An exhibition looking at how palm-leaf architecture is closely connected to the religious, cultural and agricultural traditions of people in the Arabian Peninsula, will be held at the Society in late Spring.
Arish: Palm-Leaf Architecture, curated by London-based architect, Sandra Piesik, will present a contemporary view on the future of this most renewable and locally available building resource.
Can the knowledge of ancient civilisations developed through centuries help in finding long term climate change solutions? Globalisation has brought issues of extinction of indigenous cultures to the fore. Arish: Palm-Leaf Architecture in the United Arab Emirates, the first exhibition of its kind in Europe, portrays the 7000-year history of human habitation in the region. Palm leaf buildings demonstrated brilliant adaptation techniques of sustainable construction in the extreme climate conditions of the desert. This exhibition celebrates these unique indigenous craft and provides the foundation for a genuine understanding of the region, critical in the context of the fast-developing global economies they have become today. A timely record of many localised techniques that are on the verge of extinction viewed from the scale of the city to traditional house, this exhibition aims to stimulate debate about contemporary adaptation of crafts and authentic cultural continuity in the globalised world.
The exhibition also includes early 20th century photographs of buildings and sites on the Arabian Peninsula taken from the Society’s photographic collection and used for historical context.
“Traditional buildings constructed from the leaves of date palms, tree trunks and rope made from palm fibre has provided shelter from the extremes of climate on the Arabian Peninsula for millennia,” said Sandra, who has undertaken a three-year research project in the United Arab Emirates.
She added: “Today, western styles of architecture employed in the region threaten to erase this valuable heritage.”
Arish-built structures, from summer and winter houses of Ras Al Khaimah to the Bedu community settlements of Liwa, have evolved over the centuries to provide a strong vernacular. They are simple but sophisticated in design, practical to transport, and yet strong enough to withstand the vagaries of the desert.
Visitors will not only get chance to look at the displays in the Exhibition Pavilion, but also be able to enter an authentic Arish House on the lower terrace at the Society, reconstructed as part of the educational initiative carried out by Article 25 and Sandra Piesik. Materials contribution from Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, Historic Environment Department in Al Ain.
Indigenous cultures developed ways of living in the most hostile climates through centuries. With the advent of globalisation, their knowledge, technology and culture are facing extinction. Can we learn from them and adapt their expertise that has been in use for thousands of years?
Organisation: Royal Geographical Society
Time: 16 April 2012 10:00am - 25 May 2012 5:00pm
Place: Royal Geographical Society, London SW7
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