We visit two new projects at Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue that are aiming to change the way we think about architecture
As architectural contrasts go, the difference between Alserkal Avenue’s warehouse 44 – now rebranded as the d.Academy – and the exhibition it contains couldn’t appear more profound.
Industrial, corrugated and contemporary, the warehouse, which is the new headquarters of the Young Architect and Design Programme, contains a modest show that outlines the work of the culture and heritage focused Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme.
Founded in 1992, the AKHCP uses the restoration of architectural masterworks in the Islamic world as a springboard for wider-reaching and long-lasting urban regeneration initiatives that focus as much on education, training and job creation as they do on conservation, restoration and craft.
“We take a whole neighbourhood; we don’t just take one monument, fix a dead building and then leave it to die. We identify a catchment area around each site and use its revitalisation to spur wider regeneration,” said Shiraz Allibhai, deputy director of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, after his talk at the d.Academy’s inauguration on Saturday.
“These projects are designed with the community. We go in and we sit down with the direct beneficiaries and engage in an intense planning process. What do they need? What would they like to see happen? What are their aspirations for their children and what kind of society and neighbourhood would they like to see them living in, not next year or in two years, but long-term?”
During its 25 years in existence, the AKHCP has overseen the conservation and restoration of Babur’s Gardens – the Bagh-e Babur – in Kabul, the site of the tomb of the first Mughal emperor; the great earthen Mosque of Mopti in Mali; and even Unesco World Heritage Sites such as the Mughal Emperor Humayun’s 16th-century garden tomb in New Delhi and the monumental citadel of Aleppo in Syria.
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