The adaptive reuse of buildings has become an essential aspect of not only the preservation of traditional architecture but in broadening the horizons of design by implementing a progressive practice that focuses on thoughtfully incorporating the needs of the future into that which already exists.
Revitalizing the old helps combat the critical issue of overproduction and overuse of materials that leave the environment with harmful outcomes, and cities in the MENA region have begun to repurpose and reconstruct parts of cities, buildings and structures, maintaining the respect for scale and integrity of the traditional context but simply amplified with dynamic elements to accommodate the future.
Al Mureijah Art Spaces - Sharjah
A principal venue of the Sharjah Art foundation inaugurated in 2013 alongside the Sharjah Biennial, the Al Mureijah Art Spaces consist of five buildings that were previously dilapidated, now integrated seamlessly into the reclaimed historical neighbourhood in a way that complements the coral brick buildings of old Sharjah. Open squares to court sides and interconnected rooftops, the area is now home to the varied presentations of artwork in different media, intended to provide a diverse art experience surrounded by the cultural landscape of the city. The Sharjah Art Foundation continues to design spaces to preserve 40% of the existing urban fabric while also creating a new place of gathering for art enthusiasts.
Enghelab Street – Tehran
Rehabilitating the facades of 114 existing buildings, the Tehran City Beautification Department has an ongoing project on Enghelab Street to develop public cultural spaces. The owners of the buildings and the community were encouraged to favour preservation over demolition, restoring the facades to transform the street’s appearance. The regeneration has been successful, which is now actively seen through the new livelihood in the area where new cafes, restaurants, a boutique hotel and numerous theatres have popped up.
Muharraq – Bahrain
Inscribed into the UNESCO world heritage list for its exceptional history in pearl trade in the Arabian peninsula – the main source of income for Bahrain in the 19th century – a visionary effort was made to conserve Muharraq through an array of projects including new buildings and schemes that created cultural public spaces. Aimed to coexist harmoniously, the ongoing large scale project conserves and adapts ancient structures while creating new ones that encapsulate the pearling economy, allowing visitors to discover the historical area in new ways.
Beyazit State Library – Turkey
First founded in 1884, the 16th-century Beyazit Library has undergone restoration, spearheaded by Tabanlioglu Architects. The library in Istanbul saw the reorganization of its library spaces devoted to over 25,000 rare manuscripts in reading rooms that are assembled around a central courtyard. The venues concrete roof from the 1980s has now been replaced with a new structure that provides a controlled atmosphere. The library is now open 24/7 to the public and is not only home to a host of exhibitions and cultural programming but allows for the appreciation of the Byzantine remains that surfaced during the project.
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