Early afternoon on Friday, 13th January, I received a message from a friend with the image you see above, telling me about the soon to be demolised Al Amal Hospital in Jumeirah, Dubai's first psychiatric hospital. That part of Dubai has gone through a major gentrification process by Meraas with the demolition of lots of low rise buildings and houses to make way from a new low rise apartment and office buildings and shopping malls, most notably, City Walk.
I had assumed the hospital was already demolished, so was suprised to see the message my friend sent me. Needless to say, I went to take look.
I took some photos whilst I was there, but was also frustrated that there is no concerted efforts to protect buildings from the 1980s. We keep getting told only buildings that are older than 40 years would need permission before demoltion, which means anything just under 40 years old are being wiped out without any thought of preservation, and it almost feels like a deliberate effort to demolish buildings that just turned 30 years old to avoid the discussion of preservation.
The National published two Calls to preserve UAE’s modern architectural heritage and Old structures are part of UAE’s memory, conservationists say two days after the pop up exhibition, but I just feel the pleas are falling on deaf ears.
An extract from Calls to preserve UAE’s modern architectural heritage
A group of artists organised an exhibition of pictures documenting the long white corridors and date palm-lined courtyards of the psychiatric hospital, which was built in the 1980s.
Art student Shamma Al Amri is among volunteers from the Hope Initiative who spent time with patients for art therapy workshops. They also fell in love with the building.
"We saw it was such a gem in the middle of Dubai and we were mesmerised by the architecture that takes you back to the 1980s, when a lot of us were born," Ms Al Amri said.
"The building has a deep significance, with courtyards showing how people functioned in our society."
Now that patients have been moved to a new centre in Al Aweer the building is being prepared for demolition, stripped of cables, doors and windows.
Only buildings constructed 40 years ago or earlier need permission for demolition from the municipality’s architectural heritage department.
The group has called on authorities and experts to use the structure as a cultural centre or library.
Here are photos I took when I visited the space.