Managing Heritage, Designing Futures: Heritage Documentation, Management and Master Planning in the Arab Gulf Countries

Impact case study
  • Unit(s) of assessment: Architecture, Built Environment and Planning
  • School: School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment

Impact

NTU is working with the Sultanate of Oman government to deliver a pioneering project to develop appropriate approaches to the sustainable documentation, management and renewal of 86 priority heritage sites of its 1,000-plus vernacular settlements.

The project, which covers 9 settlements including three World Heritage Sites, has helped Oman to develop a cohesive heritage strategy and instigated a thorough revision of their priority list. Five of the heritage sites are now fully recorded.

Developing from the Abu Dhabi pilot, a key part of the project is to build in local capacity and social engagement through the employment and training of young graduates in Oman. Stakeholders are engaged in the work through exhibitions, public lectures, workshops, press interviews (in Arabic and English) and heritage-related films.

Abu Dhabi

The award-winning architectural firm Austin Smith:Lord invited Bandyopadhyay to help analyse a monument of historical and political significance in Abu Dhabi in 2008-09. Bandyopadhyay's expertise in Gulf vernacular architecture and interpretive methods helped establish the architectural and socio-cultural values of the monument. It provided the basis for a sensitive proposal for the monument's re-use as a cultural heritage interpretation centre.

The project also trained two UK professionals in the historical and socio-cultural background of Gulf vernacular architecture.

Recently, ADACH invited NTU to participate in a tender to document and develop another site of historical significance.

Oman

In 2010, the Omani Ministry of Heritage and Culture (MHC) identified a gap in the management of its heritage sites and the need for a partner to work on the cultural heritage sites at greatest risk. NTU's team was invited to partner the MHC as a result of its research and advisory record in the field.

The ongoing collaboration is in three stages. Stage one and two are already completed. The three stages are:

Stage one

A pilot study to undertake a documentation and Heritage Management Plan (HMP) for two oasis settlements (Birkat al-Mawz and Izki) on the MHC priority list.
NTU developed contextually-appropriate, cost-effective and expedient alternatives to established documentation methods by limiting the on-site component and emphasising aerial-photograph-based documentation. The research team applied comprehensive and selective documentation approaches to HMPs and compared approaches to ascertain their relative benefits in documenting Oman's 1,000-plus vernacular settlements.

A key feature of this pilot-HMP is its focus on future generations through full integration of developmental needs and aspirations in renewal (training/education/crafts/renewable energy).

Stage one led to the following output: 2011 (October). Government Report: Heritage Management and Development Plan for Harat as-Saybani, Birkat al-Mawz. Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman.

Stage two

Documentation and HMP for a further four settlements (Izki, Ibri, Fanja and Bahla Fort, a World Heritage Site) in the Dakhiliyah (Interior) Governorate (completed July 2013).
The MHC embraced NTU's documentation approaches as models of working and adopted the comprehensive option for future key settlement HMPs (undertaken by NTU) and the selective option for small-settlement documentation (undertaken by Salut Planning and Management, advised and reviewed by NTU).

The MHC, acting on NTU's advice, is currently reviewing the inventory of vernacular settlements to establish a rigorous criteria-based priority list.

NTU contributed material on vernacular architecture for the permanent display at Muscat's National Museum.

Stage two led to the following outputs:

  • 2013 (July). Government Report: Heritage Management and Development Plan for Harat al-'Aqr, Bahla WHS. Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman.
  • 2013 (April). Government Report: Heritage Management and Development Plan for as-Sulayf, Ibri. Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman.
  • 2012 (September). Government Report: Heritage Management and Development Plan for Harat al-Yemen, Izki. Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman.
  • Government Report:Documentation and Heritage Management Plan for Ḥārat al-Ḥujrah (Fanjah), Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman (September 2013).

Stage three

Documentation and HMP for four more settlements (on-going). In 2013, the Omani MHC awarded NTU a contract for the heritage management of four new sites (Mudayrib, Al-Gila World Heritage Site and two sites in Sinaw) in the unexplored Sharqiyyah (Eastern) Governorate. NTU is discussing full implementation of the Heritage Master Plans with the MHC for Salalah and the Ministry of Tourism for Misfat Al-'Abriyeen and Minzafah.

In 2009 Muscat Municipality invited the NTU team to undertake vernacular settlement documentation in Muscat Governorate. Capacity building, achieved through training young Omanis in heritage documentation, was a key component of the project. The methodology tested in relation to knowledge transfer and skills development in the area of heritage documentation, was then applied to the major project over the three stages.

Capacity building

As well as the major project other areas of contribution included capacity building. In early 2009, NTU designed a programme to train UAE nationals in traditional building skills to equip them to revitalise the al-Jimi and al-Qattara oases in the UAE. After completing the eight-month programme, all the trainees found work in either the government or the private sector.

In 2010, 12 unemployed graduates from the Oman Technical College were recruited on the Muscat Municipality documentation training programme. Intensive on-site training, supported by an NTU-developed training manual, gave the documentation team the necessary documentation, representation, team working, project management and leadership skills.

The MHC subsequently adopted the capacity building approach for its employees and currently 20 of them have been trained.

A bilingual Arabic/English publication on Muscat's vernacular heritage is forthcoming (2014).

Dissemination of the research

  • NTU established the Centre for the Study of Architecture and Cultural Heritage in India, Arabia and the Maghreb (ArCHIAM), to spearhead the impact of its heritage work in the region.
  • In July 2013, NTU hosted ArCHIAM's inaugural exhibition, with a well-attended launch event including representation by MHC officials.
  • Research has been disseminated through public lectures in Oman, the UAE and Italy, national and international media interviews (including English and Arabic newspapers and Radio Oman) and popular publications in English and Arabic.
  • Bandyopadhyay has contributed to an MHC-produced film on heritage sites, distributed internationally in Arabic with English subtitles.

For further information please contact Professor Marjan Sarshar, Associate Dean for Research by email or telephone +44 (0)115 848 2582. For business collaborations please contact, Chris Davison, College Business Development Manager, by email or telephone +44 (0)115 848 8215.

Research background

The NTU research underpinning the current heritage projects comprises three strands:

Ethical challenges of managing heritage, designing futures

Shackley's internationally recognised work (Dr M. Shackley 1998, 2001, 2002) on the complex cultural and political nature of World Heritage Sites as places of tourism provided important insights into their management and consumption.

Mansfield’s parallel work in heritage focused on conservation and protection policies, their remit in the UK and the legal and ethical challenges to the policies. His publication in Structural Survey (2001) addressed a key issue in heritage conservation: refurbishment. Exploring the perception of risk in refurbishment amongst conservation consultants, Mansfield highlighted the importance of the client’s awareness of cultural issues. In recognising the importance of the design quality, Mansfield subsequently argued for the role of government initiatives (CABE) in enshrining good design within conservation policy (2004) (J. Mansfield 2001, 2004, 2008).

Black's work (2002) on the conservation of the built heritage in the UK was underpinned by wider multi-disciplinary research interest in NTU on the need to address the significant built heritage in Nottingham, which is a legacy of the city’s lace manufacturing industry. The work provided theoretical and practice-related insights into the appreciation, interpretation and appropriation of built heritage in the UK.

Social enterprise

A social enterprise based approach to heritage management emerged in the work of Alina and Tom Hughes, whose concerns centred on identity and social justice. Under the Prince of Wales' International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism initiative, NTU contributed to the production of a master plan for the medieval Saxon village of Laslea in Transylvania, Romania through an international development and design workshop (2003).

Site Specific: Oasis settlements of Oman

Bandyopadhyay researched the politico-historical background of prayer niches (mihrab) and their underlying cultural concepts in central Omani mosques (2008). This was followed by an exhibition on the architecture and settlement organisation of Harat al-Bilad, the main settlement in the oasis of Manah (2009). The exhibition highlighted key methodological problems of settlement documentation and analysis. It emphasised the need to understand heritage settlements in terms of social and deeper cultural practices and ideals. The publication on tribal dynamics (2011) emphasised the importance of considering the complex tribal and social history of central Oman as a means of understanding settlement organisation and evolution in central Oman. Bandyopadhyay's monograph (2011) extended these assertions further through a detailed study of central Omani oasis settlements, exploring notions of sacredness, mosque and dwelling typology, the role of water and settlement morphology. (Professor S. Bandyopadhyay 2008, 2009, 2011).

References

  • Shackley, M. (ed.) 1998. Visitor Management: Case Studies from World Heritage Sites (ISBN: 0-7506-4783-3). Butterworth-Heinemann.
  • Mansfield, J., 2004. Developments in Conservation Policy: The Evolving Role of CABE. Journal Of Architectural Conservation (ISSN: 1355-6207) 10(2): 50-65.
  • Black, G. 2002. The conservation of the built environment in the UK. And, Nottingham Lace Market. In: Phelps, A., Ashworth, G. and Johansson, B. (eds.), The Construction of Built Heritage (ISBN: 0-7546-1846-3). Aldershot: Ashgate. 13-28 and 73-86.

Evidence

Government Reports

  • Government Report: Heritage Management and Development Plan for Harat al-'Aqr, Bahla WHS. Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Sultanate of Oman (July 2013).
  • Government Report: Heritage Management and Development Plan for as-Sulayf, Ibri. Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Sultanate of Oman (April 2013).
  • Government Report: Heritage Management and Development Plan for Harat al-Yemen, Izki. Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Sultanate of Oman (September 2012).
  • Government Report: Heritage Management and Development Plan for Harat as-Saybani, Birkat al-Mawz. Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman (October 2011).
  • Government Report:Documentation and Heritage Management Plan for Ḥārat al-Ḥujrah (Fanjah), Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman (September 2013).
  • An appropriate organisation for traditional building skills training in Al Qattara and Al Jimi Oasis. Contribution to Barker-Langham report for ADACH, Government of Abu Dhabi (2009-10).
  • Government Report: Conservation and interpretation of Qasr Al Husn Palace, Abu Dhabi. Contribution to Austin Smith: Lord report establishing concept and strategic approaches for ADACH, Government of Abu Dhabi (2009).

News Articles

"Dr Soumyen Bandyopadhyay ... is visiting Oman on MHC's invitation to present his proposal on the subject. Dr Bandyopadhyay is also working with Muscat Municipality on documenting heritage within Muscat governorate. 'I am collaborating with Muscat Municipality to train technical graduates in heritage documentation and capacity building' … he said.” [Excerpt]

"Under the collaborative traditional settlements documentation project between MHC and NTU, 20 staff of the Ministry’s regional departments are being trained... The director of MHC’s Nizwa office, Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Tamimi confirmed that the staff are being trained by academic experts from NTU on the techniques and procedures applied to documenting historic buildings … Hisham bin Talib al-Farsi, staff in the Department of Research, describes his participation in the documentation of Harat al-'Aqr in Bahla as being very important, which has given him the opportunity to work and learn form world experts …”. [Excerpt (translation)]

Invited Public Lectures

  • The architecture of the Dakhiliyah region of Oman; Designing with history; Architecture of Manah, Supported by fieldtrip to Manah, Bahla and Nizwa in Oman led by Bandyopadhyay. Invited by Architectural Heritage Society of UAE, Dubai & Sharjah (2009).

Testimonial Letters

"Undoubtedly, this engagement between the Ministry and the NTU will have an instrumental role in empowering all stakeholders providing leadership and direction towards further valorization of the numerous Omani settlements”. [Excerpt]

Publications

Key Publications:

Other publications include:

Related projects

The following grant awards contributed towards impact case studies:

  • 2013 Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman: £160,000 (OMR 98,138)
    Comprehensive documentation, analysis and management plan production for 4 Omani oasis settlements (Harat Al Bu Rashid and Harat as-Suwaufah in Sinaw, Mudayrib, and Harat al-Gila).
  • 2013 National Museum of Oman: £38,000 (OMR 22,800)
    Text and non-text (photographic/drawn/digital) based material for permanent display.
  • 2012 Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman: c. 135,000 (OMR 82,500)
    Comprehensive documentation, analysis and management plan production for 4 Omani oasis settlements
    (Harat al-Aqr in Bahla World-Heritage-Site, Harat al-Yemen in Izki, Harat as-Sulayf in Ibri, and Harat al-Hujra in Fanja).
  • 2010 Muscat Municipality, Royal Court, Oman: £41,500 + capacity building support.
    Fieldwork and analysis of vernacular settlements in the Muscat Governorate (Muscat, Muttrah, Bowshar, Quriyat, Al Khodh) leading to a planned monograph.
  • 2010-1 Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman & NTU (HEIF4): £50,000
    Towards Heritage Management Plans for two Omani oasis settlements, Birkat al-Mawz and Izki.

Previous Research

  • 2009 Historical Association of Oman: £11,000
    Bandyopadhyay (March 2009) Grant towards monograph publication, Manah: Omani Oasis Arabian Legacy: Architecture and Social History of an Omani Oasis Settlement.
  • 2009 Exhibition & Travel Grant (UAE Architectural Heritage Society, American University of Sharjah): £10,000
    Bandyopadhyay (April 2009)
    Towards curating and updating exhibition on the traditional architecture of Manah (Oman; Reference 4), held in Dubai and the American University in Sharjah. Originally supported by The British Council, Bait Al Zubair Museum (Oman), Emirates Airlines (2001-2002).
  • 2005 United States Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation: US $48,600
    Bandyopadhyay & Al-Mukhaini/ Historical Association of Oman (December 2005-July 2008)
    Fieldwork in Bowshar and Manah oases in Oman. Contributed towards; Bandyopadhyay, S. 2011.Spatial implications of Omani tribal dynamics: Harat al-Bilad in Manah Oasis. Orient: German Journal for Politics, Economics and Culture of the Middle and Bandyopadhyay, S. 2011.Manah: Omani Oasis, Arabian Legacy: Architecture and Social History of an Omani Oasis settlement.
  • 2004-8 Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC): £83,170 (non-FEC)
    Bandyopadhyay (award period until March 2008); contributed towards impact methodology; Assessing the contribution of Nek Chand's Rock Garden in (re)defining the popular identity of Chandigarh, India. Assessed as 'Outstanding' by Peer Review College.
  • 2003 Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC): £5,000
    Bandyopadhyay;The decorated mihrab-s (prayer niches) of central Oman: their origin and influences.Contributed towards; Bandyopadhyay, S. 2011.Spatial implications of Omani tribal dynamics: Harat al-Bilad in Manah Oasis. Orient: German Journal for Politics, Economics and Culture of the Middle and Bandyopadhyay, S. 2011.Manah: Omani Oasis, Arabian Legacy: Architecture and Social History of an Omani Oasis Settlement.

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