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New perspectives to save cultural heritage
Altan, M. Orhan

CIPA 2003 XIX 11 ' International Symposium, 30 September - 04 October, 2003, Antalya, Turkey
Fig. 1: A satellite image showing A1 Bastakia area, 2002.
Image courtesy of DigitalGlobe, www.digitaIglobe.com
2.1 Historical Background
The Bastakia is the largest historic area in Dubai that exhibits
vernacular architecture. The houses located in this area were
built by master builders and masons who learned the skills from
their fathers. Settlers from Persian introduced the wind towers
to the coastal towns of the UAE. In fact, in the Bastakia, every
house had at least one wind tower, while in other quarters of
Dubai such as Deira and Shindagha, wind towers were
introduced by those who could afford the building of more
elaborate homes. (Heard-Bey, F, 1996:246)
Wind towers in Bastakia rise to about fifteen meters above
ground level. “The upper part consists of four concave inner
walls with pillars, arches and often intricate plasterwork to
continue the square shape of the tower.” The tower catches
wind, which is channelled though a chimney down to a
common room where the inhabitants appreciate the breeze.
(Heard-Bey, F., 1996:246) Geographical and climatic
considerations and cultural requirements, have contributed to
the emerging of responsive vernacular architecture that can be
found in the Bastakia.
2.2 Urban and Architectural Landmarks
Bastakia settlers after they chose a parcel, started by building a
high fence to protect the family from views of intruders and
passers-by as well as from robbers. The families initially lived
in tents or shelters made of lightweight materials. Later a more
durable shelter was built. As the family grew, more rooms were
added to the compound, by locating them around a central
courtyard. A first floor was added when there was no room on
the ground floor. Wind towers and wind catchers were added to
catch cool winds and thus improve the thermal comfort inside
the house.
The Bastakia houses contain features of Arab-Islamic
architecture, namely the use of a central courtyard, with many
rooms organised around it and accessible from a gallery. The
gallery is also present on the first floor. Roofs have high
parapets to protect the female inhabitants from views of
Blind windows with modest decorations adorned outdoor
facades, whereas indoor facades had many large openings
(doors and windows) displaying rich decorations.
An urban analysis can reveal that Bastakia houses were laid out
to enable direct access to the creek, by producing streets or axes
perpendicular to the creek. Streets width varies between two
and four meters. This was dictated by the neighbourhood’s
vocation at the time it was built. This being its dependence on
trade coming from and leaving to the sea. Therefore axes of
movement for transportation of goods had to link the creek to
the inland. These axes were in fact the generators of the built
form of Bastakia. It is claimed that the first houses were built on
the edge of the creek and later more houses were added
following the axes, as more land was made available for
construction. Smaller and less important streets parallel to the
creek link the main streets. The intersection of these streets
sometimes results in the creation of small squares. These
squares did not have an urban function but rather the result of
unplanned growth, or to allow the continuity of a main street
when its linearity is broken. (Fig. 3)
Fig. 2: Views of houses and wind towers in A1 Bastakia area.
Fig. 3: Views of pathways in A1 Bastakia area.
2.3 Aerial Surveys of Dubai
In 1996, Dubai Municipality contacted Hansa Luftbild -
German Air Surveys - in order to carry out a comprehensive
survey of Dubai using colour aerial photography. The objective
of the contract was “to provide image data of high resolution
and adequate accuracy that shall be suitable for the generation
and updating of vector maps of a general Geographic
Information System (GIS) for Dubai Municipality”.
(Mahlbreuer, A. et al., 1998:367)
As part of the product, the German firm also produced a Digital
Terrain Model with regular 20m-grid spacing using MGE
Terrain Modeller. Building heights were identified using stereo
photogrammetric restitution. Digital ortho-rectification of
scanned images was carried out using “Base Rectifier”, a
module of Intergraph’s software. (Mahlbreuer, A. et al., 1998)