Design -- General
Arabian gulf vernacular studies
Hi all, I'm a MA student studying vernacular architecture in the Arabian Gulf for my final project. If anybody has any suggestions or recommendations please do not hesitate to ask me anything or give me some advice.

My research is focused primarily on how elements of vernacular architecture in the Arabian Gulf can be applied to contemporary Arabian housing, and teach us about different passive cooling in interior architecture.
In essence, my work explores the intricate relationships between how elements of vernacular interior architecture and traditional passive ventilation be applied in contemporary mixed residential & community buildings in the Arabian Gulf; from different classes of privacy catering the local culture, implications of designing for different socio-cultural groups, in particular how these relationships affect the end-user.

My questions are:

In order to assess my building in its context, i was wondering if there is a way to compare my building with traditional buildings for a comparitive analysis?

Is there someone from a sustainability department can help me with how sustainable techqniues can be applied to my building?

Lastly, my thesis is based on interior architecture in the Arabian Gulf, would it be suitable to compare vernacular technqiues from Persian countries with Arabian ones, or do they have significant differences?

I can PM my final renders of my project.

Kind regards,
Nadim Devlin
Arabian gulf vernacular studies
Nadim, a hot topic (a pun) which is most appropriate as Britain is now sweltering in a heat wave.

I assume you know of Hassan Fathy, his work and his books "Architecture for the Poor" and "Natural Energy and Vernacular Architecture", published by the Chicago Univerity Press?

Other books that I have are: "Living with the Desert (inc the Wind Towers of Yazd)" by Beazley and Harverson, pub Aris & Philips. "Shelter in Saudi Arabia" by Talib, pub Academy Editions.
"The Coral Buildings of Suakin" by Greenlaw, pub by KPI and "Earth-Sheltered Habitat" by Golany, pub VNR.

And more general books are: "Design Primer for Hot Climates" by Konya, pub Arch Press and "Manual of Tropical Housing and Building: Part 1 Climatic Design" by Koenigsberger, etc, pub Longman.

From what you have written, it would appear that you have designed your own building and you want to match this against existing vernacular designs? If this is the case, then presumably your building has a specific location within a specific environment and climate?

And what does PM mean? Is this some new jargon for electronic messaging?
Frank John Snelling
Arabian gulf vernacular studies
Hi Frank, thanks for your input, I didn't expect to recieve a great response!

I have read both books by Hassan Fathy, I will try and find the other books mentioned. I am in the process of reading 'Traditional Domestic Architecture of the Arab region' by Friedrich Ragette, and the 'History of Qatari Architecture' by Ibrahim Mohammed Jaidah.

Sorry, Yes you are correct, the building chosen will be matched against existing designs. I forgot to mention that the building I am 'retrofitting' (more like adapting the building to the hot arid climate) is located in Doha, Qatar. The Admirals Club designed by Queens Quay Architects, now owned by Ritz Carlton. Some drawings/pictures are on this Archnet website:

I have chosen this building in particular because of its existing wind tower, and the fact that the form of the building resembles a nautilus shell. I was hopful at the start of the project thinking that the form of the building may contribute to more efficient passive ventilation. However i do not have the instruments to test the efficiency- I'm not an engineer, but an Interior Architect.

I also had a idea of designing channels between each apartment cooling the thermal mass during the day- the idea really came from the narrow passageways and roads found in the Bastakiya.

The building will be turned into 6 apartments, 4 single Apartments, and 2 duplex's, along with a separate recreation area that includes a prayer room, gym, creche, a micro-climatic courtyard which includes an outdoor majlis. Initally, I was inspired by Le Corbusier's Unite D'Habitation in France, a residential building to suit people of different socio-cultural backgrounds.

I have seen some examples from Masdar in the Emirates, how the architects are achieving an almost 100% sustainable city; I have also looked at the GORD Villa in Doha. Both examples use ingenious technqiues to sustain them.

Ha, excuse the jargon, PM (Private message) was intended for sending my renders, however i just found out that the max size is 150x150, and my renders are almost 10 times that size.

Kind regards,
Nadim Devlin
Arabian gulf vernacular studies
Nadim, can you expand on your idea of having channels between apartments to reduce thermal mass during the day?

Perhaps you could achieve this object by reversing how a hypocaust was used, because I recall hearing on a TV programme that was making a Roman Bathhouse that the hypocaust was not only underfloor but within the walls. :)
Frank John Snelling
Arabian gulf vernacular studies
Hi Frank, my idea is to apply a technique similar to the hypocaust. The idea is to use the same concept as the of a badgheer wall in Arabian architecture between each apartment, there are images of these on


sourced from:

The files attached are of my project. The plan is the ground floor plan of the building. Between each apartment is a 600mm wall, which can be used to channel winds into each apartment.
Nadim Devlin
Arabian gulf vernacular studies
my idea here as illustrated by myself
Nadim Devlin
Arabian gulf vernacular studies
This is one of my latest renders. This is the east elevation facing the Arabian Sea. The black vertical strips are the cut strips allowing prevailing sea breeze to channel through each of those 600mm walls
Nadim Devlin
Arabian gulf vernacular studies
The following is an in progress list to help define Arab Vernacular Architecture for use as guidelines to direct new public buildings in Al Gharbia, the Western Region of Abu Dhabi.
In addition, you should read Arabic-Islamic Cities by Besim Hakim todiscover some of the rules and laws that guided the order nd structure of early cities in the MENA Region.

Tradition-based Design Guidelines – Arab Vernacular Design
A) Neighborhood Layout and Character
1) Overall: clear and realistic responses to a challenging climate
2) Desert colors to predominate from coastal zone whites to the warmer palette of the desert
3) Orientation to advantage wind direction and prevailing breezes (the good ones)
4) Consider historic laws for building placement and urban layout
5) Short distance streets with easily visible ends
6) Pedestrian-friendly sidewalks / accessible streetscapes
7) Safe, low levels of night lighting, need to see the stars
8) Maximum building heights of G+3, with most G+1 and G+2 = walkable + lifts
9) Varied massing of individual buildings, no big blocks
10) Courtyard buildings in general and in residential structures in particular
11) Stucco-like rough exterior finishes break the surface heat, ref. Souq Waqif and Al Wakrah
12) Draped shade-providing coverings of public spaces
13) Provide people gathering spaces with deep and cooling shadows
14) Cluster Community Facilities of mosque/parks/small-scale retail
15) Majlis to be part of individual Emirati residential developments
16) How to deal with the proliferation of satellite antennas?
17) Indoor pools: required as gender separate public facilities
B) Landscape – public and private
1) Extremely limited water use
2) Little to no grass in public realm
3) Stone mulch
4) Porous paving of soft colors in public areas both pedestrian and vehicular
5) Local plant materials and xeriscaping
6) Small interior gardens in courtyards
7) Aromatic plants with pleasing scents for more intimate (private?) places and spaces
8) Selective use of trees for shade and palms for demarcating special places
C) Individual Buildings
1) Rules for building and privacy based on historic laws
2) Walled with an opaque exterior exhibiting public vs. private faces
3) Thick load-bearing and compressive masonry walls
4) Shaded arcades around interior courtyards
5) Pergolas and wooden shade structures (arish devices) on terraces and roofs
6) Wind catching towers
7) Humidity / moisture traps
8) Roof terraces with shade devices and solar panels for water heating and energy generation
D) Interior spaces
1) High ceilings to facilitate internal air movement and flow
2) Diffused and refracted natural light
3) Small high-up exterior window openings to the public realm
4) Privacy of views out and for views in and in spatial layouts
5) Opportunity for individual and personal statements with interior fit-out
Paul Pawlowski
Arabian gulf vernacular studies
Nadim, I assumed you already knew of the book "Arabic-Islamic Cities: Building and Planning Principles" by Besim Selim Hakim, published by KPI in 1986.

Paul, what does "xeriscaping" mean? Clearly this is a variant of landscaping. Ah, cancel that, I read in my Oxford English Dictionary that "xero-" (from the Greek "xeros") is used as prefix for "dry".
Frank John Snelling
Arabian gulf vernacular studies
Nadim, Re your August 17th posts, your idea sounds like something I would have thought of. :)))
Frank John Snelling


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