RIBA celebrates Yemen architecture [Archives:2007/1103/Last Page]

November 19 2007

AlArab-London -The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is delighted to present Arabia Felix: the Architecture of Yemen, an exhibition celebrating the spectacular architecture of Yemen, exploring a unique building culture and its vast architectural heritage.

Located in the south-west corner of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen was at the centre of a network of early urban civilizations that produced one of the world's most distinguished architectural disciplines, dating back hundreds of years. Focusing on four provinces: Dali', Yafi', Shabwah and Hadramut, the exhibition contains dramatic specially commissioned models, original drawings and artwork.

Documenting the accumulated knowledge, expertise and intelligence of Yemeni builders, the extraordinary multi-storey buildings that form the heart of many Yemeni cities stand as testament to an expression of a living art and culture: Yemen is a city where architecture is alive, constantly merging the traditional and contemporary. These buildings are a stunning example of ecological and sustainable architecture, as they are continually renewed and rebuilt by their inhabitants using materials drawn from the earth and rock on which they are constructed.

The exhibition opens at a time when many of the cities and buildings featured are threatened with destruction by commercial development, urban expansion and neglect. This subject is explored in detail in a new book by eminent architect Salma Samar Damluji, called The Architecture of Yemen from Yafi' to Hadramut (Laurence King Publishing), which will be launched at a reception on 12 November 2007 from 6.30pm – 8.30pm at the RIBA.

Damluji's book spans her research in southern and eastern Yemen from 1985-95, with more recent visits between 2000-6, documenting her research and work with the Yemeni people and master builders to help the established architectural traditions continue and flourish, to invest in them and encourage them.

Sunand Prasad, RIBA President said:”This exhibition is a fascinating insight into the heart of a region that few in the rest of the world know about; an exploration into the rich, sometimes awe-inspiring, but tragically threatened architectural heritage of cities which have been documented only in the last 25 years. Yemen boasts a distinctive legacy of architecture, and this exhibition will give many a wonderful opportunity to discover it.”

Architect and author Salma Samar Damluji said: “I am often forced to wonder at the way architectural knowledge is squandered and wasted when I watch the destruction of architectural heritage in the cities in which I worked. My book is about cities that are being lost. It is for those who refuse to let this loss occur unopposed, and who consider that architecture can offer an intelligent pattern or matrix for the future.”