Feeling the heat? Seek out some ancient air conditioning
And so it begins. Despite the fact that we’re still officially in spring, the heat of summer is already with us.
According figures released by Nasa this week, not only was April the warmest ever recorded, it was also the seventh month in a row to break all previous records, prompting commentators to predict that 2016 will be hottest year on record.
Extreme heat is one of the key factors that has shaped life in this region and nowhere can its influence be seen more clearly than in its traditional architecture.
Unlike today’s glass and concrete towers, which are built in defiance of the Sun’s fierce strength, traditional homes in the Emirates were built in deference to the climate and used ingenious techniques to keep their inhabitants cool.
Chief among these was the wind tower, or barjeel, several versions of which can be seen in this image of Dubai that was captured by the photographer John Vale in 1956. Whether they were constructed from mud brick or palm fronds, barjeel captured cooling breezes and directing them down into homes while creating a natural vacuum that sucked warmer air from interiors.
Still largely a thing of the past in the UAE, the genius of the barjeel is now recognised in Europe where they have become a common feature on the roofs of environmentally-friendly schools and industrial buildings.
Vale’s blurred image may only offer a fleeting glimpse and is rather clumsily captured, but somehow it is all the more precious for that. Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation’s past. Readers are invited to make contributions to [email protected]tional.ae