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Thursday 03 March ,2022

The National Library and Archives begins its cultural season with a symposium “Architecture, An Introduction to Documentation and Chronicling”

Characterized by its national, scientific and cultural subjects,

The National Library and Archives begins its cultural season with a symposium “Architecture, An Introduction to Documentation and Chronicling” 

The National Library and Archives “NLA” began its cultural season for 2022 by organizing a virtual symposium entitled “Architecture, An Introduction to Documentation and Chronicling”. The symposium’s topics attracted the attention of the audience inside and outside the NLA due to their importance to the national heritage and its preservation and to the cultural and scientific domains.

The symposium was opened by H.H. Abdulla Majed Al Ali, Acting Director General of the NLA, welcoming the participants one by one. He assured that this symposium comes as a part of the NLA’s interest in the Emirati architectural heritage, which reflects aspects of the civilization and the UAE’s progress and development.

He suggested that architecture is the art of creativity and thinking-based building. Architectural heritage is one of the most significant tangible sources that reflect previous generations’ social and cultural activities. Furthermore, architectural heritage is the source of the sense of beauty, and it links the past with the present. He added that from the architectural heritage we obtain information, and we are inspired by the glories of our ancestors, which we are proud of, noting that documentation of architectural styles, varieties and development enriches the memory of the nations’ records with details of previous generations’ life. The comparison between the architectural heritage and contemporary urbanization shows the UAE’s stages of development, civilizational experience and prestigious position in terms of modern civilization inputs.

His Excellency indicated that the NLA devoted attention to the documentation of the national architectural heritage and its glorious history. Therefore, it issued a number of significant books, most notably Qasr Al Hosn, Forts and Castles in the United Arab Emirates, and Castles and Towers in the Al Dhafra Region. Moreover, the NLA has much more examples of such publications, which attracted a large turnout of researchers, academic staff and interested people.

The symposium was rich in information that are obtained from the Emirati, Arab and international experiences. Participants were experts, engineers and researchers in the field of architectural heritage and urbanization from the UAE, Arab Republic of Egypt and ICCROM.

In the first topic of the symposium, H.E. Engineer Rashad Mohammed Bukhash, Chairman of the Architectural Heritage Society in the UAE, assured that the UAE has thousands of archeological and historical sites of forts and castles, mosques and towers, markets and residential buildings of various types. He presented models of these buildings and illustrated the efforts of preservation, restoration and renovation by the concerned departments in each emirate to preserve the architectural heritage. Furthermore, he provided an overview of the Architectural Heritage Society and its activities, projects and efforts to spread awareness about heritage.

The second topic was about gates in Abu Dhabi and their history, architecture and decorations. Dr. Hamdan Rashid Al Rashidi from the UAE indicated that the Emirate of Abu Dhabi has many defensive fortifications, which contributed to the defense of the citizens’ assets in the Emirate and to their protection in times of danger. He also introduced a number of architectural terminologies related to gates. He pointed out that entrances and gates are one of the main architectural elements in any defensive fortification as an architect pays attention to them in terms of location, fortification and ease of accessibility and exit. There were various forms of entrances with different fortification locations based on their functions. Al Rashidi reviewed the most significant entrances and gates’ forms, construction methods, distribution and functions. The main forms are the door between two towers, two doors one of which is large, and the other is small “Khokha”, protruding entrance, bent entrance and upper entrance. He provided examples of heritage buildings such as Al Maqtaa Tower, Al Muwaiji Fort, Al Jahili Fort, Sheikh Sultan Bin Zayed’s Fort, etc.

Dr Zaki Aslan, Regional Director of ICCROM, gave readings about the region’s architecture as examples of the Islamic civilization and showed potentials for digitizing, recording and preserving the architectural heritage assets by making inventory and integrating it into national archives.

By taking the Upper Egypt as an example, Dr. Mohammed Shahata Al Omdah, Egyptian Researcher in folklore, talked about the folk architecture, which represents the tangible form of culture and its intangible form as well, which is represented in the community’s customs and traditions, beliefs and folk knowledge. He noted that the Upper Egypt community underwent several cultural changes, resulting in the change of architecture, its functions, related professions, and folk literature and arts, emphasizing the importance of the related folklore.

Dr. Tariq Wali, Egyptian Architect, discussed architecture, urbanization and heritage, the controversary of past and present. He suggested that these three terms have in common a human factor that is, in its essence, subject to what is commonly called human creativity, and this comes within a context governed by a law, either from the architecture and urbanization sciences and knowledge or from other fields.

It is worth mentioning that Dr. Aisha Bilkhair, Research Advisor at the NLA, who had managed the symposium, discussed with the participants the key recommendations about the symposium subject. They unanimously agreed on the importance of collecting, documenting and recording the tangible and intangible heritage in the Arab countries as these are the national archives’ functions. Moreover, it is important to establish a database for archeological and historical sites, introduce an annual international award for heritage preservation and documentation, conduct interviews with the elderly to preserve the oral history pertaining to this field, train local employees on carrying out historical interviews and field survey, fund research, author books, make documentary film to record the details of history and encourage voluntary work to preserve and document history.

The participants unanimously agreed on the importance of send missions to archeological sites to study and document folk architecture and preserve the heritage that reflects the identity and professions pertaining to architecture in order to acquaint the generations with their history. It is also important to apply the anthropological approach in the UAE since it is an ideal place for such historical and heritage studies, understand and agree on concepts and terminologies related to architecture and urbanization, heritage and authenticity, and contemporaneity and renewal. All participants stressed the importance of introducing, documenting and archiving the cultural heritage digitally.

It is reported that the NLA launched its cultural season agenda for 2022, and it looks forward to presenting various subjects of historical dimension about the UAE in many symposiums and to making this authentic culture accessible. This enhances belonging to the homeland and loyalty to its wise leadership and provides the public with precise and documented information and knowledge, which is the core of its mission.