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Sat 6 Oct 2007 04:00 AM

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Not out with the old, in with the new

A world heritage group intervening in construction plans would no doubt be viewed with irritation by most developers.

The likes of a heavyweight world heritage organisation such as Unesco being called on to intervene in construction plans would no doubt be viewed with irritation by most developers.

More money has to be ploughed into redesign and work gets delayed while the bureaucratic process is being played out and, by the time the project gets the green light, materials and other associated costs have spiralled while good contractors, particularly in a region like the Middle East, are hard to come by.

In fact, as time drags on, a design originally opposed as being ‘incongruous with its surroundings' might well end up blending in quite nicely.

Opposition towards development is usually the preserve of small-town populations keen to put a stop to all construction that they fear would jeopardise an area's natural beauty or erode its history and culture.

The same can be said for cities whose very fabric is more or less hinged on the historic architecture and remnants that tell the story of their past.

It's therefore easy to understand why Unesco was asked to assess whether designs for the Cairo Financial Centre would impact the aesthetic value of the nearby Salahuddin Citadel.

Apart from the project's hotel being scaled back by five or six floors, the organisation questioned the materials planned for use during construction and the colour of the building.

The recommendations brought to mind a conversation I had with a consultant a few months ago about development in Dubai.

He felt the emirate had been exposed to more Western-style architecture and methods of construction than it perhaps needed, and that a lot more could be learned from the way things were done in the past.

The tiny percentage of wind towers left are the only real representation of history in Dubai - and are a good example of how traditional construction methods suited the climate.

The planned architectural regulations should go a long way in keeping what is left - and having old buildings standing alongside new ones will show how far the city has progressed architecturally.

But developers will need to be made fully aware of what the regulations are in order to avoid potential cost burdens and delays.

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