Feel­ing the heat? Seek out some an­cient air con­di­tion­ing

The National - News - The Review - - The Time Frame -

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

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