Research Projects

The Traditional Architecture of Oman

Paolo M. Costa and Stephen Kite

Recent decades have witnessed a growing body of research into the heritage and material culture of Arabia. However, there is still no comprehensive study available of the indigenous architecture of Oman. This collaborative project will result in a book which will provide an authoritative study of Oman's traditional built environment based on the results of over twenty years of detailed fieldwork and research. The unique character of the book draws on the distinct cultural backgrounds of the authors in portraying the traditional buildings of Oman as a rich synthesis of archaeological, environmental and architectural factors, and emphasises the distinctive qualities of Oman's traditional architecture in the context of Arabia and the Near East.

The traditional architecture of Oman is embedded in its remarkably varied socio-cultural contexts and natural settings. The book describes the inter-relations of habitat, cultivation and water resources as prime factors in the shaping of settlement patterns, together with other factors such as tribal organisation, security and the exploitation of other natural resources; minerals, incense, fisheries etc. This constructed landscape is examined in detail together with a survey of the varied settlements that are the outcome of these shaping factors.

The book includes detailed studies of the wide spectrum of building materials and techniques employed in the traditional building of Oman - mud-brick, stone, palm-frond etc. - and examines the typologies of building elements and details; doors, windows, painted ceilings etc. A core section of the book is a region by region examination of Omani towns and villages through the analysis of urban form and the elements that compose it; mosques, suqs, sablas, gates and urban and rural dwellings. An account of the working buildings of the Sultanate of Oman follows, described in relation to the traditional economic activities of agriculture, fishing and craftwork. The conclusion stresses the value of the book as an important contribution to a well-founded understanding of conservation, within the context of a growing concern to preserve and record the traditional heritage of Oman.