The original World Trade Center, designed by John Harris in 1973
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The original World Trade Center, designed by John Harris in 1973

Dubai launches new mission to preserve modernist buildings

Dubai Municipality has recently announced its plan to preserve the architectural heritage of the emirate by conserving buildings that date back to the 1960s and 70s. 

Called 'Modern Heritage', the initiative signifies the historical importance of Dubai's urban development, and claims many of these buildings as part of the emirate's narrative. 

In collaboration with a number of partners including the Ministry of Health and Prevention, Al Baraha Hospital, Knowledge Fund Establishment, Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and the World Trade Center, Dubai Municipality has launched Modern Heritage in conjunction with the Planning Department and the Architectural Heritage Department (part of the municipality). 

Modern Heritage has created a list of buildings that it aims to protect in the first stage of its process, which includes the Dubai World Trade Center, Clock Tower, Al Baraha Hospital, Al Khuloud Nursery and Al Ras Library. 

According to Eng. Ahmed Mahmoud, director of the Architectural Heritage Department, the list intends to incorporate "the most important buildings" that date back to the 1960s and 70s that reflect the cultural, social and architectural values of those times.

“Many of these buildings still occupy major positions and perform important functions. The buildings have had a great impact on shaping the urban environment and crystallising the architectural character of the 1960s and 70s of Dubai's development,” he added.

Dating back to 1975, Al Khuloud Nursery School in Dubai's Karama neighbourhood was designed by Palestinian architect Jafar Touqan and reflects a modern interpretation of local vernacular architecture. According to a statement released by the municipality, the design serves as an architectural model of the buildings that were built in the 1970s.

"It responds to the functional requirements for the establishment of an educational space for children, and [takes into account] the environmental and aesthetic aspects," the statement added. "The design of the building was adopted as a model that was replicated in many areas, one of which is located in the emirate of Sharjah."

Two other buildings on the list were designed by John Harris -- the Dubai World Trade Centre (1973) and Al Baraha Hospital (1966), which is one of the first hospitals to be built in the emirate's Deira area.

The Modern Heritage Initiative is in line with recent global and regional trends to protect cultural heritage. UNESCO has begun to incorporate many of these buildings into the World Heritage list as part of the heritage of humanity.