Transformations: The Emirati National House
The 15th International Architecture Exhibition
Curated by Dr. Yasser Elsheshtawy for Biennale Architettura 2016, Transformations: The Emirati National House explored the transformative aspect of the housing model of Emirati National Houses, known as Sha’abi (folk) houses. Its focus was on how a standard housing model was adapted by residents to individualized homes, thus reflecting their culture and lifestyles.
National houses are found in residential neighborhoods of most cities in the UAE. Initially designed in the 1970s, they were implemented throughout the 1970s and 1980s to offer homes and modern amenities to a transient local population. The standard housing typology is composed of a series of rooms overlooking a central square courtyard; the design is highly adaptable and has transformed as Emirati families’ lifestyles evolved. Many National or Sha’abi houses now display a culmination of various architectural elements over the years as residents have transformed the basic model into individualized homes, and they have become an important component of the UAE’s built environment.
The exhibition featured historical and technical materials including detailed architectural analysis of a current national house, archival newspaper clippings documenting the initial start of the National Housing program, and 1970s photographs by Dutch photographer Gerard Klijn. Additionally, the exhibition featured a specially commissioned series of new images by Emirati photographer Reem Falaknaz.
The accompanying publication, Transformations: The Emirati National House, was edited by Dr. Yasser Elsheshtawy, Tracy Grey, and Inas Souleiman, and contextualizes the exhibition and associated research, providing a backdrop to the content displayed in the exhibition. It features essays and academic studies by architects, sociologists, conservators and scholars including: Dr. Yasser Elsheshtawy, Alamira Reem Bani Hashim, Adina Hempel, Dr. Khaled Alawadi, Chaitanya Krishna Kumar and Karishma Asarpota.
The 15th International Architecture Exhibition titled Reporting From The Front, curated by Alejandro Aravena, was open to the public from 28 May – 27 November 2016.