Joseph John Hobbs

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.26687/archnet-ijar.v11i2.1240


This paper examines how the architectural, social, and cultural heritage of the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries may contribute to better development of this region’s lived environment. Modern urbanism has largely neglected heritage in architectural design and in social and private spaces, creating inauthentic places that foster a hunger for belongingness in the UAE’s built environment. The paper reviews recent urban developments in the UAE and the Gulf Region, and identifies elements of local heritage that can be incorporated into contemporary planning and design. It proposes that adapting vernacular architectural heritage to the modern built environment should not be the principal goal for heritage-informed design. Instead we may examine the social processes underlying the traditional lived environment, and aim for social sustainability based on the lifeways and preferences of local peoples, especially in kinship and Islamic values. Among the most promising precedents for modern social sustainability are social and spatial features at the scale of the neighborhood in traditional Islamic settlements. Interviews with local Emiratis will also recommend elements of traditional knowledge to modern settings. 


vernacular architecture; bioclimatic architecture; Islamic urbanism; social sustainability; traditional knowledge; sense of place; United Arab Emirates; Gulf countries.

Full Text:



Adam, R. (2013). Doha, Qatar. In M. Fraser & N. Golzari (Eds.). Architecture and Globalisation in the Persian Gulf Region (pp. 105-128). Ashgate, UK: Farnham.

Ahmed, K.G. (2012). Urban Social Sustainability: A Study of the Emirati Local Communities in Al Ain. Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability 5(1), 41-66.

Akbar, J. (1988). Crisis in the Built Environment: The Case of the Muslim City. Singapore, Minar.

Ardalan, N. (2013). Sustainable Identity: New Paradigms for the Persian Gulf. In M. Fraser & N. Golzari (Eds.), Architecture and Globalisation in the Persian Gulf Region (pp. 329-346). Ashgate, UK: Farnham.

Ardalan, N. (2014). Towards Sustainable Urbanism in the Persian Gulf: Analysis of the Past. International Journal of Islamic Architecture, 3(1),171-186.

Art of Geography. (2016). The Sense of Place: What is the Sense of Place? From http://www.artofgeography.com/info/the-sense-of-place

Aydinli, S. and A. Karababa (2013). Bushehr, Iran. In M. Fraser & N. Golzari (Eds.), Architecture and Globalisation in the Persian Gulf Region (pp. 243-264). Ashgate, UK: Farnham.

Bahadori, M., Sanij, A. & and Sayigh, A. (2014), Wind Towers: Architecture, Climate and Sustainability. Springer, Wiesbaden.

BioclimaticX. (2016). What is Bioclimatic Architecture? From http://bioclimaticx.com/bioclimatiarchitecture1

Botz-Bornstein, T. (2016). Transcultural Architecture: The Limits and Opportunities of Critical Regionalism. London: Routledge.

Caton, C. and Ardlan, N. (2010). New Arab Urbanism: The Challenge to Sustainability and Culture in the Gulf, Final Report Prepared for the Kuwait Program Research Fund. Cambridge, Mass.: John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Chadirji, R. (1986). Concepts and Influences: Towards a Regionalised International Architecture. London: Routledge & Kagan Paul.

CNN. (2014). Is the Middle East the New Hub of Global Aviation? From http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/29/travel/qatar-gulf-airports/ (Accessed 5 May, 2016).

Collins, L. (2012). Book Reawakens Interest in Ancient Palm-Leaf Architecture. The National, February 2. From http://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/books/book-reawakens-interest-in-ancient-palm-leaf-architecture

Di Méo, G. (1991) L'Homme, la Société, l'Espace. Paris: Anthropos.

Duncan, O. and Tomic, S. (2013). Abu Dhabi, UAE. In M. Fraser & N. Golzari (Eds.), Architecture and Globalisation in the Persian Gulf Region (pp. 129-154). Ashgate, UK: Farnham.

Elsheshtawy, Y. (Ed.). (2004). Planning Middle Eastern Cities: An Urban Kaleidescope in a Changing World. London: Routledge.

Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency. (2003). Environmental Strategy and Action Plans for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi.

Falahat, S. (2014). Re-Imagining the City: A New Conceptualization of the Urban Logic of the ‘Islamic City.’ Wiesbaden: Springer

Fox, J., N. Mourtaba-Saba, & M. Al Murtawa (Eds). (2006). Globalization and the Gulf. New York: Routledge.

Fraser, M. (2013). The Scale of Globalisation. In M. Fraser & N. Golzari (Eds.), Architecture and Globalisation in the Persian Gulf Region (pp. 383-404). Ashgate, UK: Farnham.

Galantay, E. (1987). Islamic Identity and the Metropolis: Continuity and Conflict. In A. Saqqaf (Ed.), The Middle East City: Ancient Traditions Confront a Modern World (pp. 5-24). New York: Paragon.

Hagan, S. (2013). Reflections on a Wind Catcher: Climate and Cultural Identity. In Fraser, M. and N. Golzari (Eds.), Architecture and Globalisation in the Persian Gulf Region (pp. 347-358). Ashgate, Farnham.

Hakim, B. (1994). The ‘Urf’ and Its Role in Diversifying the Architecture of Traditional Islamic Cities. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research 11 (2), 108-127.

Hawker, R. (2008). Traditional Architecture of the Arabian Gulf: Building on Desert Tides. Southampton, U.K.: WIT Press

Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (Eds.). (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Cape Town: Trident Press.

Jaidah, I. and Bourennane, M. (2010). The History of Qatari Architecture 1800-1950. New York: Skira.

Jumeirah Resorts. Have You Ever Wanted to Experience Medinat Jumeirah in 3600? Now You Can. From https://www.jumeirah.com/en/hotels-resorts/dubai/madinat-jumeirah

Khan, H. (2015). Architectural Conservation as a Tool for Cultural Continuity: A Focus on the Built Environment of Islam.

International Journal of Architectural Research, 9(1), 1-17.

Leech, N. (2011). Lessons to be Learnt from Buildings of the Past. The National, September 17. From http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/lessons-to-be-learnt-from-buildings-of-the-past

Makower, T. (2013). Doha Renaissance: Msheireb Reborn. In M. Fraser & N. Golzari (Eds.), Architecture and Globalisation in the Persian Gulf Region (pp. 359-382). Ashgate, UK.

Mitchell, K. (2013). Dubai, UAE. In Fraser, M. and N. Golzari (Eds.), Architecture and Globalisation in the Persian Gulf Region (pp. 155-172). Ashgate, UK: Farnham.

McHarg, I. (1971). Design with Nature. New York: Doubleday.

Mohammed, G.T. & Thwaites, K. (2010). An Exploratory and Reflective Process of Urban Spatial Morphology within Social Sustainability: Lessons from Middle Eastern Islamic Tradition. Digest of Middle East Studies, 249–267.

Msheireb Downtown Doha. From http://mdd.msheireb.com/en-us/home.aspx?_ga=1.248943623.1216771423.1471635191

Nasr, S. (1980). Towards an Understanding of Architectural Symbolism. In Towards an Architecture in the Spirit of Islam. Aga Khan Awards.

Nour, H. (2015). Reconsidering the Waqf: Traditional Mechanism of Urban Regeneration in Historic Muslim Cities. International Journal of Architectural Research, 9(1), 18-30.

Ouroussoff, N. (Feb. 1, 2007). A Vision in the Desert. The New York Times. From http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/01/arts/design/04ouro.html?_r=1

Piesik, S. (2012). Arish: Palm-Leaf Architecture. London: Thames and Hudson.

Polese, M. & Stren R. (2000). The Social Sustainability of Cities: Diversity and Management of Change. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Ragette, F. (2013). Traditional Domestic Architecture of the Arab Region. Fellbach: Edition Axel Menges.

Relph, E. (1976). Place and Placelessness. London: Pion.

Saleh, M.A.E. (2004). Learning from Tradition: The Planning of Residential Neighbourhoods in a Changing World. Habitat International 28, 625-639.

Seamon, D. & Sowers, J. (2008). A Singular Impact: Edward Relph’s Place and Placelessness. In P. Hubbard, R. Kitchen & G. Vallentine (Eds.), Key Texts in Human Geography (pp. 43-51). London: Sage.

Stevens, P. (March 27, 2015). Sandra Piesik Constructs a Food Shelter Using Palm Leaves. DesignBoom, From http://www.designboom.com/architecture/sandra-piesik-3-ideas-ltd-food-shelter-the-sabla-al-ain-unesco-03-27-2015/

UAE Interact. Traditional Architecture. From http://www.uaeinteract.com/culture/architecture.asp

Vine, P. (Ed.). (2009). United Arab Emirates 2009. London: Trident Press.

White, L. (1967). The Historic Roots of our Ecologic Crisis. Science 155(3767), 203-207.

Worldwide Fund for Nature. (2014). Living Planet Report 2014


Yassine, W. & Elgendy, K. (2011). Passive Cooling: Responding to Electricity Demand in the UAE. From http://www.carboun.com/sustainable-design/passive-cooling-responding-to-uae’s-soaring-electricity-demand/

Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan. From http://www.ourfatherzayed.ae/eng/web.html#Words%20Of%20Wisdom,

Zhang, Z. (2006). What is Lived Space? Ephemera 6(2), 219-223.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2017 International Journal of Architectural Research: ArchNet-IJAR


- ISSN (Online) #1938 7806 - ArchNet-IJAR is covered by ArchNet@ MIT Libraries, Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals, EBSCO, CNKI, Pro-Quest, Scopus-Elsevier, Web of Science.

- Published work in ArchNet-IJAR is licensed under Creative Commons: CC-BY--NC-ND license, see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

Copyrights © Archnet-IJAR 2007-2017


Hit Counter
Visitor Hits Since 15 Jan 2014