Modern and traditional architecture

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The architecture of a country acts like a mirror for understanding the way of living and also the developments of the place that have led to the creation of the country as it looks today. The architecture of a country gives an insight into a country's developments over the years. Many times architecture also helps us predict what type of traditions have been followed in the country over a large span of time. The thesis mainly deals with analyzing whether the direction of development of architecture taken by UAE after seeing an oil boom is justified or not with an aim to understand the role of oil boom in the development of UAE's architecture. The thesis also deals with analyzing whether the country has lost its traditional heritage by building highly modernized buildings. The thesis deals with the important topic of deciding whether a country should go with its traditional methods or would go towards highly modernized architecture in order to attract larger number of tourists and earn higher revenues or should it maintain its traditional architecture which is unique to a country. In my view for a country it is important to plan its architecture in a way that it promotes revenues and also keeps some uniqueness for the country this could be achieved only when the country's planners decide to develop their architecture keeping in mind the traditions of the country.

Islamic architecture mainly deals with the architectural designs that are influenced by Islam Mosques, tombs, palaces and forts form an important part of the Islamic culture (Islamic architecture definition) .Traditional architecture mainly means architectural designs that are common to a place. These buildings might not form part of the highly modernized buildings of the same time and might implement simpler technologies in their construction.

Traditional architecture is commonly known as vernacular architecture and is mainly used to define methods of construction which use the resources and traditions of the place to which they belong (Vernacular Architecture). These mainly constitute the common buildings that have been developed over time and usually reflect the cultural environmental and historical contexts of the place in which they evolve. The designs formed by architects usually involve many physical and geometrical calculations in order to develop a design and make it a physical entity but the vernacular architecture is mostly transported by traditions and is base on knowledge that is gained by the trial and error methods and are then passed on to generations. They usually do not involve complex engineering.

The vernacular architecture of UAE has characteristics similar to various other gulf countries. The vernacular architecture of UAE shows evidences of its dependence on the natural environment of UAE. The impact of economic, social and cultural factors is also easily visible in the traditional architecture of UAE. The traditional architecture was mainly a result of concentration of people in a location as the population was very unevenly distributed and was concentrated more in areas where water was available. The concentration of population in ancient times in the Abu Dhabi due to the presence of water and palm trees in the village of Al Ain is quite evident and also Dubai was a home for a large no. of people because of its location at the entrance of a curving creek also known as khoor which promoted trade. The construction of forts and citadels also formed an important part of the vernacular architecture of UAE. Al Hisn fort at Abu Dhabi is a good example of architecture. (Vernacular architecture in UAE)

Islamic architecture comprises of a wide range of secular and religious designs and buildings that have been created from the day when Islam was found to the present day. The mosque, the tomb, the fort and the palace are the four main types of Islamic architecture (Islamic architecture definition).

The Islamic architecture is commonly characterized by domes and ceilings, walls and vaults, large interior spaces and Arches and columns. (Characteristics of Islamic architecture). Some of the famous tourist sites like the Burj Dubai are also affected by the Islamic architectural styles and techniques.

Modern Architecture is a type of architecture that has led to the simplification of form. It has also led to the usage of the theme and structure of a building to form highly attractive structures. The first variants of the modern architecture were seen very early in the 20th century but they have become popular only after the Second World War and today have also become a representative of modern structures.

The discovery of oil led to an increase in prosperity for UAE. As a result of this increase in the revenues and identifying the need to build new buildings the countries managing authorities established planning departments in order to plan the development of cities and villages in the country. The community of UAE started modernizing as a result of increased income to spend on such items and this modernization was also seen in the field of architecture. In the 1970s and 1980s after witnessing an oil boom which resulted in external income for the government the government of UAE took the initiative to build public houses for its citizens. (Architectural styles in Dubai)

In the era of seventies and eighties most of the buildings built were based on modern architectural styles which were imported from other parts of the world. This era saw an important role of architects from western countries in the development of Dubai. The buildings built used highly sophisticated and modern technologies for building various forms of architecture (Architectural styles in Dubai).

Example of public housing project

The era of 1970s and 1980s was an era of modern architecture in UAE. The planning of modern architecture was a result of increased revenues after the oil boom which resulted in large amount of revenues for the government, in the same era the government decided to build structures to fulfill needs and also to increase revenues for the country by developing new tourist destinations which could attract visitors from all around the world and lead to a new source of earning gains for the citizens of the country and would also lead to a decrement in its dependence on oil as a source of income. As a result during this period the government served as the main planner through various planning departments and the architects from different parts of the world were called to develop these projects as the projects involved modern technologies which were new to UAE. hence these planners served as the developers of modern UAE.

In the nineties the country saw a new trend in architectural developments the developments of this period include a mix of modern and traditional architecture of UAE. This period also saw replacements in the buildings built during seventies to be more related to the region. This trend is continuing even today and even today the buildings are built keeping in mind the traditions and modernization aspects of architecture

At last I would like to conclude that although UAE was developing only on the basis of modernization in the seventies but after a short interval of time the developers and planners understood the cultural and traditional wealth of UAE and the current architectural design is a mix of both modern and traditional styles of architecture.


  1. Islamic Architecture(n.d.), Retrieved on April 12, 2010 from (Islamic architecture)
  2. Traditional Architecture (n.d.), Retrieved on April 12, 2010 from (traditional architecture)
  3. Islamic Architecture(n.d.), Retrieved on May 1, 2010 from (Islamic architecture definition)
  4. Vernacular Architecture(n.d.), Retrieved on April 12, 2010 from (Vernacular Architecture)
  5. Vernacular architecture in UAE(n.d.), Retrieved in May 1,2010 from (Vernacular architecture in UAE)
  6. Characteristics of Islamic Architecture(n.d.), Retrieved on May 1, 2010 from (Characteristics of Islamic architecture)
  7. Architectural styles of Dubai in different time periods(n.d.), Retrieved on May 1, 2010 from (Architectural styles in Dubai)