The Nahrein Network


Climate Change, Old Basra Traditional Architecture

Team: Dr Sura Al-Maiyah, Dr Hamed Samir

Duration: 24 months starting from 1 April 2024

Traditional historic architecture offers inspiration for communities and professionals alike, particularly in the current era of climate emergency. Historic buildings satisfied occupants’ comfort without relying on the massive use of energy-consuming solutions. In most cases, the use of local craftsmanship and construction techniques resulted in beautifully crafted, and environmentally responsive buildings. Such a wealth of solutions has lost its relevance in contemporary architecture largely replaced by standardised alternatives.

This project aims at raising awareness of the importance of protecting the historic residential architecture in Iraq and the value of its environmental design by co-creating a toolkit, a ‘digital platform’ with local architects, engineers, and residents for designing better retrofit interventions for traditional residential buildings. The platform will be both a vehicle to help residents regain trust in the peculiarity of their heritage and an instrument to pursue sustainable heritage conservation practices. It will include visualizations showing how historic houses are performing in terms of solar control and visual efficiency. It will offer a range of detailed structural and functional solutions aiming at facilitating future rehabilitation works. It will help pursue heritage conservation by respecting communities and taking into account social habits in the use of buildings.

The project focuses on Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, where some of the country’s extraordinary traditional architecture is located, namely the famous shanasheel houses. The fluid political climate affecting the city since the early 2000s has severely damaged its historic precinct and weakened the confidence of its community in their heritage. This is common to many cities situated in conflict zones, which are yet to find scenarios to revive their history and heritage. The project will set a precedent for cities in conflict zones thus changing the narrative on heritage conservation in the Middle East and beyond.