Arts & Culture The Traditions Issue

Preserving the UAE’s architectural heritage through photos

Hussain Almoosawi is a man on a mission, a mission to capture and preserve the UAE’s architectural heritage through photography.
Taken in Sharjah. Courtesy.

Hussain Almoosawi is a man on a mission, a mission to capture and preserve the UAE’s architectural heritage through photography.

It all started when the Emirati communication designer and photographer returned to the UAE from Australia, where he had spent seven years studying, and felt that he had missed out on so much during his time away.

‘I lived in Australia between 2005-2013, during which an array of UAE’s modern architecture was built’, says Hussain. ‘ I felt so disconnected from all the major and rapid developments that took place in my absence, as I did not the witness the process.’

Taken in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy.

This does not come as a surprise . According to Pinsent Mason’s 2018 GCC Construction Survey, the UAE is the number one construction market in the region. It seems as if modern skyscrapers are sprouting from the ground every single day.

‘One day, what we call modern will be part of our architectural heritage and it’s important to start documenting now’, notes Hussain, and for him, that documentation occurs through photography.

Taken in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy.

‘The designer in me wants to see buildings visually organised. Photographing those facades and redistributing them visually will help me understand the diversity of styles’, he replies when I ask him why he has chosen photography as his medium.

‘Urban development in the UAE has always been subject to a hybrid of architectural influences…If you take old areas in each emirate, they would tell a story of a regional influence, as most architects at the beginning came from countries around the region. Later that developed into a more diverse and global influence as we approached the 21st century.’

Taken in Sharjah. Courtesy.

‘However, if we look at villas and our Emirati neighbourhoods it would be a story of ongoing uniformity. Mosques in these neighbourhoods look way more interesting than villas because they borrow elements from various architectural styles across the Islamic world. Villas on the other hand are more uniform [and] utilitarian, minus the charming element of our traditional houses. Then it’s a different story when it comes to villas designed for expats, as they exclude many elements that Emiratis require in a house’, he explains.

‘We can keep on listing other examples. The main point is cultural diversity in the UAE has a significant impact on its architecture.’

Hussain emphasizes, however, that he is primarily focusing on documenting one aspect at this time: symmetrical architecture, shown in the photographs he shares with us. This will form a part of his end goal to develop a typology of facades to classify the architectural types in the country.

Taken in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy.

He understands that there’s more to architecture than facades, but he prefers to be focused on a particular area.

Referring to Khaled Al Awadi’s ‘Lifescapes Beyond Bigness’ Venice Biennale exhibit revolving around urban development in the UAE and Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi’s effort to document the architecture of Sharjah, Hussain says ‘there’s a lot of great work happening out there that urges us all to be specific in what we are trying to achieve.’

‘If anything my project could be a part of a broader research’, he adds.

To see more of his work or suggest facades worth documenting, visit Hussain’s page on Instagram and his website.

Disclaimer: The views of the interviewee(s) are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sekka, Move, its owners, employees, and affiliates.

Sekka Editorial