Category Archives: Architecture

MESA Round Table of Yemen’s Cultural Heritage

destructionYemenis search for survivors under the rubble of houses in the UNESCO-listed heritage site in the old city of Yemeni capital Sanaa, on June 12, 2015.

There will be a MESA round-table titled, “Challenges facing Yemen’s Millennia-Long Cultural Heritage” in San Antonio this coming November.

Session Description: UNESCO world heritage sites from the Old City of Sana’a to the Island of Socotra are under critical threat as a consequence of the ongoing conflict. Monuments and museums have been damaged in aerial bombardments. Archaeological sites are being looted and Yemen’s antiquities have appeared on the international black market. Also under duress is Yemen’s rich heritage of handicrafts, jewellery production, and rare Arabic manuscripts. Long before the current conflict, external political influences disrupted Yemen’s rich and diverse heritage of dancing, music, and storytelling commonly referred to as “intangible” heritage. Due to its location at a pivotal point along the Red Sea and Indian Ocean trade and pilgrimage routes, Yemen has long had extensive contacts with Egypt, the East African coast, the Persian Gulf, India, Indonesia, and even as far as China. In addition to exploring the richness of Yemen’s heritage and the challenges facing it, the roundtable will discuss existing local and international preservation efforts. Speakers will explore the concept of “living heritage,” a critical component for the sustainable development of Yemeni society after the current conflict ends. In addition to the speakers, the roundtable will draw on the collective experience of those in attendance.

Presenters:
1) Dr Najwa Adra (Intangible Heritage that includes poetry, music and dance in Yemen).
2) Professor Nathalie Peutz (Environmental heritage, Islands of Heritage: Conservation and Transformation in Yemen)
3) Dr Sabine Schmidtke: (Islam’s Rationalist Heritage and the Preservation of Yemeni Religious Manuscripts).
4) Dr Alexander Nagel ( “Saving Cultural Heritage” as a method of exploitation during the war).
5) Sama’a Al-Hamdani (The shifting of Yemen’s political landscape and its effect on Yemen’s heritage).

Michele Lamprakos on Ṣan‘ā’

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The recent book by Michele Lamprakos, Building a World Heritage City:  Sanaa, Yemen (Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2015) has received Honorable Mention in the 2018 SPIRO KOSTOF BOOK AWARD.

Below is the commendation for the award:

Michele Lamprakos proves that it is possible to write a book about conservation that is also an astute urban history. Her meticulous analysis of conservation efforts in Sanaa examines the period from around 1970 to the 2000s but does so from a perspective that takes into account the longer history of conservation itself, from the discussions of Alois Riegl at the turn of the twentieth century to more recent consideration of issues such as authenticity, cultural relativism, colonialism, and the meaning of the Islamic city. With evidence culled both from archival sources and a rich array of oral testimony, Lamprakos gives voice to local officials, architects, builders, and residents. Through her attention to their definitions of such contested terms of conservation as “tradition” and “modernity” she produces a subtly delineated account of the multifarious processes at work in shaping urban form. Her case studies enable us to reconsider and challenge assumptions about the relationships between development and conservation, representations of the past and contemporary practice, everyday life and professionalism.

Michele Lamprakos teaches at the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation of the University of Maryland-College Park.

Aden Hinterland Freed!

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A picturesque ceremony took place recently at Lahej, the capital of the Aden hinterland, on the occasion of the restoration to his throne, under British auspices, of the Sultan, Sir Abdul Karim ibn Fadthli ibn Ali, K.C.I.E.  He succeeded to the throne on January 1, 1918, and was recognized as Sultan by the British Government, but it was only lately that he was installed after the evacuation of Lahej by the Turks.  There were some 7000 Turkish troops in the Aden hinterland and southern Yemen, and for some time after the armistice granted to Turkey, it is said they refused to evacuate those territories, believing the news to be a hoax.  Special envoys had to be sent from Constantinople to convince them, and they have since surrendered and have been shipped out of the country.

from The Illustrated London News, March 1, 1919– 293.

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Yemen Architecture Exhibition

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Trevor Marchand has put together an exhibition entitled “Buildings That Fill My Eye” Architectural Heritage of Yemen for the Brunei Gallery at SOAS in London.

The exhibition and its planned public talks and educational events will explore the astonishing variety of building styles and traditions that have evolved over millennia in a region of diverse terrains, extreme climates and distinctive local histories. Generations of highly skilled masons, carpenters and craftspeople have deftly employed the materials-to-hand and indigenous technologies to create urban architectural assemblages, gardens and rural landscapes that dialogue harmoniously with the natural contours and conditions of southern Arabia. In turn, the place-making practices of Yemen’s builders have played a significant role in fostering tight-knit communities with a strong sense of pride and distinct cultural identities.

Continue reading Yemen Architecture Exhibition

National Geographic on Shibam

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On April 3, National Geographic online published an article on the historic Yemeni city of Shibam.

In the heart of Yemen’s Wadi Hadramaut, a cluster of ancient mud skyscrapers soars above the desert floor—a beacon of mankind’s adaptability to the most formidable of environments.

At the edge of a desolate expanse of desert known as the Empty Quarter, the 16th-century Walled City of Shibam remains the oldest metropolis in the world to use vertical construction. Once a significant caravan stop on the spice and incense route across the southern Arabian plateau, British explorer Freya Stark dubbed the mud city “the Manhattan of the desert” in the 1930s.

Every aspect of Shibam’s design is strategic. Perched upon on a rocky spur and surrounded by a giant flood wadi, its elevated position shields it from flooding while maintaining proximity to its primary source of water and agriculture. The city was built on a rectangular grid behind a fortified wall—a defensive arrangement that protected its inhabitants from rival tribes and offered a high vantage point from which enemies would be seen approaching.

For the full story click here.