The population of Oman is around 2.739mn, out of which 70 per cent are aged below 30 years. These future active citizens will require housing.
Apartment living is a Western way of living, and not much appreciated by Middle Eastern people. The sultanate is presently using only nine per cent of its land, with the rest being deserts, wadis, mountains, hills, etc.
Housing is, therefore, a vital need; but what type of a need? It is often mentioned “affordable” and understood that it is cheap housing. The price is not really relevant. What is being offered is more important. ‘Cheap’ does not satisfy the need, but properly designed housing, offering the same guidelines as a standard house is a more correct offer.
There are several aspects which make a house a place to live. It has to be practical, offering good views, and easily accessible. And most importantly, allowing the residents of the house to be able to express their identity or adapting the house to the growing needs of the family.
Additionally, architecture in the Middle East is quite different from the Western world. In this part of the world, we use three divisions within the house – the inner, private spaces which are not accessible to people outside of the family, the public areas of the house and the service areas. The symmetry of these spaces is quite difficult to master, given the fact that the external expression has to be in line with the global perception of a very fine line from which the spaces are carved in, not allowing any protrusion.
A balcony in the Middle East is a space carved in from the façade and not an additional space protruding from the façade. If all these centuries these principles have been implemented, why try to implement something which is alien to the local culture.
Unfortunately many designs, which are cut-and-paste copies of other areas, are being implemented in Oman and preventing people to evolve in their natural environment.
A house is not a car that one changes often; it is an environment in which the families grow and as such worth spending time and analysing.
The identity of a country needs to be respected; the overall image of a country largely depends on its buildings. When you mention New York or Dubai, one thinks automatically of high-rises; when you think of Japan, you see small houses next to each other, etc. Proper identity will allow respect and economic growth.
Middle Eastern architecture is so rich that it is worth learning more about it.
In the Middle East, architectural language talks to us, suggests environments, clarifies relations, and the Western world has copied just some details from our culture. Let us revive our existing culture and make the people proud of what they achieve.