QNL Launches Traditional Gulf Architecture Week

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Lecture and conference examine architectural heritage of Qatar and the region

Qatar National Library (QNL) kicked off ‘Traditional Gulf Architecture Week’ this week with Dr. Claire Hardy-Guilbert delivering a photo exhibition and lecture on Qatar’s traditional architecture. This special week continues with a three-day Traditional Gulf Architecture Conference examining the Arabian Gulf’s architectural identity and wider cultural and economic history.

Dr. Hardy-Guilbert’s lecture included an exhibition of architectural photographs, drawings, and studies from a survey of Qatar’s historical buildings conducted by the French Archaeological Mission to Qatar in 1984–85. She was accompanied by Vincent Aïtzegag, the photographer on the mission.

QNL has recently acquired the Mission’s entire photographic survey—1,700 color slides in total—a small sample of which appears in the exhibition. The photographs portray the broad range of Qatar’s vernacular, domestic, public, religious, and military architecture.

“The architecture of a culture uniquely reflects its people and the time and place in which they lived. This conference will give us a window into past generations of Arabian Gulf inhabitants through the structures they created,” said Dr. Sohair Wastawy, Executive Director, QNL. “Though many of the buildings discussed no longer exist, by understanding how and why past residents built the way they did, we can gain added insight into Qatar’s history.”

During the week, expert panelists will explore the Arabian Gulf’s architectural identity and its wider cultural and economic history through the story of its traditional architecture from the 1700s to the 1960s.

Scholars will discuss architectural projects, the varieties of vernacular buildings, the influence of pre-oil trade and migration flows between the Arabian Gulf and the wider world, the state of traditional Arabian Gulf architecture today, preservation practices and debates, and architecture’s ongoing significance for national identity in the GCC states.

These events form part of the QNL’s Traditional Gulf Architecture Project, which seeks to create a digital archive of historical photographs, architectural maps and drawings, and publications relating to the region’s architectural heritage.

The Traditional Gulf Architecture Conference is organized by QNL in collaboration with Liverpool University’s School of Architecture, Qatar University’s Department of Architecture and Urban Planning, and Ibrahim Jaidah, CEO and Chief Architect, Arab Engineering Bureau, Qatar.

Conference panels include presentations of research projects related to the architecture of the Arabian Gulf, as well as a discussion of Arabian Gulf building types and their influences. The conference continues Tuesday and Wednesday, and is open to the public. The full program can be seen on QNL’s website.