Economic prosperity and socio-cultural changes in the UAE
During the last few decades, enormous economic and socio-cultural changes have occurred in the Gulf area at an extremely rapid pace. These changes were produced by the discovery of oil in the region and the economic wealth that resulted. This economic prosperity has had great impact on architecture and the built environment. Architecture before and after oil wealth
Before the discovery of oil, the inhabitants of the Gulf region lived a simple and traditional lifestyle. The inhabitants depended on date crops and sheep herding as their main sources of income. Traditional architecture found in the region reflected their social and cultural values. It responded to the harsh natural environment with innovative solutions suitable for the mostly hot-arid weather conditions.
After the discovery of oil in the Sixties, economic prosperity allowed rapid change in the social and cultural values of the society. The UAE, as many other Third World countries, was eager to follow the Western model of modernization and development. As a consequence, the urban environment was changed to meet the new ambitions. Modern buildings replaced traditional architecture and the traditional lifestyle of the inhabitants was transformed to a modern one.
The new economic wealth encouraged the use of modern construction systems and materials. The introduction of new architectural styles in the region was made by foreign as well as local architects. Air-conditioning units became available in all buildings replacing the traditional wind catchers. Concrete, steel, glass, and other modern building materials were introduced by the construction industry. Shiny glass skyscrapers, reflecting the burning sun, have changed -- forever -- the urban landscape of Gulf cities. Architecture and the built-environment reflect political, economic, social, and cultural aspects of the society. It is now possible to use energy to modify climatic conditions and produce built forms that disregard local climate, but there is a price to pay- indeed often several different prices. Architecture in the Gulf region reflects many social and cultural aspects of the society. While traditional architecture reflects the simple and traditional way of life, modern architecture reflects the economic wealth and new socio-cultural values. The economic wealth facilitates the use of advanced construction materials and building systems. Air-conditioned and glass covered buildings are considered symbols of modernity and civilization. Traditional buildings are considered images of the poor and undesirable past. While some observers praise these changes as “a step in the right direction” to modernity and development, others are concerned about this rapid change and the social and cultural prices of achieving it. New awareness
The beginning of the Nineties witnessed a new awareness of the importance of traditional and cultural values. The break away from past cultural values during the Seventies had transformed the society very rapidly. The rapid change disrupted the cultural continuity between the old and new generation. His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Naheyan stressed the importance of recognizing the present and the future as a continuation of the past. This awareness reflected realization on all levels of society that a complete submission to modern cultural values affected many aspects of society in undesirable ways. This awareness generated new attitudes towards architecture. Many deserted old buildings were renovated and transformed into museums and other cultural functions. New buildings were built using features...