UAE architecture needs to find its own identity

One of the obstacles facing architecture in the UAE could be the influx of international architects who don’t know much about the culture or climate of the area, said an expert.

Eng. Rashad Bukhash, director of the Architectural Heritage Department, Dubai Municipality said in an interview with Middle East Architect, that architecture is the mirror of the civilisations that have existed for more than 8,000-9,000 years.

“With the mix of architects coming from different parts of the world – they come to the area, they don’t know anything about the culture or the climate,” said Eng. Bukhash.

“They bring some architecture from their own countries and do it here,” he added.

Robert Reid, assistant professor, College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD), American University of Sharjah (AUS), did not completely agree with the statement.

He said: “I don’t know if it is wholly accurate that architects from abroad are to blame, or simply attempt to transfer what they know from abroad to the region.”

“I believe many of their clients seek instant credibility and co-opt an aesthetic that worked somewhere else, believing that if it worked in another world-class location, it should work here, and instantaneously make the surrounding environs of the same caliber,” said Reid.

Eng. Bukhash said another problem with the international mix of architects is the loss of identity when it comes to architecture.

“Architecture should give the identity for the place itself. So when I look at a building, I should know this design is from Dubai, from the Emirates. If you go to Sheikh Zayed Road and see these towers, you don’t know whether you’re in New York, or London or Tokyo or wherever,” he added.

Reid tended to agree: “I can imagine that many architects become order-takers out of necessity and ease. If you look around, most of the built environment can be attributable to some other place, which is a missed opportunity for the region to create an aesthetic and vernacular all of their own.”