National Built Heritage Center
Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) has reached a very advanced
position in its dealings and initiatives related to urban heritage. The kingdom
of Saudi Arabia is a big country with vast and various invaluable historical towns
and villages and traditional buildings, that should be kept and invested for future
generations. SCTA, during the last decade, has developed many programs in order
to achieve this goal; it is time to bring together all efforts and programs under
one umbrella to benefit from the available human and financial resources and focus
the responsibility into one entity.
The initiative of HRH (Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud) the President
of SCTA to establish a “Center for the National Built Heritage” comes as one of
the important transition steps that could keep pace with the current need of the
Kingdom to establish organized entities with clear responsibilities towards urban
heritage, like many of the countries that started early in preserving cultural treasures
and heritage. The Kingdom, with its geographical and cultural diversity and its
history, is one of the most important culture incubators worldwide, the Arabian
Peninsula is the cradle of old civilizations, and a geographical / human platform
or ground that expresses the ability of people to challenge and overcome the difficult
circumstances. Urban experiences of the Arabian Peninsula inhabitants is one of
the most important human experiences, which deserves to remain n to be a witness
on the ability, innovation and creativity of the people of the area.
The Center is defending a cultural and economic “issue", it seeks to preserve, develop
and revive urban heritage. It contributes also to the current and future social
structure and provides a livelihood for those who inhabit and live in it. This multifaceted
issue, carried by the center, is an important turning point in the construction
and confirmation of national identity. It is not limited to mud and stone that form
traditional building, but it extends to the "story of place." The national unity
started from these places that we seek to maintain. The stories of parents and grandparents
and their experiences with life and their attempts to overcome the difficult conditions
are stored in the corners of such buildings, walls, the alleys, rail, yards, and
mosques. However, we are aware that the story of the place should continue and should
not be stopped at a specific time, but must be extended to form three-dimensional
stories that goes back to the past, shows in the present and extends into the future.
The issue of Built Heritage defended by the Center, has no ready-made solutions,
but it is based on a deep understanding of the phenomenon of "urbanization", so
it is forming like a “thinking cell” that is capable of dealing with the urban phenomenon
in all of its aspects, not as a group of technicians who have the knowledge and
experience in the restoration of heritage buildings. The Center also seeks to build
a dialogue atmosphere and environment based on the concept of "social development"
through attracting intellectuals who have a high impact on their local communities
to be active and influential in the preservation of urban heritage. The Urban Heritage
Center seeks to create a culture that can be called “the culture of urban heritage"
which will be the starting point that creates "community awareness" of heritage
value, because our primary goal is to make the citizen the first guard of the urban
heritage in our country.
The Center, in general, is concerned with preserving and studying the built heritage,
and presenting it to the local regional and world communities in a distinguished
scientific manner that demonstrates the potential of such heritage and how it could
be used and invested. At the same time, it confirms an important cultural status
which is "how to live history," which means that the urban heritage must become
part of our daily lives through reviving social and economic life at heritage sites.
The revival of these sites to find a heritage that develops and evolves to keep
pace with our economic and cultural aspirations as well as expectations is a part
of the great objective of this Center.
We also should emphasize here that the Center of the National Built Heritage seeks
to be a national expert home in the various areas of urban heritage, both research
and science, through the establishment of a national library that specializes in
urban heritage, the publication of scientific research on urban heritage of the
Kingdom, the organization of forums, conferences, workshops and the implementation
of training programs. It also seeks to be an expertise leader of development and
investment of urban heritage through the participation in the development and investment
of urban heritage sites in various regions of the Kingdom without causing an imbalance
in the authenticity and value of historical artifacts. The technical expertise is
one of these areas, where the Center must be a technical expertise home in the field
of urban heritage through the development of local materials (mud and stone, for
example) and encouragement of traditional builders and traditional building artifacts.
Thus, the final stage that the Center wants to reach is open and endless, if we
consider that the heritage is alive among us, a part of our present and future culture
and a source of renewable livelihood, then this means that our targets do not have
Preserve, Develop and Invest in urban heritage without losing its originality and
impact on the confirmation of national identity, in general, and the character building
of the Saudi city at present and in the future.
- Create a systematic organization that deals with urban heritage development and
use available human and financial resources in SCTA.
- Make the Center a national expert home in technical fields and revival of heritage
- Attract concerned people in urban heritage of all fields and groups of the community
to create an intellectual and economic environment that is concerned of the future
of urban heritage in the kingdom.
- Develop the urban heritage at a local level and spread a social awareness about
its value as an important local culture source and a renewable economic source.
Tasks of the Center
1. Documentation, classification and registering urban heritage:
- Develop a comprehensive plan to the National Register of Urban Heritage project.
The project will include: recording and documenting urban heritage and build a national
database that enables researchers, investors and interested parties to have access
to all information and documents required to deal with urban heritage.
- Develop policies that preserve urban heritage and reuse it to ensure a life of new
social and economic fit with the current needs while maintaining the original components
- Monitor the implementation of these policies and cooperation with all entities in
the state in order to achieve this protection.
2. Studies and Publications:
- Work with scientific research centers at local universities and science chairs to
make scientific research and studies on the national urban heritage.
- Conduct field surveys concerned with documenting the urban heritage and study its
social, cultural and technical structure.
3. Rehabilitation, Development and Investment of Urban Heritage:
- Study the urban heritage sites in the Kingdom and schemes "general location" for
the development of these sites and the development of architectural studies and
technical details to keep them.
- Support the owners of urban heritage sites and build partnerships with them in order
to emphasize the fact that the urban heritage is a continuous wealth, as long as
it have been preserved, it can be invested and developed.
- Develop of investment portfolios dealing with the urban heritage in villages and
cities of the Kingdom as an area can bring financial returns and the develop standards
and means for controlling the reservation of heritage and authenticity.
4. Social Development and Education:
- Build a social awareness system linking the urban heritage with people, especially
those who live in or near historic areas, with emphasis on the delivery of the idea
that the urban heritage must be within the daily life, not just ruins or museums
to visit. This includes events, visits, media and school and social awareness. It
also includes building social partnerships contribute to preserving the heritage
- Spread awareness about the cultural and economic importance of urban heritage, and
develop a sense of belonging to the cultural heritage of the Kingdom, and activate
the relationship of the citizen world heritage landmarks.
- Consider the maintenance of the national built and urban heritage a collective responsibility
of every citizen.
- Qualify and train of the national cadres in order to preserve and develop heritage
- Link the urban heritage with architectural education and develop educational programs
concerned with urban heritage in all cultural, engineering, and economic (financial
and investment) and operating aspects in order to promote awareness of the importance
of heritage among specialists, and build national cadres specialized in studying,
documenting and preserving urban heritage in all regions of the Kingdom.
- Hold meetings and conferences on urban heritage in the Kingdom and try to promote
a culture of specialized community-based revival of urban heritage and conservation.
- adopt professional associations in the field of urban heritage and expand its activities
at the local level.
5. Technical Support and Development
- Transfer (social, aesthetic, technical and functional) knowledge related to urban
heritage and capacity building of partners in the areas of protection, conservation
- Develop technologies in collaboration with local or international research centers,
in order to facilitate the preservation of urban heritage. Make sure to create qualified
human resources in various technical areas such as maintenance, restoration and
development of materials and construction techniques associated with the urban heritage.
- Follow-up and supervise all projects for urban heritage and develop the necessary
plans for their maintenance, operation, and work hand in hand with owners to ensure
the achievement of these goals.
- Expand Thameen Program to include a larger number of villages and towns.
- Establish an Urban Heritage Fund.
- Develop financing policies to maintain the architectural heritage and build economic
partnerships, whether supporters of the business sector or adopt a documentary or
renovation projects and re-use in cooperation with public of private institutions.