Abu Dhabi preserves post-oil architecture

The development of the city can be read in the evolution of stylistic trends of the buildings

ABU DHABI - Monuments in the UAE receive great attention from government authorities since there is a strong commitment to the protection and preservation of these internationally important buildings. Currently, plans are being set up to achieve this purpose. These projects focus in the first place on the safeguarding and protection of buildings as they make it possible to educate visitors and young citizens about the stunning cultural monuments and natural resources. They are a story represented in the cultural sites of Al Ain City.
In an unprecedented step, the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) has launched a special initiative for the protection of modern buildings heritage in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The new initiative is aimed at understanding the architectural heritage in Abu Dhabi in the post-oil era, evaluating its importance and developing strategies for protecting them. This will ensure the continuity of the architectural heritage which must be looked at as an additional support in the light of competition in the real estate market today, and as a precious contribution to the growing cultural dossier of Abu Dhabi.
The modern heritage faces the same dangers as the historical buildings in the pre-oil era has faced. These include damage, erosion, unsuitable interventions such as modifications and renovations, lack of awareness and appreciation, damage and real estate bidding.
ADACH continues to set projects aimed at restoring and reusing historical buildings, and invites all concerned quarters to explore and appreciate these resources and help with the efforts exerted to protect and integrate them into the process of development in general without affecting their character.
The environment of Abu Dhabi today is in a state of permanent change and development as the rural and urban areas witness development works at a fast pace which has an impact and fallout on the resources of cultural heritage. ADACH is keen to have the development process to take into account the general natural view in the Emirate and archaeological and urban resources.
Development should not do harm to these resources. To the contrary, it should increase their value through rehabilitation works and ideal use.
Unlike archaeological and historical buildings, the modern heritage faces an additional threat represented in the usual demand for modernization in order to keep up with the latest, cleanest and smartest designs and tastes. This is because these buildings occupy key locations in the urban scene in Abu Dhabi and are used by people every day.
At a time when traditional buildings in Al Ain and fortresses in Liwa have an undeniable historical importance, buildings erected during the oil-associated rebirth of Abu Dhabi in the 1960s are considered to be key testimonies to the features of the development and success of the Emirate.
Given that we are used to them, it is difficult to appreciate their social, political and economic importance for the UAE’s near past and the possibility of them forming the Emirati architectural heritage in the future.
Some of the important examples of these buildings are Al Manhal Palace, Al Maqtaa Bridge, ADNOC Complex on Corniche, the Armed Forces Officers’ Club, the Intercontinental Hotel, the Hilton Hotel, the Meridian Hotel, the Court Building, and Zayed Sports City. There are also less symbolic buildings, such as the low and old buildings like traditional houses, rest houses and baths scattered along the road from the capital to Al Ain and Liwa, which stand as a testimony to the transformations in the UAE over the past 50 years and they are worthy of appreciation.
But many of the buildings still need to be introduced, protected and celebrated because they contribute to telling the story of Abu Dhabi, and they are valuable visual features that create a sense of the place.
Abu Dhabi Coach Station and the Taxis Stand are considered to be of the examples which ADACH intends to protect as they among the key threatened monuments now in Abu Dhabi. These buildings occupy key locations in the urban scene in Abu Dhabi and are used by people every day. Their strategic location in the corner of Al-Murur Street and Al Bateen Street put these buildings in the framework of the city and made of them visual and geographical monuments for visitors and residents over the past 30 years.
At present, re-development plans threaten these buildings, despite their undeniable importance and their relatively sound state. Usually, the first option for the development of such buildings is to demolish them completely and start building them from scratch, instead of other options for the renewal, restoration and adaptation of the original structure taking into account the value of the building within the urban heritage of the Abu Dhabi.