first emerging in the 1960s. This era reportedly saw “remarkable” economic growth and development, which spurred urban planning and infrastructure projects.

The second period followed after the 1990s, which embraced “cutting-edge” construction techniques and materials, such as glass and aluminum cladding. Several architectural models of skyscrapers were built during this time, which the UAE says “cannot be distinguished from those in other cities around the world and buildings with facades that simulate the traditional architectural style.”

Additionally, Al Qassimi explains that the project "comes at a time when we have just completed a significant milestone as a nation and are setting the tone for the next 50 years towards the centennial.”

He added that it was the collection of efforts by the Ministry of Culture and Youth and local governments to preserve the country’s built environment, which he said illustrates “innovative thinking and creativity at its best and defines our national ethos.”

Prior to the new announcement, a related project was launched by the Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi, which has compiled a list of 64 buildings and heritage sites in the capital in need of protection under its Modern Heritage Conservation Initiative, prioritizing their rehabilitation and maintenance.

“Architecture is an essential pillar of our Emirati and Arab culture, and an authentic pillar that defines the essence of our civilization, our rich history, and our country’s aspirations for the future. That is why we were keen, through this initiative, to celebrate the architectural heritage,” Al Qassimi said in a release.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architectural history; Architecture; Color + Design; Commercial / Architectural; EU; Government; Historic Preservation; Historic Structures; Middle East; Modernist architecture; Preservation; Program/Project Management; Projects - Commercial

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