The built heritage as a resource for architectural education: documentation of the vernacular settlements and architecture in Oman

Naima Benkari*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: Through a project of cooperation between the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism (MHT) and Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), a team including faculty members, technicians and students from the SQU department of civil and architectural engineering (CAE), was involved in the project of documentation, survey and the development of management plans of four (4) Omani Vernacular settlements (Harat). Such an experience was meant to initiate students from different levels in undergraduate programs of civil and architectural engineering to the fieldwork and professional practice in the field of built heritage studies. The present research aims to explore the effect of such an experience on the learning process and skills acquired by the involved students. Design/methodology/approach: The research was undertaken with students of CAE undergraduate programs at SQU. The documentation method has been implemented in 4 different settlements with the same students. A questionnaire has been administered to the participating students after their graduation to collect their feedback regarding the benefits of this experience on their education and skills development. The data was complemented by active observation and semi-directive interviews with some students randomly selected among the respondents to the questionnaire. Findings: The outcome of each documentation campaign as well as the results of the questionnaires administered revealed that this experience has raised students' awareness about the importance of studying the built heritage and safeguarding it. The research has shown that important soft skills, such as team-working, leadership and communication, have been consolidated. It has also revealed that this experience was an opportunity for students to discover the variety of options within the profession of architecture and its intellectual and ethical responsibilities. Such aspects are hardly grasped when taught within a “classical” teaching/learning setting. Research limitations/implications: The main limitations of this research were the hard working conditions during the summer in Oman and the direct interaction of the students with the buildings. Even cautious, such interaction represents a risk for an already fragile heritage. Practical implications: The paper includes a detailed description of the architectural documentation tools and methods used in the case studies. These tools and methods can easily be applicable, with slight adaptations, in other architectural documentation projects involving undergraduate students. The documentation methodology and the generated corpus of 3D digital models can be used in other documentation projects and further studies such as architectural typologies, bioclimatic properties, natural ventilation patterns, daylight performance, etc. Originality/value: This paper reports on the outcomes of the first experience of its kind in Oman and the Gulf region, where undergraduate students (predominantly females) were involved in an interdisciplinary project for the documentation of important vernacular settlements and their buildings. The added value of this research is that its methodology can be a reference for professors of Architecture and related specialties aiming to integrate research and field work with education.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • Architectural education
  • Architectural survey
  • Measured drawings
  • Omani Harat
  • Students' involvement in research
  • Vernacular architecture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Conservation
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Urban Studies

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