The Ministry of Culture and Youth has launched the Modern Architectural Heritage of UAE initiative which aims to recognize and preserve the UAE’s architectural heritage post 1960s and raise awareness about its significance in shaping the country.
Designed with the overarching theme of spreading awareness and fostering appreciation for the built environment, the Ministry’s initiative spotlights post-1960s buildings and structures underlining their role in the developmental journey of the country.
It aims at working closely with various stakeholders and the community, to amplify the significance of post-1960s buildings and structures and to encourage further research, documentation, conservation, and preservation efforts. In the long term the initiative aims at enhancing the UAE’s global position propelling cultural and architectural tourism in the country.
Coinciding with the Year of Sustainability, the initiative will focus on how conserving modern architecture paves the way for future sustainability by adapting these buildings to meet contemporary environmental and social requirements.
The UAE’s modern architectural heritage comprises interior spaces, buildings and the spaces between them, neighborhoods, iconic landmarks, designed landscapes and the built environment. It can be divided into two periods that define socioeconomic transformations during the 1960s up to 1990 and post-1990s to the present day. The term was coined in 2020 by the Modern Heritage Technical Committee that includes leading members in the field including researchers, architects, academics and scholars, who will guide the initiative with their insights and knowledge.
Beginning in the 1960s, a period of growth triggered economic development in the UAE’s built environment where large scale urban planning and infrastructure projects embodied aspirations towards modernity. The post 1990 urbanism was characterized by a change in scale, the use of advanced construction techniques and a reliance on materials such as glass and aluminum cladding.
The UAE’s post-1960s architectural heritage is an inspiring national achievement reflecting the nation’s development, growth and prosperity. The Ministry’s initiative reiterates how buildings and urban spaces are integral to the UAE’s cultural and tangible heritage.
The elements of the built environment are cultural products emerging from the interaction of heritage, environment, economic and social influences that define the UAE’s architectural identity as it stands today.
The UAE’s architectural marvels not only bear witness to the nation’s development and inclusive growth but also successfully position the UAE at the forefront of design and innovation.
Commenting on the initiative His Excellency Salem Al Qassimi, Minister of Culture and Youth said: “Architecture is a fundamental aspect of culture that eloquently conveys the essence of a civilization and its journey through time, encompassing its rich history, present achievements, and future aspirations. The initiative - Modern Architectural Heritage of the UAE - explores various facets of urban heritage and its centrality to the UAE’s national identity. As an inseparable component of our nation's progression, the built environment plays a defining role in shaping our cities and fostering vibrant communities. From the notable landmarks to the daily communal spaces that emerged from the 1960s onwards, a significant portion of our history is intertwined, continually fueling innovative thinking and inspiring unconventional ideas in the present day.
“The initiative is a culmination of the efforts of the Ministry of Culture and Youth and local governments in preserving the country’s built environment. We are rallying community members, encouraging them to foster a deep sense of pride in our nation's unique architectural identity and actively participate in preservation endeavors.
“This initiative comes at a time when we have just completed a significant milestone as a nation and are setting the tone for the next fifty years towards the centennial. The UAE’s built environment illustrates innovative thinking and creativity at its best and defines our national ethos.”