The story of the transformation of traditional Emirati houses, or sha‘bī (folk) houses, will be presented at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, one of the world’s leading architecture events, as part of an exhibit entitled ‘Transformations: The Emirati National House’. Held from May 28th to November 27th, it will feature architectural diagrams, scale models, photographs, and archival material that piece together how the UAE’s residential neighborhoods have come together since the 1950s and how they have evolved.
“The exhibition will share a comprehensive overview of the National Housing Project as an interesting architectural experiment where people are actively involved in constructing and modifying their built environment,” curator Yasser Elsheshtawy explains. “We would like to highlight the sha‘bīyaa (folk) neighborhoods as an ongoing living testimony to the resilience of the Emirati people and the extent to which the house, with all of its shortcomings, still plays a vital and important role,” he adds.
Presented in the UAE’s National Pavilion, the exhibition will be divided into four interconnected sections. The first section will delve into the history of housing and feature archival images, documents, and videos from the National Housing Project. The remaining sections will examine topics such as the neighborhood and the development of the houses (for example, exploring how traditional homes began by being composed of multiple rooms overlooking a central courtyard and later evolved over the years as lifestyles changed) and offer a structural analysis of the materials used to create the traditional Emirati home and a case study that looks at an Emirati family still living in a traditional home today.