The UAE's Modernist Era: Exploring the Best Buildings of the Time
The 1930s marked the rise of modern architecture in Europe and the Americas, but it arrived late in the UAE. Before the discovery of oil in the 1960s, most structures were crafted from traditional materials like palm fronds and mud bricks.
Modernist Architectural Gems in the UAE
However, after the oil boom in the 1970s, rapid development transformed the region's skylines. Leading architects left their mark on Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah, creating a distinct architectural style reflecting the region's unique identity.
Preserving the Architectural Heritage: A Dozen Modernist Gems of the UAE
While many of these modernist buildings were not designed for long-term preservation, there are now efforts to safeguard their architectural significance. In 2020, Dubai recognized the historical value of the Deira Clock Tower and the World Trade Centre. Here are a dozen other modernist structures that have made it to the preservation list:
1. Cultural Foundation, Abu Dhabi: Designed by The Architects Collaborative in the 1970s, it reopened in 2019 after restoration.
2. World Trade Centre, Dubai: Designed by John Harris in 1979, it was the tallest building in the region at the time.
3. Central Bus Station, Abu Dhabi: An iconic landmark since 1989, it showcases Soviet brutalism in its architectural style.
4. Al Ibrahami Tower, Abu Dhabi: A striking 16-storey concrete cylinder built around 1983.
5. Rashid Hospital, Dubai: Designed by John Harris and completed in 1973, combining Islamic features in its minimalist design.
6. Dubai Petroleum Building: A classic of modernist architecture, designed by Victor Hanna Bisharat in 1978.
7. Al Bateen Mall, Abu Dhabi: Originally a satellite bus station, converted into a shopping center in the 1990s.
8. Obeid Al Mazrouei Building, Abu Dhabi: Constructed in the 1980s, inspired by Bisharat's Beirut building.
9. Fish and Vegetable Market, Abu Dhabi: A futuristic design from 1985, resembling a traditional outdoor market.
10. Al-Qasimiyah Primary School, Sharjah: Built in the 1970s, now preserved as the headquarters of the Sharjah Architecture Triennial.
11. King Faisal Mosque, Sharjah: Opened in 1987, designed by Saudi architect Abdul Rahman Abdul Hafidh Al Junaidi.
12. Al Mahtatta Museum, Sharjah: The oldest modernist building in the UAE, originally the city's first airport in 1932.
Preserving these architectural treasures is essential to maintain the unique history and identity of the UAE's cities, as they continue to embrace modernization and development.