- Lifescapes Beyond Bigness, the UAE at the 2018 Biennale
When you think of architecture in the United Arab Emirates, the first thing that comes to mind are the unbelievably oversized iconic works like the Burj Khalifa tower or the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum. But there's more to the UAE than that - these countries also have another side to them, the “Lifescapes Beyond Bigness” in the title of the third participation of the United Arab Emirates in the Architecture Biennale.
The exhibition curator, Dr Khaled Alawadi is an Emirati architect and urban planner, and Assistant Professor of Sustainable Urbanism at Abu Dhabi's Masdar Institute, part of Khalifa University of Science and Technology, and together with his team he is giving visitors a peek behind the monumental scale of the most iconic architecture in the United Arab Emirates. So both the exhibition and the accompanying publication resulting from this research, examine four urban typologies: residential neighbourhoods (Al Satwa and Al Shorta in Dubai, and Baniyas in Abu Dhabi); streets and alleyways (Deira and Bur Dubai in Dubai, and Downtown Abu Dhabi); urban blocks (Al Zahya, Al Danah, Al Dhafrah and Al Zaab in Abu Dhabi); and natural spaces (Al Mutaredh Oasis and Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain).
Dr Khaled Alawadi and his research team used a range of spatial mapping and observation techniques to document and analyse the physical characteristics, morphology and social pace of the four typologies. Case studies and detailed personal stories give some insight into the anthropology of each research site thoroughly explored in over a year, showing how human-scale landscapes are flexible and can foster community engagement, social encounters and of course design on a human scale, including informal spaces.
The installation at the Arsenale involves two C-shaped enclosures made from vertical steel bars. They encapsulate the space and act as walls to display the exhibited material. Alongside the photographs of sites, portraits, time-lapse images and case studies of everyday life which result in a very engaging narrative, graphs of behavioural data, typological maps, technical drawings snd models highlight how the physical environment of each site influences daily social activities. As Dr Khaled Alawadi pointed out in our interview, Lifescapes Beyond Bigness is about an integrated relationship of well connected spaces shaped by daily use.
Commissioner of the National Pavilion of the United Arab Emirates, Khulood Khaldoon Al Atiyat, Directors of Arts, Culture and Heritage at the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation explains: "The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918-2004), the UAE’s founding father, believed that urban planning should support happiness and social cohesion by putting people at the heart of development. In line with the 2018 Year of Zayed, Lifescapes Beyond Bigness honours his vision for the nation. The Emirates are home to many different ways of life, and Dr Alawadi’s important research engages with this diversity to celebrate humanity and spontaneity.”
Lifescapes Beyond Bigness is, therefore, a great opportunity to explore more unknown aspects of the United Arab Emirates, spaces for people who, not far from the huge landmarks follow social dynamics rather than the rhythms of official urbanism.
National Pavilion of the United Arab Emirates
Lifescapes Beyond Bigness
Curator: Dr Khaled Alawadi
Commissioner: Khulood Khaldoon Al Atiyat
from 26 May to 25 November 2018 - 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia
Location: Arsenale, Venice
Images: Images: courtesy of NPUAE
Find out more: http://nationalpavilionuae.org/architecture/2018-2/