BIENNALE ARCHITETTURA 2016 – National Participation of United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates - Biennale Architettura 2016


The exhibition explores the transformative aspect of the housing model of Emirati National Houses, known as sha’abi (folk) houses. It’s focus is on how a standard housing model was adapted by residents to individualized homes, thus reflecting their culture and lifestyles.

This housing type was introduced in the 1970s to settle a transient population, and urbanize a newly emerging nation. Architecturally it was based on a simple diagram: a courtyard housing typology derived from traditional precedents. As residents’ needs evolved, a series of changes took place. These were functional: addition of rooms, enlargement of living spaces, and the raising of enclosure walls to ensure privacy. Other modifications were for aesthetic or symbolic reasons; replacing entrance doorways, repainting outer walls and elaborate landscaping. The house reflected its inhabitants’ needs, culture and lifestyle.

Modifications resulted in visual diversity, moving away from a monotonous appearance. In presenting this case the pavilion hopes to first, move the discourse concerning the urban environment in the UAE to one that is grounded in the everyday life of its citizens. Secondly, to present an example in which architects have provided residents with the necessary tools to modify their own environment. The story of the national house is told through three thematic sections: a historical part documenting the origins of these houses; a neighborhood/city scale showing the diversity and prevalence of this housing type throughout the UAE; and lastly the house/building scale enabling visitors to experience the architectural and urban qualities of the Emirati National House.

This section presents archival images, documents and videos that record the establishment of the National Housing project throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. It includes aerial photographs captured by British Petroleum, initial architectural drawings, images of sha‘bīyaa (folk) neighborhoods by Dutch photographer Gerard Klijn as well as the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Petroleum Operations Ltd. (ADCO), and archival newspaper clippings from Al Ittihad and other local publications.
The section examines the urban fabric of national housing developments at a city-wide scale. An interactive map provides insight into the landscape of the UAE and the widespread development of traditional residential, or sha‘bīyaa (folk) neighborhoods. It is accompanied by architectural models at various scales, analytical diagrams, photography and video.
This section develops a detailed analysis of the national house at an individual level, through massing models, elevation drawings, diagrams representing individual changes to each building within a contemporary neighborhood and a large scale model of a group of houses.
The centrepiece of the exhibition presents a detailed case study of a single national house and the Emirati family who continue to live there, through a detailed architectural analysis as well as intimate family memories. The section is accompanied by a specially commissioned series of images by Emirati photographer Reem Falaknaz, who has travelled to these neighborhoods to capture the human aspect of living communities.
Credits: Story

"Transformations: The Emirati National House"
National Pavilion United Arab Emirates
15th International Architecture Exhibition - la Biennale di Venezia (2016)

Commissioner: Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation
Curator: Yasser Elsheshtawy

All content and images courtesy National Pavilion United Arab Emirates - la Biennale di Venezia. All content and images cannot be reproduced without permission.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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