Dubai/ Transformation of Village Housing III: Urban regeneration of village dwellings (1995-2005)
As a reaction against the claims of blatant globalization in the architectural scene of Dubai, urban regeneration can be seen as a way of re-enacting the lost identity of the region. This typology emerged since the 2000s based on the regeneration of existing urban areas. Efforts were made in re-creating and restoring traditional urban environments in the Bastakiya and Shindaga areas where were once the traditional village dwellings.
In the late 1980s, half of the Al Bastakiya village was destroyed to make way for the development of a new office complex. The wind tower houses in the remaining area were used as warehouses and accommodation for migrant workers from different countries. The demolition of the remaining of Al Bastakiya was halted by Rayner Otter in early 1990s, a British architect who came to the area and made extensive renovation in the village. Rayner started a campaign to preserve the area and he gained support from Prince Charles on preserving the entire Al Bastakiya. Upon the successful campaign, the Dubai Municipality was able to initiate the restoration of locality’s old buildings and lanes in 2005.
In consequence, the Al Bastakiya is transformed into the Al-Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. The buildings of the district are used in incubating various cultural and artistic activities both publicly and privately. These include art exhibits, specialized museums, cultural and artistic societies, and ateliers to cultural centres. The district also hosts a number of seasonal cultural and artistic events with heritage scatted all over the district. The restoration of this village does not only convey the historical relevance of the architectural style, but also the geographical significance. The strategic location at Dubai Creek, played an important role in managing Dubai and organizing its commercial relations overseas.
The urban regeneration exemplified above offer a great opportunity for the public to acquaint with the old way of life, which was prevalent in Dubai. The rich values were reflected in the design of the buildings and the configuration of the village. For instance, the importance of privacy can be felt in the scarcity of front windows, which were also narrow and placed on a higher level. The winding and twisting alleys and pathways, as well as the south-western facing dwellings were some of the vernacular intelligence used in the past and preserved. These architectural techniques are still relevant in nowadays as the climatic and geographical condition persist, yet they are gradually neglected as the Dubai adopts the westernized architectural style in most of its residential designs. The urban regeneration might serve as a reminder for future generation to learn about the past.
As Khaled Asfour put it “Direct copying of the past is as absurd as copying from the West.”, the urban regeneration projects in Dubai serves as a tool for long-term education and research for young local architects to create an appropriate environment for the future. The village restoration can also be another mean to envision the strategy for residential typologies in Dubai which fits the climatic conditions and creating a humane living environment for the dwellers in Dubai. In contrast with superimposing westernized influenced villas in this region, urban regeneration of traditional villages should be considered the way out to the generic homogenized living environment in Dubai.
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“Live OurHeritage.” Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. Accessed December 13, 2017. http://www.dubaiculture.gov.ae/en/Live-Our-Heritage/Pages/Al-Fahidi-Historical-Neighbourhood.aspx.