The Role of Architectural Education in Promoting Urban Heritage: Opportunities and Challenges

Mona Helmy
Today, introducing Urban Heritage into the architectural education curriculum is
becoming an important component of the learning experience. It strengthens the
sense of belonging, national pride, and cultural identity of students as an active and
remarkable part of their history that guides their future. Urban Heritage allows
previous generations a better understanding of their long and rich history. The main
objective for introducing Urban Heritage into the architectural education was to
link heritage practice with teaching and research activities, as well as to create
synergies between the educational activities and the surrounding community in
order to ensure the preservation and the appreciation of the heritage. As part of Hekma School of Design and Architecture, the architecture department at Dar Al- Hekma University reflected its mission “To graduate professionals in the field of architecture and equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills, focusing on sustainable design while preserving the cultural and aesthetic values of Saudi Arabia.” within the curriculum. The mission was materialized through a set of interdisciplinary and co-curricular activities and initiatives for the promotion, conservation and revitalization of urban heritage in Saudi Arabia. Those actions were determined to create a dynamic environment for social, cultural and economic development at large. The plan was also to strengthen students’ appreciation of urban heritage through the sharing and exchanging of knowledge, skills, and experience between the pedagogical activities and the real practices for mutual enrichment.
Often, each activity was dedicated to a given heritage theme. The activities are
structured in thematic subjects covering many areas, such as heritage and
sustainable development, theory and practices of conservation, adaptive re-use of
heritage buildings, inter-disciplinary research investigations, heritage for dialogue,
and reconciliation, among other themes. The creation of the architecture curriculum
in the fields of urban heritage was the first step to share knowledge and competencies, and to encourage professors and students' participation in heritage safeguarding projects. Besides, this program tends to promote inter-cultural dialogues through heritage appreciation.
The paper investigates the challenges associated with studying heritage in
architecture, as well as opportunities for students to be more excited about studying
heritage, develop their skills, and be self-motivated. It is expected that the paper
will analyze Dar Al-Hekma University educational experience in integrating urban
heritage within the architectural education curriculum among other national and
international experiences. It will evaluate related teaching approaches and draw
thoughtful conclusions in order to use this unique pedagogical process and learning
outcomes in enhancing the heritage appreciation and its practices.

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