The Valley of Mud Brick Architecture: Shibām, Tarīm & Wādī Ḥaḍramūt : Ancient to Contemporary Design

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By examining in close detail the cities of Shibam and Tarim, Dr Damluji analyses the ways in which the buildings of the Hadramut region are distinguished from other forms of local Arab architecture.
In many Arab regions (including parts of Yemen) 'modern', 'Western' town planning and building methods have displaced original architectural forms; typically the traditionally-built, older areas tend not to be supplied with basic services such as sewers, and have quickly degenerated into slum districts, while the 'modern' areas are regarded as more desirable.
However, the author argues that many of these new building practices and materials are innately unsuited to an Arab environment, and are in fact inferior to the authentic styles of architecture. Amongst her reasons are that this 'modernity' (in both its planning and use of materials) lacks consideration of climatic needs, and that its execution is technically inferior to that achieved by master builders who have long experience of the building art and a long-established and sophisticated method of construction. Moreover, the new style presupposes not only 'imported' authority or expertise in the form of the engineers, but also imported raw materials (concrete, steel) and therefore has implications for both the economy and for architectural autonomy and style.
Dr Damluji concludes that the mud-brick architecture in the Hadramut region of southern Yemen offers a unique source of cultural and technical knowledge. This uniqueness lies in the contemporary nature of the architecture, which has not been displaced by imported, 'modern' techniques but has adjusted to keep pace with the changing needs of the society it serves. The architecture represents a real asset in the local building sector and contributes to the national sense of identity. It is thus not only an ancient design but also a valid twentieth century architecture ideally suited to the local environment.
This important work describes in detail the history of the region, the rationale of traditional town-planning, and both building processes, design concepts and materials in contemporary use. It is richly illustrated with the author's own photographs and line drawings.

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About the author (1992)

SALMA SAMAR DAMLUJI is an architect and specialist in Islamic and vernacular architecture of Arab countries. After studying at both the Architectural Association School of Architecture and the Royal College of Art, London, Dr Damluji also taught at the Royal College of Art as both a Research Fellow and then a Tutor, and later at the Architectural Association School of Architecture.

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