Transformations of the Emirati housing typologies. A survey on the trending urban condition and cultural clashes.

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It was since the inception of a modernized Abu Dhabi in the late 60s that its housing has been evolving as well. Land allocation to Emirati nationals, the founding of a national housing program and the very new Master Plans for Abu Dhabi were all parts of a major effort of Sheikh Zayed to settle down a primarily nomadic population and provide contemporary amenities and services without compromising their cultural identity. Housing – both individual and social – transformed equally fast to the city itself – from the “Arish” and the “Sha`abi” house to the “western villa”, thus creating a cultural clash, a paradox between the Islamic-Arabic lifestyle and the imported socio-architectural properties of the villa type. This paradox is strengthened by the environmental behavior of the buildings within the climatic context. However, it is due to a demand increase and to the latest international socio-economic developments that the current national housing model should reconsider its strategic options in terms of the architectural typologies and the urban footprint used so far. Furthermore, a shift in global urbanism and housing towards open and inclusive cities and against the spatial manifestation of zoning and horizontal sprawl have reopened the agenda on neighborhood densification, housing typologies and a renegotiation of the usage of urban land. The paper attempts to address the questions regarding this cultural paradox, by highlighting the users’ perspective. It presents the findings of a survey amongst Emirati nationals with regards to the compatibility between their cultural daily patterns and their housing. By providing insightful critique on their housing properties and their performance on key notions such as privacy, space, religion, climate, family and car dependency, the respondents assist in depicting their needs. The results of this survey and their interpretation could lead to possible shifts in the housing strategy and policies of the city and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and potentially to other cities in the Gulf region.
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1: Inclusiveness and empowerment. Al-Majlis: planning with and for communities
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Assistant Professor of Architecture
Abu Dhabi University
Associate Professor of Architecture
Abu Dhabi University

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