May 19, 2016 - United Arab Emirates Pavilion at the Venice International Architecture Biennale - Transformations: The Emirati National House
May 19, 2016

United Arab Emirates Pavilion at the Venice International Architecture Biennale

Emirati national houses, also known as "sha‘bī" houses, in Al Maqam, Al Ain. Photo: Yasser Elsheshtawy. Courtesy National Pavilion UAE.

Transformations: The Emirati National House
May 28–November 27, 2016

Opening: May 26, 4pm

nationalpavilionuae.org
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Transformations: The Emirati National House
May 28–November 27, 2016

Opening: May 26, 4pm

nationalpavilionuae.org
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Transformations: The Emirati National House, the exhibition to be presented at the 15th Venice International Architecture Biennale by the National Pavilion UAE, will feature archival materials, photography, architectural diagrams and scale models. The National Pavilion UAE is commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, and supported by the UAE Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development.

The exhibition explores the transformative aspect of the housing model of Emirati national houses, also known as "sha‘bī" (folk) houses, introduced across the UAE from the 1970s to offer homes and modern amenities to a transient population. The standard housing typology is composed of a series of rooms overlooking a central square courtyard. The houses were initially designed as a standard model, but over the years, residents made architectural modifications to the basic structure, reflecting their changing lifestyles.

Curated by Yasser Elsheshtawy, Associate Professor of Architecture at UAE University, the exhibition will feature detailed architectural analysis of a current national house, archival newspaper clippings documenting the initial start of the National Housing program, 1970s photographs by Dutch photographer Gerard Klijn, and a specially commissioned series of images by Emirati photographer Reem Falaknaz.

“The exhibition offers us the opportunity to share a lesser-known aspect of our nation’s architecture at one of the world’s most prominent architecture events,” says Khulood Al Atiyat, Manager of Arts, Culture and Heritage, Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation. “In line with the Foundation’s mission to invest in the future of the UAE by investing its people, we are particularly pleased that this year’s exhibition will focus on the everyday spaces of the UAE’s citizens, developing a new angle of architectural discourse about our country.”

“The exhibition will share a comprehensive overview of the National Housing project as an interesting architectural experiment where people are actively involved in constructing and modifying their built environment,” says Yasser Elsheshtawy. “We would like to highlight the 'sha‘bīyaa' (folk) neighborhoods as an ongoing living testimony about the resilience of the Emirati people and the extent to which the house, with all of its shortcoming, still plays a vital and important role.”

The exhibition will be divided into four interwoven sections conceptualized as a series of scales moving from the regional down to an individual house, laid out on a grid separated by wall panels that draw visitors through the story of the national house.

History: This section presents archival images, documents and videos that record the establishment of the National Housing project throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. It will include aerial photographs captured by BP, initial architectural drawings, images of "sha‘bīyaa" (folk) neighborhoods by Dutch photographer Gerard Klijn and the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Petroleum Operations Ltd. (ADCO), and archival newspaper clippings from local publications.

Neighborhood: The section examines the urban fabric of national housing developments at a city-wide scale. An interactive map will provide insight into the UAE’s landscape and the development of traditional residential, or "sha‘bīyaa" (folk) neighborhoods. It will be accompanied by architectural models at various scales, analytical diagrams, photography and videos.

House: 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 some houses.

Central: The centrepiece of the exhibition presents a detailed case study of a national house and the Emirati family who continue to live there, through a detailed architectural analysis and intimate family memories. The section is accompanied by a specially commissioned series of images by Emirati photographer Reem Falaknaz, who travelled to these neighborhoods to capture the human aspect of living communities.

The accompanying publication will contextualize the exhibition and associated research, providing a backdrop to the content displayed in the exhibition. It features essays and academic studies by architects, sociologists, conservators and scholars.

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