Managing heritage, designing futures: heritage documentation, ma

Submitting Institution

Nottingham Trent University

Unit of Assessment

Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Built Environment and Design: Architecture
History and Archaeology: Curatorial and Related Studies

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Summary of the impact

This case study describes the pioneering work undertaken with the Sultanate of Oman government to develop appropriate approaches towards sustainable documentation, management and renewal of 86 priority heritage sites of its 1000-plus vernacular settlements. Approaches established through a pilot project - now extended to 9 settlements (5 completed) including 3 World-Heritage- Sites - are helping Oman achieve a cohesive strategy and have instigated a thorough revision of the priority list. Wide-ranging stakeholder engagement was achieved through exhibitions, public lectures, workshops, press interviews (Arabic/English) and heritage-related film-production. The continued `capacity building' and employment of young graduates through skills development training has provided the social enterprise dimension.

Underpinning research

The underpinning research undertaken at this HEI since 1998 originally consisted of three key strands. Shackley's internationally recognised work (1998: reference-1; also 2001 & 2002) on the complex cultural and political nature of World-Heritage-Sites (WHS) as places of tourism and the validity of applying contemporary theoretical frameworks to analysing historical issues had provided important insights into their management and consumption. Paralleling this, Mansfield's work in heritage focused on conservation and protection policies, their remit within the UK and the legal and ethical challenges. His publication in Structural Survey (2001) addressed a key issue in heritage conservation: refurbishment. Exploring the perception of `risk' in refurbishment amongst conservation consultants, Mansfield highlighted the importance of the clients' awareness of cultural issues. In recognising the importance of the design quality Mansfield subsequently argued the role of government initiatives (CABE) in enshrining good design within conservation policy (2004: reference-3). The ethical challenges associated with design interventions within an increasingly complex conservation practice is discussed in Mansfield's 2008 paper. Black's work (2002: reference-2) on the conservation of built heritage in the UK was underpinned by wider multi- disciplinary research interest within the institution on the need to address the significant built heritage in Nottingham - a legacy of the city's lace manufacturing industry. The work provided important theoretical and practice-related insights into the appreciation, interpretation and appropriation of built heritage in the UK. A social enterprise based approach to heritage management emerged in the work of Alina and Tom Hughes, whose concerns centred on identity and social justice. In 2003, under the Prince of Wales' INTBAU (International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism) initiative, the team was involved in the production of a master plan for the medieval Saxon village of Laslea in Transylvania, Romania through an international development and design workshop (

The study of vernacular environments and heritage management were given further impetus with the arrival of Bandyopadhyay in 2008 through work on oasis settlements of Oman. Although Bandyopadhyay's early work and some impact activities took place at Liverpool University, funding bids secured at Liverpool and later at NTU (AHRC, US Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation, Historical Association of Oman; grant references a-e) resulted in important publications at NTU. His research on the politico-historical background of prayer niches (mihrab) and their underlying cultural concepts in central Omani mosques (2008) was followed by an exhibition on the architecture and settlement organisation of Harat al-Bilad, the main settlement in the oasis of Manah (2009: reference-4). The exhibition highlighted key methodological problems of settlement documentation and analysis and emphasised the need to understand heritage settlements in terms of social and deeper cultural practices and ideals. The publication on tribal dynamics (2011: reference-5) emphasised the importance of considering the complex tribal and social history in understanding settlement organisation and evolution in central Oman. Bandyopadhyay's well-received monograph (2011: reference-6) extended these assertions further through a detailed study of central Omani oasis settlements, exploring notions of sacredness, the role of water, mosque and dwelling typology, and settlement morphology, amongst other issues.

References to the research

1. Shackley, M. (ed.) 1998. Visitor Management: Case Studies from World Heritage Sites (ISBN: 0-7506-4783-3). Butterworth-Heinemann. 250pp.
An innovative and significant collection of case studies of World-Heritage-Sites from across the world. With contributions from international experts, the book addresses visitor experience and site management problems.

2. Black, G. 2002. The conservation of the built environment in the UK. And, Nottingham Lace Market. In: Phelps, A., Ashworth, G. and Johansson, B. (eds.), The Construction of Built Heritage (ISBN: 0-7546-1846-3). Aldershot: Ashgate. 13-28 & 73-86.
In addition to a discussion on the general state of UK's built heritage conservation, Black's second chapter contribution develops the understanding of the role of conservation area status to the revitalisation of Nottingham's Lace Market area.

3. Mansfield, J., 2004. Developments in Conservation Policy: The Evolving Role of CABE. Journal Of Architectural Conservation (ISSN: 1355-6207) 10(2): 50-65.
Important contribution on the controversial role of government agencies in value-judging design and aesthetics in conservation.

4. Bandyopadhyay, S. 2009. Invited exhibition: Manah: A Gift of God, The Architecture of a Deserted Omani Settlement. Venue: American University at Sharjah. April 2009.
Invited exhibition based on extensive and detailed research on an Omani settlement.

5. Bandyopadhyay, S. 2011.Spatial implications of Omani tribal dynamics: Harat al-Bilad in Manah Oasis. Orient: German Journal for Politics, Economics and Culture of the Middle East (ISSN:0030-5227) 52(1): 67-73.
Invited contribution identifying spatial impact of key tribal migrations into Manah.

6. Bandyopadhyay, S. 2011.Manah: Omani Oasis, Arabian Legacy: Architecture and Social History of an Omani Oasis settlement (ISBN: 978-1-846-31121-5). Liverpool University Press & Historical Association of Oman. 312pp.
Review: Ronald Lewcock, former Aga Khan Professor at MIT: "A major work, erudite, and thorough - and containing exhaustive studies of many aspects of the traditional architecture of Oman, making it an invaluable reference work for Islamic scholars for years to come."

The following grants provided important impetus to some underpinning research and listed outputs:

a) 2009 Historical Association of Oman: £11,000
Bandyopadhyay (March 2009)
Grant towards monograph publication, Manah: Omani Oasis Arabian Legacy (Reference 6).

b) 2009 Exhibition & Travel Grant: UAE Architectural Heritage Society, American University of Sharjah, £10,000
Bandyopadhyay (April 2009)
Towards curating and updating exhibition on the traditional architecture of Manah (Oman; Reference 4), held in Dubai and the American University in Sharjah. Originally supported by The British Council, Bait Al Zubair Museum (Oman), Emirates Airlines (2001-2002).

c) 2005 United States Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation: US $48,600
Bandyopadhyay & Al-Mukhaini/ Historical Association of Oman (December 2005-July 2008) Fieldwork in Bowshar and Manah oases in Oman. Contributed towards referenced outputs 5 and 6.

d) 2004-8 Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC): £83,170 (non-FEC)
Bandyopadhyay (award period until March 2008); contributed towards impact methodology; Assessing the contribution of Nek Chand's Rock Garden in (re)defining the popular identity of Chandigarh, India" Assessed as `Outstanding' by Peer Review College.

e) 2003 Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC): £5,000
Bandyopadhyay; contributed towards output 5 & 6.
The decorated mihrab-s (prayer niches) of central Oman: their origin and influences.

The following grant awards contributed towards impact case studies:

f) 2013 National Museum of Oman: £38,000 (OMR 22,800)
Text and non-text (photographic/drawn/digital) based material for permanent display.

g) 2012 Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman: c. 135,000 (OMR 82,500)
Comprehensive documentation, analysis and management plan production for 4 Omani oasis settlements (Bahla World-Heritage-Site; Izki; Ibri and Fanja).

h) 2010 Muscat Municipality, Royal Court, Oman: £41,500 + capacity building support
Fieldwork and analysis of vernacular settlements in the Muscat Governorate (Muscat, Muttrah, Bowshar, Quriyat, Al Khodh) leading to a planned monograph.

i) 2010-1 Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman & NTU (HEIF4): £50,000
Towards Heritage Management Plans for 2 Omani oasis settlements, Birkat al-Mawz & Izki.

Details of the impact

The historical, cultural, methodological and ethical insights from the research and outputs have resulted in pioneering, wide-ranging and sustained impact from NTU's leading involvement and advisory role in a number of impactful projects in the documentation, management and renewal of built heritage in Oman and the UAE and its dissemination through public engagement.

Oman: In 2010, aware of the gap in management of heritage sites, Oman's Ministry of Heritage and Culture (MHC) decided to select a partner to address its cultural heritage sites at greatest risk. Based on NTU's research and advisory record in this field, our team was invited. Stage-1 of the initiative involved a pilot-study to undertake documentation and Heritage Management Plan (HMP) for 2 oasis settlements (Birkat al-Mawz-WHS and Izki-selective; grant-i; evidence-4) on their priority list of 86, followed by 4 more in Stage-2 (completed July 2013) and 4 in Stage-3 (on-going).

Stage-1: Contextually-appropriate, cost-effective and expedient alternatives to established documentation methods (e.g. resource-intensive ICOMOS - International Council on Monuments and Sites - approach) were developed by NTU, by limiting the on-site component and emphasising aerial-photograph-based documentation. Comprehensive and selective documentation approaches were applied to HMPs and compared to ascertain their relative benefits in documenting Oman's 1000-plus vernacular settlements.

Key feature of this pilot-HMP - well-received by MHC and the Committee for the Registration and Protection of Historic Building Clusters - is its focus on future generations through full integration of developmental needs/aspirations in renewal (training/education/crafts/renewable energy). This model combines heritage management and development in a Master Plan and employs comprehensive documentation (instead of conventional selective approach in WHSs.

Stage-2: Following success of the pilot phase, MHC asked NTU to undertake work on 4 additional settlements (Izki, Ibri, Bahla-WHS, Fanja; grant-g; evidence-1-3) in the Dakhiliyah (Interior) Governorate. MHC embraced the documentation approaches as `models' and has adopted the comprehensive option for future key settlement HMPs (undertaken by NTU) and the selective option for small-settlement documentation (by Salut Planning and Management, advised/reviewed by NTU). MHC has acted on NTU's advice and is currently reviewing the inventory of vernacular settlements to establish a rigorous criteria-based priority list (evidence-5). NTU has contributed text and non-text based material on vernacular architecture for the permanent display at Muscat's National Museum (grant-f).

Stage-3: In 2013 NTU was awarded 4 new sites (2 in Sinaw, Mudayrib and Al-Gila-WHS; new funding £161,000) in the unexplored Sharqiyyah (Eastern) Governorate. Full implementation of Master Plans are being discussed with MHC for Salalah and with Ministry of Tourism for Misfat Al-`Abriyeen and Minzafah.

Capacity Building Element: In 2009 the NTU team was invited by Muscat Municipality to undertake vernacular settlement documentation within Muscat Governorate (grant-h). To train young Omanis in heritage documentation, the project was developed with a significant 'capacity building' component (an approach subsequently adopted by MHC for its employees - 20 trained; evidence-6). Twelve unemployed graduates (6 men/6 women) from the Oman Technical College were recruited on the documentation training programme through interviews (evidence-7). Intensive on-site training supported by NTU-developed training manual prepared the documentation team with the requisite documentation, representation, team working, project management and leadership skills. Earlier, much background knowledge was developed through an invitation to design an appropriate organisation and curriculum for traditional building skills training of nationals for the revitalisation of al-Jimi and al-Qattara oases in the UAE (early-2009; evidence-8). Following the eight-month fieldwork and drawn documentation production, all trainees gained employment within government and private sectors with average annual salaries of £18,000, indicating economic and social impact. A bilingual publication (Arabic/English) on Muscat's vernacular heritage is forthcoming (2014).

UAE/Abu-Dhabi: In 2008-9 Bandyopadhyay was invited by UK-based consultant, Austin Smith:Lord to help analyse a monument of historical and political significance in Abu Dhabi (client and direct beneficiary: Abu Dhabi Authority for Cultural Heritage, ADACH; evidence-10). Bandyopadhyay's expertise in Gulf vernacular architecture and interpretive methods helped establish the architectural and socio-cultural values of the monument. It provided the basis for a sensitive proposal for the monument's reuse as a cultural heritage interpretation centre. The project also trained 2 UK professionals in the historical and socio-cultural background of Gulf vernacular architecture. Recently ADACH has invited NTU to participate in a tender to document and develop another site of historical significance.

Dissemination: NTU has established "ArCHIAM Projects", Architecture and Cultural Heritage of India, Arabia and the Maghreb, spearheading the impact work ( In July 2013 an exhibition on the HMPs was launched through a well-attended inauguration including MHC officials. The work has been disseminated through public lectures (Oman/UAE/Italy; evidence-9), national/international media interviews (English/Arabic newspapers; Radio-Oman) and popular annual publications (English/Arabic). Bandyopadhyay has contributed to a MHC-produced film on heritage sites, distributed internationally (Arabic; English subtitles).

Sources to corroborate the impact

1. 2013 (July). Government Report: Heritage Management and Development Plan for Harat al- `Aqr, Bahla WHS. Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman.287pp.

2. 2013 (April). Government Report: Heritage Management and Development Plan for as-Sulayf, Ibri. Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman.183pp.

3. 2012 (September). Government Report: Heritage Management and Development Plan for Harat al-Yemen, Izki. Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman.304pp.

4. 2011 (October). Government Report: Heritage Management and Development Plan for Harat as-Saybani, Birkat al-Mawz. Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman. 225pp.

5. Letter confirming MHC-NTU partnership and contribution. The Undersecretary of Heritage, Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Sultanate of Oman.
Excerpt: "NTU has closely collaborated with the Ministry in pioneering systematic documentation of these settlements and for establishing strategies, policy guidelines and approaches for the sustainable management and reuse of Oman's built heritage. . . . The NTU team led by Prof Bandyopadhyay has advised the Ministry in a range of related issues, which include the review of the work of consultants ... An important contribution ... has been the continued `capacity building' through the training ..."

6. 2012 (11/10/2012). "In Collaboration with Nottingham Trent University: `Heritage and Culture' organize a workshop for the documentation of traditional settlements". Al-Watan (Arabic).
Excerpt (translation): "Under the collaborative traditional settlements documentation project between MHC and NTU, 20 staff of the Ministry's regional departments are being trained... The director of MHC's Nizwa office, Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Tamimi confirmed that the staff are being trained by academic experts from NTU on the techniques and procedures applied to documenting historic buildings ... Hisham bin Talib al-Farsi, staff in the Department of Research, describes his participation in the documentation of Harat al-'Aqr in Bahla as being very important, which has given him the opportunity to work and learn form world experts ..."

7. 2011 (12/10/2011). 'MoHC eyes expert help to develop Birkat al Mouz'. Muscat Daily. Excerpt: "Dr Soumyen Bandyopadhyay ... is visiting Oman on MHC's invitation to present his proposal on the subject. . . . Dr Bandyopadhyay is also working with Muscat Municipality on documenting heritage within Muscat governorate. `I am collaborating with Muscat Municipality to train technical graduates in heritage documentation and capacity building' ... he said."

8. 2009-10. An appropriate organisation for traditional building skills training in Al Qattara and Al Jimi Oasis. Contribution to Barker-Langham report for ADACH, Government of Abu Dhabi.

9. 2009. Invited public lectures. Architectural Heritage Society of UAE. Dubai & Sharjah. Lectures - The architecture of the Dakhiliyah region of Oman; Designing with history; Architecture of Manah. Supported by fieldtrip to Manah, Bahla and Nizwa in Oman led by Bandyopadhyay.

10. 2009. Conservation and interpretation of Qasr Al Husn Palace, Abu Dhabi. Contribution to Austin Smith-Lord report establishing concept and strategic approaches for ADACH, Government of Abu Dhabi.