Unanime heritage protection specialists launch Gulf office

Published May 21st, 2008 - 12:49 GMT

Arab Nations told: ‘Preserve Your Past or Lose Your Future’
Unanime heritage protection specialists launch Gulf office

One of the most famous quotes from the late UAE President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan stated: "A nation without a past is a nation that has neither a present nor a future."

With the burgeoning property market in the region and the billions of dollars spent on new and ambitious developments, heritage protection has until now taken a distinctly back seat.

All of that is set to change with the Middle East launch of specialist architectural practice responsible for saving and transforming some of the world’s most protected sites. Didier Repellin, french chief architect for heritage buildings and Unanime have joined together to offer a global expertise on heritage preservation.

Established in Lyon in 1994, France-based Unanime architects and engineers have developed an expertise in structural design and diagnosis for the preservation of heritage buildings structures. Unanime has now launched an office in Bahrain which will serve as a hub for all Middle East heritage projects.

Award-winning architect Didier Repellin has saved and transformed such iconic buildings as the Villa Medici in Rome, the Antique Theatre in Orange and the Palace of the Popes in Vaucluse, France.

Repellin has also been involved as a consultant in important United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) projects such as The Great Wall of China, Damas in Syria and Penang and Malacca in Malaysia.

“We decided to open our office in Manama because the level of enquiries for heritage protection in the region were becoming so numerous,” said Unanime’s Gaëlle Lechenard. “With the incredible speed of pace in developments, many people are witnessing the destruction of their past to make way for a sparkling new future.

“But it doesn’t have to be like this. Heritage protection should play an important part in the fabric of developed and developing countries. They are an essential part of the culture of the region, strengthen national identity and contribute massively to tourism.”

Unanime’s approach to heritage conservation is holistic. The company studies the ancient design and materials used in the building; from the structural foundations to religious and cultural aspects, and reinforce the structure in a minimalist way to preserve the authenticity of the building.

For the Antique Theatre at Orange in France, Didier Repellin and AREP’s  Nicolas Cheval, project manager, already used non-destructive testing methods and computer simulation. Nicolas Cheval is now one of Unanime’s associates. They reinforced masonry and ancient stones and topped the theatre’s space with a contemporary striking metal roof. The theatre is now considered one of the world’s most stunning outdoor music venues with artists such as Sting and Placido Domingo making appearances.

“Heritage plays an important part in the Arab world,” continued Lechenard. “Unique sites such as Petra in Jordan or the antiquities of Egypt are inexplicably woven into the culture and values of life. They should never disappear. If we at Unanime can play a part in helping the people protect their history, then the future will become even richer.”

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