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Introspective analysis

The projects presented in this chapter illustrate a variety of conservation projects planned and developed to preserve the built historic heritage. Each approach has striven to establish an enduring relationship between the local history and the people’s socio-cultural values. As brief case studies they varied in scale: from whole cities, to districts, to buildings and monuments. For example, the rehabilitation of Mostar Old Town, involved the restoration of many historical structures and the city’s most famous bridge, known as Stari Most, which represents the cultural history of the city and symbolises the connection of the local people on both sides of the river. In addition, the conservation process included the revitalisation of the commercial and business centre of the old town, by renovating the local shops, offices, and other buildings to rehouse traditional artisans and crafts, as well as upgrading various facilities to respond to the needs of the local people and tourists

(Al-Radi, 1986). Likewise, the rehabilitation of the walled city of Nicosia, Cyprus, aimed at preserving the cultural and historical charm of the city through restoring facades and streets, upgrading the infrastructure, and rejuvenating private investment to enhance the quality of life and improve the economy. This resulted in the restoration of houses, small commercial ventures, and other buildings that were then adapted for residential, commercial, or community service purposes (Oktay, 2007).

While the rehabilitation of Mostar and Nicosia focused on preserving the built heritage to meliorate the life of their residents and to attract tourists, the rehabilitation of Asilah in Morocco and Shibam in Yemen mainly focused on reconnecting the locals with their heritage, upgrading their homes, and thereby improving their quality of life. The rehabilitation of Asilah was initiated by a local resident who had returned to the city after twenty years of living abroad. Together with a friend, he started a conservation programme that included the restoration of various historical buildings, such as the Raissouni Palace. The funding for the project was obtained by holding cultural festivals aimed at the local populace rather than foreign tourists. The conservation programme in Shibam also targeted the local population, who had started to abandon the historical city because many dilapidated homes were in danger of collapse. As the rehabilitation programme began to visibly improve the historic houses, residents were encouraged to remain in the city. The project was eventually expanded to restore other historical buildings.

In contrast to Asilah and Shibam, where the conservation of the built heritage came as a response to local needs, the conservation of Sidi Bou Said in Tunisia was principally a response to the need for tourism. In order to conserve the historical, religious, and cultural structures of the village, old buildings were restored and the facades of new buildings were modified to harmonise with the old, with the salubrious result that the holistic urban pattern of the village was preserved. Additionally, the rehabilitation projects of the historic centre of Birzeit in Palestine and Ville Nouvelle in the city of Tunis focused primarily on revitalisation and redevelopment. Urban planners accepted the colonial architecture part of the city’s heritage that was worth conserving. In Birzeit, the historic centre was rehabilitated; this revitalised the whole village and created new employment opportunities. As a result, the entire village was transformed into a desirable place to live and work. The programme also promoted community solidarity by raising the awareness of the socio-cultural bonds that shaped and gave structure to the village.

While the aforementioned projects included conservation works on a city scale, in three examples the works were carried out on a district scale: the Tabriz Bazaar in Iran, Souk Waqif in Qatar, and Darb Qirmiz in Egypt. Tabriz Bazaar and Souk Waqif are commercial centres that underwent rehabilitation programmes to conserve the cultural heritage, infuse life into historical sites, and boost commercial activity. The restoration effort in both projects aimed at preserving vernacular architectural forms and local heritage. In the

Souk Waqf rehabilitation, creating an open-air public area was a priority in addition to establishing a vibrant commercial centre. Unlike Tabriz Bazaar and Souk Waqif, Darb Qirmiz is mainly a residential quarter. The restoration programme involved rehabilitating all of the houses and conserving all listed monuments, which were in a state of disrepair. Since the project was launched in the early 1980s, it has generated awareness in the Cairene scene about the value of conserving and rehabilitating key and historic quarters of old Cairo. Additionally, it provided employment opportunities by engaging local artisans in the restoration and rehabilitation process.

There are also many conservation programmes that focused on specific buildings and monuments. Some of these buildings were restored to their original state, such as the Great Omari Mosque in Lebanon and the Abbas Mosque in Yemen. This rehabilitation restored them to their original use; for example, the Great Omari Mosque had originally been a large fortress that was turned into a mosque in the 13th century. Due to its partial destruction during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the restoration project required repairing certain parts and reconstructing others; this was done by using traditional techniques and materials and local craftspeople. The Abbas Mosque, on the other hand, is a much smaller structure used only by the local tribes living in the surrounding areas. The most important architectural feature of the mosque is its ceiling, which contained twenty-two caissons covered with carved, gilded, and painted intricate decorations. While both of these mosques have retained their original function, other examples noted in this study were conserved through adaptive reuse in such a way that current community needs were met, and all users took ownership of the project. Another example, the New Life for Old Structures programme in Iran, included the reuse of eight architecturally unique buildings in a commercially viable way; for instance, a bathhouse became a restaurant, a religious structure became an art centre, and several houses turned into a museum, a research centre, an office, and guesthouses.

Similarly, the restoration of the Rubber Smokehouse, which is an example of Malaysia’s colonial industrial heritage, transformed the structure into a museum and interpretation centre. The Manouchehri House project in Iran also included renovating a historic house and reusing one part as a textile workshop and another part as a boutique hotel. Other restoration projects had a broader scope that included surrounding areas and neighbourhoods. The conservation of Bukhara, for example, placed emphasis on restoring or upgrading major monuments and providing them with a functional role that was appropriate to their architectural character. In contrast, the New Life for Old Structures programme and the Manouchehri House project in Iran, although started as a restoration effort in a single structure, later progressed to include and impact entire neighbourhoods and historic centres.

Identifying the conservation approach that best achieves the intended objectives depends on various factors, such as the type of historical site, the type of structure, and the physical and cultural context, in addition to economic and political forces (Roders and Grigolon, 2015). Irrespective of the scale of the project and the approach utilised, all of these examples required significant contributions from various parties and stakeholders; this included the use of local craftspeople, crafts, and materials, coupled with determination, imagination, building skills, and social processes. Although the conservation of the built heritage is mostly driven by the resurgence in and reclamation of national identity, it is also, in many cases, connected to socio-economic aspirations such as tourism and commercial development

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