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Architecture is a fundamental aspect of culture that eloquently conveys the essence of a civilization and its journey through time, encompassing its rich history, present achievements, and future aspirations. The initiative - Modern Architectural Heritage of the UAE - explores various facets of urban heritage and its centrality to our national identity. As an inseparable component of our nation's progression, the built environment plays a defining role in shaping our cities and fostering vibrant communities.

H.E. Sheikh Salem bin Khalid Al Qassimi

UAE Minister of Culture and Youth

About the Initiative

In line with our leadership’s vision to strengthen Emirati identity and promote the cultural heritage of our country, the Ministry of Culture is launching an initiative entitled ‘the Modern Architectural Heritage of the UAE.’ The initiative is part of the Ministry’s efforts to preserve Emirati culture and enhance its value among members of the community. It aims to establish an integrated system and a comprehensive national vision based on modern architectural heritage in the country, from the 1960s until the present day.

The architectural assets from this period are significant elements of the nation’s tangible cultural heritage. They also embody the historical, architectural, social, economic, and environmental values of the UAE and help in consolidating and strengthening national cohesion and community solidarity.


Highlighting the importance and status of architectural buildings across the seven emirates while ensuring effective mechanisms to preserve them and the rich cultural values they reflect.

Increasing the levels of knowledge and community awareness of modern architectural heritage, its impact, and its cultural value for the country and its history.

Developing new mechanisms and policies to support and enable research and documentation efforts for modern architectural heritage.

Developing local partnerships, collaboration, and international presence to support the conservation efforts.

Developing solutions that support the Sustainable Development Goals to preserve the modern architectural heritage for the future generations.

Modern Heritage Technical Committee

The Ministry of Culture established the Modern Heritage Technical Committee in 2020 to help achieve the goals of the initiative. The committee undertakes several tasks, most notably, identifying and classifying the modern heritage of the UAE, providing technical advice, preparing policies and national strategies for managing, preserving, and spreading awareness about Modern Heritage.

Adina Hempel

Zayed University

Dr. Alamira Reem Bani Al Hashimi

Urbanist, Architect and Historian

Amel Chabbi

Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi

Dr. Eman Assi

American University of Ras Al Khaimah

Fatima Alsuwaidi

Ministry of Culture

Ismail Alhammadi

Ministry of Culture

Kevin Mitchell

American University of Sharjah

Dr. Khalid Al Awadi

Khalifa University

Mona El Mousfy

SpaceContinuum Design Studio, Sharjah Art Foundation

Roberto Fabbri

Zayed University

Shatha Al Mulla

Ministry of Culture

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi

Barjeel Art Foundation

What is the Modern Architectural Heritage of the UAE?

The classification of "Modern Architectural Heritage" encompasses interior spaces, buildings and the spaces between them, neighborhoods, iconic landmarks, designed landscapes, and the built environment as a whole.

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During the early 1960s, a period of accelerated growth triggered a radical change in UAE’s built environment. The establishment and growth of cities, new neighborhood configurations, and construction of buildings represented a break from the past resulting from nation-building processes that transformed society, politics, and the economy. It also highlighted institutional buildings and infrastructural projects across the UAE, such as civic buildings, schools, public housing and hospitals.

The architecture during this period shares many of the characteristics of work of the Modern Movement; however, the particular response to context, climate and culture meant these buildings and/or sites departed from the main considerations of Modernism, resulting in place-specific adaptations. These buildings were often designed by locally focused practices that incorporated both reinterpreted traditional/vernacular and/or regional elements as well as Modernist typologies. New materials and methods of construction were also incorporated in these large-scale urban planning and infrastructure projects embodied aspirations towards modernity.

In the 1990s, with globalization, came the first instances of real estate speculation, the introduction of free zones and freehold ownership, as well as the significant increase in foreign direct investment, which led to a new wave of buildings and urban spaces. Architecture and urbanism in the UAE since the 1990s have been characterized by a change in scale, the use of advanced construction techniques and a reliance on materials such as glass and aluminum cladding.

This period witnessed a wide variety of architectural styles, from skyscrapers indistinguishable from those in other cities throughout the world to buildings with facades constructed to appear as if they were from the past. Approaches to urbanism ranged from small-scale interventions such as urban parks to large-scale master plans intended to function as enclosed communities.

Share your memories with us!

With the aim of enhancing community participation, we invite you to share names of a site, building, or structure and your personal connection to it by using the below form. We greatly appreciate hearing about the significance of the place and what it represents to you.

Share your memories with us!

Images credit: Structures of Memory in the UAE, Lest We Forget Archive

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