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Shibam 'Manhattan Of The Desert': The First Green Skyscrapers In The World

Skyscrapers are not new inventions of the post-industrial world, they are as old as 500 years ago. Shibam, a city in the desert of Yemen, is commonly known as ‘the Manhattan of the desert’.

Many centuries before the modern age of skyscrapers in the United States and Europe, Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula built its own skyscraper in the city of Shibam. It is a city in the eastern desert of Yemen, and commonly known as ‘the Manhattan of the desert’. Shibam represents one of the oldest vertical and daring residential buildings, which established an outstanding example of remarkable human settlement and land use. Rising high towards the sky, Shibam’s houses are remarkable symbols of socio-economic and political factors as well as an expression of the wealth of the rulers.
Deutsch: Ansicht der Stadt Shibam, Jemen

Deutsch: Ansicht der Stadt Shibam, Jemen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The origins of Shibam dates back to pre-Islamic times. It is believed that city was completely destroyed by the Himyarites in the fourth century and nothing survived from this early period. However, the existing Friday mosque and the castle date from the reign of Harun al-Rashid. The city of Shibam is characterized by its dark narrow streets and tunnels between the brown high-rise buildings, with masonry drains in the street. One also can recognize an exciting juxtaposition between the white mosque and the high houses. In the west of Shibam, there are number of wealthy districts, which feature distinctive doors and windows made out of carved wood.
Unlike the glass curtain wall and steel structure of the progressed modern skyscrapers, Shibam’s distinct buildings were built out of sun-dried, mud-brick, load-bearing walls by traditional method of construction. Shibam’s imposing high-rise buildings consist of many floors, which are as high as fourteen stories and parts of these buildings date back to thousands years. The 7000 inhabitants of Shibam conceived the idea of building upwards, which can truly be considered innovative at the time, and created the world’s first environmentally friendly skyscrapers. The City of Shibam became a World Heritage city over 20 years ago, and this has at least helped preserve both the buildings and aspects of the regional culture that might otherwise have been lost.
Buildings inside the high-rise town of Shibam,...

Buildings inside the high-rise town of Shibam, Wadi Hadhramaut (or Hadhramout, Hadramawt) Yemen, with traditional windows and doors. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The concept of building the traditional skyscrapers depends on realizing a natural regulated interior environment, while being locked out to the exterior environment in order to achieve the desired human comfort. In addition, the mud-brick, as a natural building material provides a considerable insulation from the heat of the sun. However, these skyscrapers represent an early introduction to the principles of environmentally sustainable design and green buildings.

Via : Knoji


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