Maintaining identity: UAE Modern aims to provide a focus for conserving the built environment

Modernism in the UAE is still a bit of an acquired taste and generally under-appreciated, with sound examples of the local genre being threatened by the bland internationalism of contemporary design. UAE Modern is a two-day conference/workshop event (14-15 November) that borrows its title from Yasser Elsheshtawy’s blog of the same name, and it looks like providing another focus for those who rate the modernist style in the Emi.

The event brings together local and international experts to share experiences and exchange knowledge on modern architecture conservation and reuse, and more generally it aims to champion the architectural legacy of the period between the 1950s and the 1980s, when the UAE and neighbouring countries had to cope with the new challenges brought by their fast-economic growth.

Clearly UAE Modern aimed at academics and professionals, but the conference and associated workshops are open and free to attend (pre-registration is necessary).

The conference has a good-looking schedule of speakers discussing conversation and reuse both internationally and locally – there are a couple of papers on Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, which probably retain more interesting modernist buildings than Dubai, and lots of how-to sessions on practicalities and best practice.

Elsheshtawy is one of those taking part, along with a clutch of folk from Docomomo International, the go-to guys for the protection and conservation of modern architecture; Amel Chabbi from Abu Dhabi’s building conservation unit and Eman Assi, cultural heritage expert at Dubai Municipality; AUS’s George Katodrytis; Adina Hempel from ZU Dubai and Marco Sosa from ZU Abu Dhabi; the impressive Khawla Al-Hashimi, head of design at Shurooq; and Noura Al-Sayeh, Head of Architectural Affairs at the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities.

Also prominent is Massimo Imparato, curator and prime mover of the event; he has more than 20 years’ professional practice and was recently appointed an Assistant Professor at the Canadian University Dubai.

Day one (14 November) is at the Etihad Museum; day two (15 November) is at the Dubai Design Week site in d3.

This is the starter event for what the organisers hope will become an active information hub on the subject. More at, where there’s also a mailing list you can join to stay abreast.

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