Colistra, Joe. "Hybrid Modes of Architectural Production in the United Arab Emirates." In International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Volume 6, Number 1 (pp. 151-164) , edited by Mohammad Gharipour, Bristol: Intellect, 2017.
This article presents a recent design exercise in which architecture students from the American University of Sharjah were asked to design a sustainable scientific research facility with associated housing in the desert oasis city of Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates. The studio investigated vernacular habitation patterns and crafts of ancient desert dwellers in order to develop techniques for inhabiting this harsh environment. The vernacular techniques examined have allowed people to exist in the region for tens of thousands of years and include courtyard house typologies, ‘arish (palm-leaf) construction, nomadic Bedouin weaving, mashrabiya (latticework) screens, dhow boat-making, sand baffles, sewn lateen (triangular) sails, wind towers and qanat (irrigation) channels, to name a few. The students examined and reinterpreted these techniques to align them with modern construction requirements and contemporary ways of living. Using ‘hybrid’ models, the students made small-scale fabrications partly determined by the site, and in so doing created proposals that were extremely site-specific and therefore inherently sustainable. In contrast to the highly incongruous development patterns of such contemporary urban environments as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the architectural approach that emerged from this exercise aspires to be environmentally sensitive while maintaining cultural authenticity.