AlUla Old Town Emergency Survey

Project information
Project partners
  • Client: RCU (Royal Commission for AlUla)
  • Studies: HCC Heritage Conservation Consulting Inc.

Project description

The most alarming observation made during Dr. Mahmoud Bendakir’s recent visits to AlUla (in September and November 2018) is the almost daily collapse of historic structures inside the old city. In just two months, a dozen roofs and mud-brick walls have collapsed, and other valuable buildings, already weakened by the combination of several erosive factors, are in danger of collapsing if no action is taken.

This dramatic situation requires urgent intervention and deserves to be at the top of the priorities of the RCU (Royal Commission for AlUla). The inspection and mapping of houses and buildings that are in danger of collapse is a vital and urgent operation allowing the preparation of an emergency plan for the safeguarding and consolidation of the most fragile monuments.

The objective of this emergency plan was to prepare a priority action plan for preventive treatment and temporary stabilization of structures in a poor state of conservation, and to propose protective measures to avoid further collapses. This will also make the site safely accessible to teams working on the site and visitors.

Adapted solutions and minimal interventions are necessary to temporarily stabilize damaged structures without affecting their appearance and authenticity in order to:

  • Significantly reduce the rate of building collapse
  • Control the devastating effects of rainwater and improvement of site drainage
  • Temporarily stabilize the structures of historic buildings while simultaneously developing documentation, conservation, and restoration studies.

A three-week mission in AlUla Old Town was carried out by an HCC team (Dr. Mahmoud Bendakir and Architect Annachiara Fiore) in February 2019 to undertake an emergency survey of the built fabric of the Old Town. The main objectives of this emergency survey were:

  • Assessment of the condition of the five mosques and the preparation of remedial works (propping and shoring plans) for these religious buildings
  • Assessment of street walls and covered alleys (Tayara)
  • Full survey of Zone 1 (southern part of the site) – Zone 2 and Zone 3 were subject only to a pre-assessment survey
  • Preparation of a priority list including buildings, streets and remains requiring emergency intervention
  • Identification of a pilot area for training, testing, and implementing preventive conservation solutions.