Gathering together local and international experts to share experiences and exchange knowledge on modern architecture, conservation and reuse.

 

Yasser Elsheshtawy and his project uaemodern.com, a platform created “to explore and research the various ways in which modernism has manifested itself in the built environment of the UAE”, has lent its name to our conference.

Thanks to increased awareness by institutional bodies on the crucial role of architectural heritage and fostering the identity of the Nation. Important targets have been achieved in the last two decades in the Region in the field of documentation and conservation with most of the actions taken focused on buildings and heritage sites prior to the 1950s. An important program has been developed for bringing back to life the “Heart of Sharjah”, with the Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism Authority leading actions towards the valorisation of its tangible and intangible heritage. Driven by the recognition in its territory of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Dubai has accomplished many restoration projects of defensive and residential buildings, old mosques, schools and souks. These are some of the important milestones of a journey that aims at fostering the Emirati self-consciousness on its own history and culture, as it moves forward to encompassing the regions more recent urban and architectural accomplishments, and the conservation of their most significant outcomes.

The 2014 and 2016 editions of the UAE participation at the Venice Architecture Biennale have helped broaden the time frame of architectural legacy and enabled documentation of the achievements of the 1960s, 70s and 80s along with raising attention to tangible and intangible aspects of the UAE society as shown in many research documents, of which the “Lest we forget” initiative promoted by Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation is a successful example.

On the other hand, events such as the demolition of the Plaza Cinema and the ongoing erosion of the existing urban fabric call for a reflection over the specificity of the UAE legacy, where the immaterial qualities to preserve are not always embedded in outstanding architectures.

 

In parallel, the projects for the development of historical sites in the region have to deal with the complex relationship between re-use and reconstruction.

The booming of urban settlements in the region has in fact happened under such unique circumstances and a compressed time-line, that the recognition of material and immaterial values to preserve require a more sophisticated analytical framework than that used to study urban settlements that have developed at a slower pace.  

The conference aims at sharing ideas and experiences on the conservation of modern architecture and will help broaden the discussion on a subject that already punctuates the cultural debate in the region. The conference brings together institutional experts, committed to the conservation of architectural heritage, and acclaimed professionals who are actively practicing in this field, researchers who have contributed to the study and the recognition of the UAE cultural legacy and public and private stakeholders.

 

The conference will give the local institutional bodies a chance to present the achievements and projects that are currently under construction and will help in spreading the awareness of the role played by architectural conservationists, within the creative industry, and its contribution to the development of cultural tourism.

Massimo Imparato

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