Adaptive Reuse Strategy for Abandoned Historic Villages in Asir (Saudi Arabia)
A Participatory Approach
Keywords:Vision 2030, Sustainability
How can we reinvent abandoned villages of cultural and historical value that seem of no practical use? How can we sustain unique vernacular cultures in an age of progressive globalization? These are the questions social scientists, urban planners, architects, and archaeologists grapple with around the world in the light of rising urbanization and progressive depopulation of rural communities. This paper describes the traditional architecture of abandoned rural settlements in the southwestern region of Asir in Saudi Arabia and examines the present situation from the residents' viewpoints. Departing from a framework of a dynamic understanding of heritage, the author proposes a process of adaptive reuse and revitalization. The research starts by posing several questions. What future do we imagine for abandoned villages that historically have played a significant role in the civic structure of a community and contribute to forming a society's memory and identity? Can we suppose that the adaptive reuse of abandoned villages makes a positive contribution to the circular economy while solidifying a dynamic understanding of heritage as an ongoing social and cultural process? To this effect, the author conducted a phased research project focused on the adaptive reuse of one abandoned village near the region's capital of Abha. The architectural research entailed architectural surveys and documentation as well as qualitative inquiries. The author hopes that this project and its results will be a further stepping-stone in motivating people to find cultural, social, and economic value in their heritage and to make their properties a vital component of the circular economy by passing on traditional knowledge of vernacular building techniques to younger generations.
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