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Research seeks to preserve threatened Omani heritage sites

Birkat al Mawz

Birkat al Mawz

As one of the most distinctive collections of architecture in the world’s hot-arid regions, Oman boasts a settlement heritage that dates back 6,000 years. However, economic prosperity in the Middle East has meant that this architectural history is under threat, so to aid the continuation of fundamental research into the preservation of heritage sites in the region, Nottingham Trent University has been awarded a £135,000 research and consultancy bid.

Architecture professor Soumyen Bandyopadhyay was granted the funding from The Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Sultanate of Oman to continue to undertake the research into heritage significance, preservation and reuse.

The project will establish ways that the heritage settlements could remain meaningful to present and future generations of Omanis, while looking at their potential as tourist sites for local and international visitors, which will help to generate jobs and income.

Heritage management and development master plans for five vernacular settlements in central Oman – Birkat al Mawz, Izki, Bahla, Ibri and Fanja – will be prepared by Professor Bandyopadhyay and his team of researchers to record the threats and propose sensitive restoration and re-design for the settlements and monuments.

Professor Bandopadhyay said: “Human settlements are expressions of culture, social order and political intentions in space. They are tangible representations of historical events and illustrate cultural continuity through the built environment. With Oman’s rich and diverse cultural heritage it is vital to preserve it.

“Fast-paced development has resulted in gradual migration away from vernacular environments into modern towns and cities, and as a result many vernacular settlements are abandoned and falling into disrepair. The funding will enable the project to look at the sensitive and sustainable transformation of historic structures and new interventions. By working closely with ministries on the historic settlements, the research will be contributing to transforming the preservation of built and cultural heritage of the Gulf region.”

In addition to continuing Professor Bandyopadhyay’s research into the traditional environments of the Arabian and Persian Gulf region, the project is likely to have a significant impact in addressing the integration of developmental aspirations with concerns regarding heritage preservation.

Professor Bandyopadhyay, who is based in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment, added: “Omani built heritage has remained poorly researched and its evaluation and understanding could throw light on the significance of such built heritage within hot-arid regions and give Oman its deserved place in world architecture.”

Professor Bandyopadhyay has been researching heritage sites in the Arabian and Persian Gulf Region for 20 years, where he has also undertaken advisory and consultancy work in urban development, regeneration, architectural and urban design and conservation. His work has expanded into the study of aspects and components of the traditional architecture and the analysis of morphological, typological and environmental characteristics.

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