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Arish House by 2 Ideas Architecture, Liwa Oasis, Rub Al Khali Desert, United Arab Emirates

Emerging Architecture Awards 2010: Highly Commended

It took some time for the jury to agree on the selection of this reconstruction project as an award winner, however there was no disputing the value of this kind of action-based research. Based on a photo taken by explorer Wilfred Thesiger in 1948, Arish House replicates a traditional form of construction not seen in this location for over 40 years. In 1908 the population of Liwa Oasis would have required around 800 of these homes, which were typically built by women while the men followed a summer migration to the coast in search of income. The aim of the reconstruction was to inspire modern interpretations of traditional local culture, demonstrating sustainable and replicable means of living in such an unforgiving climate.

The area, 200km inland from the Gulf coast in Abu Dhabi, originally attracted settlers as it had drinking water. Palm trees were cultivated here for centuries to provide material for construction and a source of food. Dry palm leaves, palm trunks and rope (made from palm trunk fibres) combine to produce simple enclosures that provide essential shade from the sun and protection from the wind, with interiors recently proved to be 23°C cooler than the blistering sand dunes. One-metre gaps between units promote self shading while allowing strong winds to pass across the site without too much resistance.

Architect 2 Ideas Limited, London, UK
Photography Sandra Piesik

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