Earth-Friendly Vernacular Date Palm Leaf Architecture Revisited in London

green design, vernacular architecture, date palm, desert, Gulf, United Arab Emirates, Royal Geographic Society, eco-building, Arish

One of the most exciting exhibits we’ve heard about is currently on display at London’s Royal Geographic Society. What makes it so exciting? Amidst stately buildings made of brick, vernacular desert architecture is enjoying its month of fame, and dozens of websites are talking about the event.

Polish designer Sandra Piesik is curating the exhibit Arish: Palm Leaf Architecture, which is being hosted by His Excellency Abdul Rahman Ghanem Al Mutaiwee – UAE Ambassador to the United Kingdom, following three years of exploring the role that date palm leaf architecture plays in Emirati history. She has published a book by the same name.

green design, vernacular architecture, date palm, desert, Gulf, United Arab Emirates, Royal Geographic Society, eco-building, Arish

Arish refers to a structure that was built entirely out of date palm using the same techniques that desert dwellers employed 7,000 years ago. In addition to being a renewable resource, palm leaves permit a great deal of natural ventilation that brings interior temperatures down by a whopping 30 degrees.

They are also remarkably stable. A Brownbook magazine journalist who is on the scene claims that Arish has stood defiantly against vicious April storms that have been pounding at it. It’s as though the newly-erected structure invoked the ghosts of ancients, who are saying “see, we told you so!”

And this is partly why the exhibit is so important. As Nick Leech from The National explained in a recent interview with Green Prophet, although design techniques adapted to the Arabian peninsular’s particular climatic constraints over hundreds of years, western design has almost entirely eclipsed that vast reservoir of knowledge.

Following in the footsteps of famed explorer Wilfred Thesiger, who received a Founder’s Medal from the Royal Geographic Society for his documentation of United Arab Emirate vernacular architecture, Piesik has immortalized them, ensuring that they don’t slip into absolute obscurity.

The exhibit will be on display until May 25th.

:: Brownbook

More on Vernacular Architecture in the Middle East:

World Famous Jørn Utzon Admired Morocco’s Vernacular Architecture

Yemen’s Manhattan of the Desert Boasts 400 Habitable Clay Towers

Hassan Fathy is the Middle East’s Father of Sustainable Architecture

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  9. Meem Radwill says:

    Yes the old houses used every part of the date palm.. the logs for walls posts and ceiling posts, the palm fronds for the outside walls.. the palm fronds plaited for ceiling and floor covering. I see it in use each time I go out into the desert in Oman, and some of our artisans still live in them. It’s a journey back in time when we visit with them, though many of the bedouin are moving into solid structures and some of them keep areesh houses for the people who look after the camels.

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