Visual constructs

Intrinsic facades of a vibrant yesteryear

As part of an early ethnographic foray into the urban landscape of the Middle East, written in sand examined the architecture of human dwellings in different parts of the UAE.

In the process of archiving some of the city’s older architectural delights, we stumbled upon an array of beautiful, intricate and personalised doorways in the older suburbs of the city.

Now, taking a step back, we look at the architectural styles of buildings built during the formative years of the nation and how they influenced the visual fabric of smaller, more intimate urban dwellings — in contrast to the present day metropolis that most outsiders associate with the country.

While our focus has been predominantly on the graphic and geometric attributes of the balconies, the project is beginning to extend also into the habitats they encase. These are habitats that comprise numerous clotheslines, flowering gardens, bird feed stations, mini warehouses – even cosy shisha lounges – all of which help throw light on the lifestyles that used to thrive in these dwellings.

The following compositions (created from photographs of building facades) examine intrinsic visual components such as form, colour and space, and represent them graphically as swatches constituting the palette of a vibrant yesteryear.

Most of the building facades documented in this series were constructed between the seventies and early nineties. We often found them in the UAE’s former urban and commercial centres, such as Al Fahidi and Baniyas in Dubai, Rolla and Majaz in Sharjah and Al Wahdah in Abu Dhabi.

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