Track 6: INTEGRATING OLD AND NEW – BUILDINGS, DISTRICTS, and LANDSCAPES / Volet 6: Intégrer l’ancien et le nouveau – Immeubles, quartiers et paysages

Dubai...in the Race for Excellence

Saturday, October 14
10:45 AM - 12:15 PM

The preservation of heritage and the processes involved are now being used to address issues vital to living in the 21st century such as its role in shaping of the identity of cities. The notion and relevance of cultural heritage has evolved from simply the desire to preserve the past. The orientation of the process itself has evolved. It is no longer solely about pursuing economic goals but also about improving the environment of a community - in a sustainable manner that will allow them to live within the social fabric with which they are comfortable.

At a UNESCO-sponsored conference of the Ministers of Education of the African Union held in Algeria in April 2005, it was agreed that although education was a fundamental right, it was culture and heritage that shaped an individual’s way of life and provided a strong incentive for widening the range of options available to ensure sustainable development in a globalized world.

In its efforts to be recognized as a global city, the Emirate of Dubai has followed a unique chart of development. Setting itself ambitious goals, Dubai has strived to excel in all areas of its urban growth, including the development of its cultural resources. Fundamental to its national identity, is the preservation of its heritage sites. Although many would cite this as par for the course, it is vital that successful historic site interventions not be confused with the need to reconstruct historic urban fabric at the expense of ‘progressive development’.

In 2011, the United Arab Emirates applied to UNESCO to have Dubai Creek included on the World Heritage list. Measuring between 100-500 meters in width, Dubai Creek is a natural seawater inlet located in the heart of Dubai. Previously extending to a wildlife sanctuary, the Creek has now become part of the development of the new Dubai canal, extending it all the way to the shores of the Persian Gulf. Over the course of the 20th century, the Creek not only became the commercial centre of Dubai but also the political seat of the ruling family. The preservation of the geographical area was realized when it started becoming incorporated into the newer developments taking place in Dubai.

Unfortunately, Dubai Creek was not recommended to be included on the list, for reasons ranging from lack of integrity and authenticity to the absence of legal protection measures and the non-inclusion and sustainability of human settlement.

This paper will examine the above reasons and the challenges that rapid urban developments present in the preservation of historic sites. By understanding the application of conservation principles and tools, the paper will posit why in its race for excellence, Dubai struggles to reconcile the old with the new.

Learning Objectives:

Sabeen bin Zayyad

PhD Student
Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary

Sabeen bin Zayyad is in her 2nd year of the PhD program with the Faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary. Her current research focuses on how environmental design can be used to address the disconnect between local cultures and Western ‘modern’ design. Other research interests include how heritage initiatives can be used as a platform for socio-economic development.

Sabeen just had her first peer-reviewed paper (co-authored by her supervisor, Dr. Brian R. Sinclair), published - "Culture, Context + Environmental Design: Reconsidering Vernacular in Modern Islamic Urbanism" - a result of the Architectural Research Addressing Societal Challenges 2016 Conference proceedings held in Lisbon, Portugal.

She just explored the world of social media by joining Twitter and is trying to understand why people don’t engage more often at a scholarly level and have exciting discussions given the powerful reach of this little bird.

Presentation(s):

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