French architectural monuments exhibited in Sana’a [Archives:2007/1028/Culture]

February 26 2007
A sight from Jardin Rosa-Mir in Lyon
A sight from Jardin Rosa-Mir in Lyon
Moneer Al-Omari
Over the period Feb. 17 ) 21, the French Cultural Center organized an exhibition of French Architectural Heritage in which different models of 20th century architectural design were displayed to the public.

The exhibition, prepared by the Heritage and Architectural Department at the French Culture Ministry, moves periodically between various countries via the cultural web of the French Foreign Ministry. In this instance, it aims to introduce French architectural art to the Yemeni people.

The exhibited works include a broad range of monuments from throughout the 20th century. These monuments range from villas, towers, public houses and gardens to industrial buildings, old hotels, theatres and war monuments. They were designed by famous French architects and contractors, either for themselves or at the request of others.

In addition to this, the exhibited samples include cathedrals standing side by side with temples and mosques as a sign of France's religious tolerance. Exhibits include both a Jewish temple and a Paris Mosque.

Cultural Activities Official Anne Clair Dupperner believes that keeping such monuments is important in maintaining a collective national memory and sense of identity for the sake of future generations. She further asserts that restoring and maintaining these monuments will allow them to remain this sense of identity unique from other nations, particularly now with the onslaught of globalization in which borders and cultural differences are rapidly disappearing.

Moreover, the exhibited works also comprise war monuments, particularly from those areas involved in the First and Second World Wars. Some of these areas were completely or partly demolished at that time. Thus, war monuments are restored in order to maintain a living memory for future generations. One of these monuments is a cenotaph for martyrs who fell in to Nazi hands during their occupation of France. The monument can serve to remind people of both the futility and the tragedy of war.

Many visitors were excited to see such French architectural works reflecting the genius of their creators, especially the private villas, swimming pools and gardens. They are built in such a way as to fit in with the nature of the country. Some visitors did however mention that the exhibition would have been even more satisfying if there had been specialists at hand to answer any questions people might have.

Some students from Sana'a University's Faculty of Engineering were, however, not entirely satisfied with what was exhibited, noting that all exhibitions were included in their curriculum. They said that they had come with the hope of seeing new and innovative designs, not those which they had already studied.

The students nevertheless pointed out some outstanding works such as the Savoye Villa. Savoye, though uneducated, managed to produce and design world-famous works. The Savoye Villa is built on pillars such that the first storey is not used as part of the residence. This design results from the land on which the house is built having a high water content. This space can consequently be exploited as a garage area or suchlike.

They further asserted that all architectural works throughout the world do adhere to basic standards and principles. They did, however, admit that French architecture is still very distinctive and this is why they study such designs in their syllabuses.

Abdurrahman Al-Kuhali, Level IV student at the Engineering Faculty, said he was disappointed with the exhibition because he expected to see a greater wealth of new designs. He further said that he thought that they would bring more famous and up-to-date architectural models, especially those works of world prize recipients.

The Sana'a-based French Cultural Center is affiliated with the French Embassy and it provides French language courses for those interested, together with preparation for seminars, symposiums and exhibitions on various subjects. It aims to enhance Yemeni-French cultural relations and introduce French culture and folklore to Yemenis.