The Tradition Today: A New Interpretation of Arab Traditional Architectural Vocabularies
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The Tradition Today: A New Interpretation of Arab Traditional Architectural Vocabularies

A renewed desire for something more traditional was felt among architects, who began to create traditional architectural vocabularies in a new shape and include them in their work.

As humans live in the present, their aspirations allow the world to take an imaginative shape in their consciousness. However, humans are in continuous attempts to realise utopian future, based on both their heritage and the new invention and possibilities of their time. The responsibility of architects and town planners for building for the present and the future is not simply about the consequences of today’s choices, it is about the way in which we envision, prepare, and shape the choices of the future. In fact, it is timely demand that architects should think thoroughly and creatively to integrate harmoniously the natural and the built environment, and the old and new architecture. In other words, architects need to be responsive to the environment, preserve the traditional values and at the same time exploit the advances of science.

The domination of modern architecture buildings had entirely changed the form of the urban landscapes of the Arab world. In fact, the whole region became a theatre for architects to display their modern buildings without any concern to the culture and tradition of the people. Consequently a renewed desire for something more traditional was felt among architects, who began to create traditional architectural vocabularies in a new shape and include them in their work. The high Dubai World Centre tower, exhibited external concrete grilles, of admittedly modern design, which perform the same function of the mashrabiyyahs (wooden lattice-work bay window) as to give shade to its large glass windows.


Image credit: High World Trade Centre tower, Dubai.

The new Ruler’s Diwan in Dubai comes even closer to traditional style. It was designed to echo the wind-tower houses of the neighbouring old district. This large modern building has exemplified the integration between traditional and modern architecture. Although the wind-towers are not intended to catch air as the whole building is air-conditioned, it expressed a sense of harmony and integration with the surrounding buildings.


Image credit: The new Ruler’s Diwan, Dubai.

 The large King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah (the Haj Terminal) is one of the most demonstrative examples of integrating the old with the new. The whole space is covered by a structural system of tensile roof units suspended by a series of vertical pylons, which represent a more modern version of the traditional tent. Climate control to shelter the pilgrims from the extreme heat was one of the major goals in the design process. Another important building is the National Commercial Bank, built in 1981-83 in Jeddah Saudi Arabia. The architecture of the building featured a new interpretation to the courtyard which allows shade to the interior of the building as well as admits a current air through its parts. The design also followed the traditional concept of inward looking to the courtyard with no openings on the exterior walls.


Image credit: King Abdul Aziz International Airport, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (1978-1982).

Image credit: National Commercial Bank, Jeddah Saudi Arabia, 1981-83


1. Nicholas Ray ed., Architecture and its ethical dilemmas. London, 2005

2. Shirley Kay & Dariush Zandi, Architectural Heritage Of The Gulf. Dubai,1991

3. Udo Kultermann, Contemporary Architecture in the Arab States, New York, 1999

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Comments (19)

I especially enjoyed the poetic tone of this one!

Thanks for continually educating us on Arabian architecture..

Thank you my Dear friends, James and P.Guims for your support and kind words..much appreciated

Thanks for sharing another wonderful insight into Arabian architecture..voted

Nice buildings, thanks

Thanks Francina and tamrh for your time reading and commenting.appreciate

Ranked #11 in Architecture

Superb work as usual for featuring Arabian architecture, bookmarked for reference.

I quite like traditional buildings, nice work.

Ranked #10 in Architecture

Very well presented as always, Abdel. A topic written from the very heart of an expert who loves his field.

Ranked #1 in Architecture

A highly informative and enlightening discussion.

Exceptional piece! I just love your articles...not only do I learn something new every time, but I also get to view some awesome pics. Your pics add life to your articles, it's as if I right there. Thanks for sharing another great piece. Voted up!!!

Very much an architectual treat for the eyes.

Thank you everyone for your thoughtful and kind comments. Appreciate

Nice work. Thanks for sharing.

Thanks Bristow for your kind comment

nice work abdel. vote this one

An extremely interesting article, beautifully illustrated and explained. Thank you so much.

Thank you everyone for your valued comments..much appreciated

Re-visiting. : )