One could argue, ‘Why should someone struggle to restore an old house while there are plenty of opportunities to own a modern structure fulfilling the desired motive?’
Well, this could be taken as a light argument, but the facts tell a different story.
It would serve the community better to understand the significance of old buildings before thinking about how to revive them.
Have we ever asked ourselves why some countries are more popular globally and others aren’t? Why are some cultures more familiar and the others less? How can we develop a country’s image from what it is, to how we want it perceived? What differentiates one country from the other?
It is how we utilise our resources that matters
Buildings being among the physical products of a specific era, they provide a great deal of information and fulfillment during sightseeing as they are full of details. Traditions, abilities, creativity, strength, beliefs, knowledge, wealth, to mention but a few can all be visualised and astonish an observer with an indescribable feeling. These kinds of messages are the ones that people love to explore, locals love to take pride in and nations entitled to benefit from.
Economic benefits are always an interesting side of any topic. Revival of old buildings is achieved in a number of phases in which each phase requires specialists. From surveyors, engineers, architects, manufactures, transporters and the traders all are entitled to employment and profits if such projects come to pass. Don’t we have unemployment issues that exist? Can’t this be a strong reason for adopting old buildings?
While unemployment can be tackled to an extent with such a move, tourism is another sector that benefits. A tourist visiting any country would be keen to observe and experience things that are either new or unique. Things that really define that place and distinguish it from the others. Malls would never be among places to explore, while local markets would be considered an import element of tourism promotion. The interest will be on buying local items, exploring rare things and taste local food knowing that they are only available within and not beyond the borders.
If the focus is pointed towards cultural and social benefits, historical buildings do enhance the image of the community and their pride which also nurture traditions. People are determined by their traditional differences and so our devotion towards it should not be questioned. If these buildings can define our traditions then our duty towards them should never stop.
A People without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture, is like a tree without roots
– Marcus Garvey
Exploration of history and culture of a place is fascinating and even the citizens become proud of promoting what they own since they do hold great pride in their country and all that is in it.
In this context, cultural and historical aspects are vital and so is their proper deployment since they can influence a country’s recognition swiftly.
As far as history is concerned, plenty of written information is available in books, journals, websites and so forth. Sharing of information can be done in plenty of ways, however the actual experience is hardly gained without the physical existence of related items.
Clearly, revival of old buildings have environmental benefits as well.
If we imagine an old settlement abandoned, then we should imagine the quantity of old material accumulated on the ground and the quantity of new materials used daily in constructing new structures. How much energy is used in producing these materials and their cost? What about the paved roads that are left unused and the neighbourhoods that are left without life? All these can be avoided if old buildings are back into use where there will be no dead areas, no unused roads and no wasted money.
The benefits are many and a strong enough reason to trigger our consciousness on restoring and reusing the old buildings. So, let us make an effort, embrace their value and utilise them correctly.
That time is now and not in the future.
(Thoughts and comments can be posted on instagram @fatma_humaid_almahrooqi)
Fatma Humaid al Mahrooqi is a graduate in Urban Planning and Architectural Design and is currently working in 23 Degrees North, an architectural consultancy in Muscat