Islamic Heritage Architecture 2016

1st International Conference on Islamic Heritage Architecture and Art


17 - 19 May 2016
Valencia, Spain


Islamic Heritage 2016

The first international Conference on Islamic Heritage Architecture and Art took place in Valencia, organised by Wessex Institute, represented by Professor Carlos A Brebbia, and the Polytechnic of Valencia, represented by Prof Arturo Martinez Boquera.

The Conference aimed to highlight the importance of Islamic Heritage Architecture and Art to the world and its influence across different regions.

Papers presented at the Meeting deal with the design of many types of buildings in Islamic countries, including not only the better known public constructions, but also houses and gardens, engineering work and many others that have also had a profound impact on society.

Islamic architecture has enriched design with a wide variety of structural shapes, including among others, unique arches and a variety of vaults and domes which allowed new forms to develop. The Conference dealt with the influence of these structural elements in different countries around the world.

There is much to learn from past experience to arrive at solutions which are environmentally sound and sustainable in the long run. Islamic design heritage offers valuable lessons on how to deal in an effective manner with cases of harsh and extreme environments.

Papers presented at the Meeting also analysed the materials employed and the types of structural elements, particularly those unique to Islamic architecture.

Traditional architecture and urban environment in most Islamic countries is now being eroded by overemphasis on global type of architecture and city planning. As a consequence, many regions are losing their identity. The Conference looked at these developments in the light of what the classical Islamic urban designs and architectures have to offer modern society.

Opening of the Conference

The Meeting was opened by Professor Arturo Martinez Boquero from the Department of Structural Mechanics of the Technical University of Valencia and Co-Chairman of the Meeting. He addressed the Meeting as follows:

“Welcome to Valencia to participate in this Conference on Islamic Heritage, which aims to highlight the importance of Islamic architecture in the world and its influence on the architectural and cultural heritage in many countries, among them Spain, and more specifically, Valencia

“For the Muslim civilisation, the Iberian Peninsula was one of the main gateways to Europe. The legacy of Muslim civilisation is often blurred, but long present in the habits and daily life, both in material and intangible ways.

“In Valencia, most of the Islamic period buildings have not survived to this day, although we can still see important remains of the Arabian wall that surrounded the city between the 11th and 14th Centuries.

“However, there are numerous intangible elements of Arabian culture in architecture preserved in many walks of life, including the extensive network of irrigation canals that still serves the Valencian region, administrated by the famous and ancient Water Court. Another important legacy of the Islamic period is represented by the ceramics from Manises and Paterna whose tradition is still preserved. Nor should we forget such influences in cooking, music and singing, folklore and language.

“The Arabian wall of Valencia began to be built during the 11th Century. With the fall of the Caliphate of Córdoba, the city became capital of the Taifa of Valencia./p>

“The Islamic wall, which surrounded the City, had a total of seven gates. From the 12th Century, the city wall was extended, incorporating new defensive components, such as towers and reinforced doors.

“The remains of that wall are preserved in the Plaza del Tossal and the Temple in the Carmen Quarter. There one can see some towers; one in the Plaza del Angel and another on the street Mare Vella. The wall brought together the Barrio de la Seu, the eastern half of the Carmen Quarter, the Xerea Quarter and North Market Quarter.

“With the construction of the new Christian wall afterwards, part of the old wall was employed as a boundary wall between houses and in some places to separate the Christian city of the Moors Quarter which was behind the Portal de la Valldigna.

“The Christian walls were built in 1356 during the reign of the King of Aragon, Peter IV, who commanded the General Council of the City to build them in order to endorse the slums and quarters, formerly outside its boundaries. The new wall, with a perimeter of about 4km, trebled the inner surface enclosing the old Arabian wall. The towers of the Arabian wall of Valencia have not survived, but what remain are Watchtowers around the city.

“These watch towers are present in many villages of this area and were part of the defensive system providing protection to the city of Valencia. The towers could belong to a castle or farmstead. They are preserved in towns like Albal, Paterna, Silla, Torre Espioca in Picassent, Towers Plaza and Mussa in Benifayó and Bofilla tower in Bétera. The latter has recently been restored and received the Europa Nostra 2013 award. One can appreciate also Serra Castle, which was part of north Valencia’s defence system and one of the bastions of the Arabian Taifa.

Prof Boquero closed his remarks by saying that the choice of the city of Valencia to hold the Islamic Conference on Architectural Heritage is most appropriate and he invited the delegates to enjoy a visit to this beautiful city full of heritage and good architecture.

Prof Carlos A Brebbia then welcomed the delegates in the name of the Wessex Institute and emphasised the motivation behind convening this Conference.

Carlos said that the main function of the Wessex Institute is to act as a mechanism for the transfer of knowledge, particularly in the case of science and technology. The Institute has developed its own line of research and development, based on unique computer simulation tools which originated at WIT and are now accepted by the engineering profession. These tools form the basis for a series of computer codes which can be applied to solve a wide range of problems.

WIT, Carlos explained, has participated in many collaborative research programmes, involving partners with different expertise. This has allowed the Institute to collaborate in finding integral solutions to many practical cases, leading to a wider understanding of the problems involved.

WIT continues also to collaborate with the engineering industry, providing research and development as well as advanced consulting services.

The emphasis in all cases, Carlos said, is on interdisciplinary solutions, trying to broaden the perception of how our work fits in with society’s requirements.

This has led to a very active knowledge dissemination programme, achieved in two complimentary ways, ie by a series of publications and by arranging a programme of international conferences.

The publication of papers either from Journals or conferences is fully Open Access, which contributes to providing the widest dissemination possible to the work. Papers archived in our WIT eLibrary ( are downloaded in increasing numbers from colleagues around the world.

The most relevant development in this regard for this Conference has been the launching of the International Journal of Heritage Architecutre, dealing with studies, repairs and maintenance issues.

Amongst the many topics covered by the Journal, it is particularly important to mention its aim to achieve a better understanding of the influences and cross-fertilisation of different cultures.

WIT organises an annual programme of interdisciplinary international conferences which now includes this meeting on Islamic Heritage. In addition, a well established conference on Structural Repairs and Maintenance of Heritage Architecture has been running since 1997 and a further meeting on Defence Heritage was started some years ago. These meetings were the basis for launching the new Journal, the first issue of which was distributed to the delegates.

Carlos ended by explaining the motivation for holding this Conference in Spain, to highlight the influence of Islamic Architecture there and offer the participants the possibility of touring other sites of interest, particularly in the Andalucian Region. Valencia is not as well known as places such as Cordoba - with its large Mosque – or Granada – with its Alhambra – or Seville with the Cathedral built on the site of a Mosque and its Minaret, now a bell tower and the symbol of the city. Valencia however has a Cathedral of importance, not only because it was built on the old mosque but because the benches at one of its door is where the ancient Water Court still sits. This is a living reminder of the influence of the Islamic engineers in developing a unique water management system, consisting of irrigation canals and aqueducts.

It is through our knowledge and understanding of our common heritage, Carlos said, that we will achieve a stable, balanced and peaceful society, Carlos stressed, and he hoped that the Conference would be able to contribute in its modest way to a better and more just world.

Invited Presentations

The Conference programme included some outstanding contributions from well known colleagues. The keynote address was given by Professor Bashir Kazimee of Washington State University in the USA on the topic of “Urban heritage of Kabul and post war recovery efforts”. The paper is published in the first issue of the International Journal of Heritage Architecture, launched during the Conference, ie Vol 1, No 1, 2017.

Other invited contributions were:

  • “The role of mate-guarding behavior in old Kuwait city” by Abdul Al-Ballam from Kuwait University
  • “Islamic heritage architecture analysis and restoration in Fez, Morocco” by Khalid El-Harrouni, National School of Architecture and ICOMOS, Morocco
  • “Climate Adaptability in the Hejazi Traditional Architecture” by Mohammad Bagader, University of Manchester, UK
  • “Conserving the Palestinian architectural heritage” by Jihad Awad, Ajman University of Science and Technology, United Arab Emirates
  • “The morphology and typology of the Ottoman Mosques of Northern Greece” by Maria Loukma, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, published in the International Journal of Architectural Heritage, Vol 1, No 1, 2017.
  • Another interesting talk was by Khatijah Sanusi from the University of Technology Mara in Malaysia, on the topic “Encountering globalisation: Works of Sulaiman Ese from 1950s to 2011”.

The other substantial number of papers were grouped under the following session headings:

  • Historical aspects
  • Architecture in Malaysia and Indonesia
  • Heritage studies
  • Conservation and restoration
  • Urban environment
  • Mediterranean heritage
  • Mosques and minarets

Conference Dinner

There was a special dinner arranged for the members of the International Scientific Advisory Committee who helped to promote the meeting and review the papers. Carlos expressed the gratitude of Wessex Institute to them; their work was essential to ensuring the quality of the papers presented at the Meeting and to be published in the WIT Transactions, as well as the newly launched International Journal of Heritage Architecture.

The delegates had many occasions to meet outside the conference room and discuss topics of common interest. They included not only the coffee breaks but also the lunches arranged by the organisers and the conference banquet for those attending the event.

The Conference dinner took place in one of the best restaurants in Valencia offering typical dishes accompanied by regional wines. Valencia is famous for the quality of its rice specialities (the renowned Paella) but there is a variety of excellent dishes, some of which were served during the dinner. Carlos referred to the importance of the Conference and in particular the number of different countries represented . He believes that the most important aspect of WIT meetings is to bring people together and increase the communication and interaction between delegates.

At the end of the meal, the delegates were given a gift to remind them of the occasion, ie a book with excellent illustrations showing Valencia and its adjacent region.

Closing of the Conference

The Conference was closed by Carlos who thanked the delegates for their contribution. The quality of the proceedings was very high and this will ensure that the Conference is reconvened in 2018.

Carlos hoped that the delegates will continue to collaborate with WIT, not only by participating in the Conference series, but also in other research and publishing activities.

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