Transformations: The Emirati National House
Yasser Elsheshtawy, in collaboration with the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation
Pavilion of the United Arab Emirates (Arsenale)
The exhibition will highlight the country’s social housing program, known as Sha’abi housing, which began in the 1970s and still continues today. These programs exist all over the Emirates and give people access to a basic housing model with two or three bedrooms and a view on the courtyard. Over time, the residents adapt the basic model to individualized houses to reflect their own life style and culture.
For their second participation at the Architecture Biennale, the UAE pavilion will show different examples of these neighborhoods across the Emirates, but it will mainly focus on the city of Al Ain. This third largest city in the United Arab Emirates offers the best record of how these houses are still being used.
Through this example, the exhibition will address the universal concern of providing adaptable social housing, in line with the overall theme of the Biennale. It will reflect on the ways in which the built environment can improve the quality of life and on the value of these projects: architecturally, socially and from an urban perspective.
“This exploration of Emirati Sha’abi housing responds to the Biennale’s theme, which reflects on the ways in which the built environment can be formed to improve people’s quality of life. Through the provision of a flexible model, inspired by older and existing buildings and their specific layout, the initial architects enabled residents to modify their homes to fit their needs. Changes occurred in allocated plot size and detailing but the basic framework remained the same. These houses proved to be highly adaptable with residents making a series of changes so that these models could be made more compatible with their lifestyle and local culture. Moreover by focusing on such neighborhoods the architectural discourse in the UAE moves to one that is concerned with the everyday spaces of its citizens.”
Yasser Elsheshtawy, curator
More information can be found on the website of the National Pavilion United Arab Emirates and on the blog Dubaization written by curator Yasser Elsheshtawy. He has also published the book ‘Dubai: Behind an Urban Spectacle (Planning, History and Environment)‘.
Review by The Venice Insider
The exhibition on the ground floor of the Sale d’Armi radiates a very quiet atmosphere, as if the sand and the trees on the pictures and the models muffle the noise of the visitors. The pavilion is divided in smaller areas where models show how the national houses are gradually extended by the residents. Changes are sometimes small, but they can make a big difference to the quality of life and to the feeling of living in a house or your own home. I also liked the long picture at the entrance very much (as you can see on the banner). It fits beautifully against the brick wall of the pavilion.
Katia – The Venice Insider
Click here to return to the overview of the other pavilions at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016 or read my post What to expect from the 2016 Architecture Biennale.
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