Short, yet smart are Omani buildings

Vertical glass buildings may add to the glamour quotient along with instilling a pride of being able to conquer the sky, but in an era that is prone to man-made and natural risks, the vertical journey is not always advisable  

Vinod Nair –
Muscat, Jan. 20 –
Reasons could be reasonable for cities across the world to go vertical amid burgeoning population, scarcity of land and environment concerns limiting the possibilities of land reclamation from sea. The advent of industrial revolution led to the birth and evolution of elevators helped us climb up for a panoramic view of the world around us.
Vertical glass buildings may add to the glamour quotient along with instilling a pride of being able to conquer the sky, but in an era that is prone to man-made and natural risks, the vertical journey is not always advisable.
Concerns include the ability of fire departments to possess equipment and skills that will reach the 200th floor of a building effectively in case of a fire and adequate water and electricity generation to cater to the needs of the residents up in the sky.
Amid these craze of winning the contests for tallest building in the world, the cities of Oman, including Muscat, have resisted themselves from going vertical. Maybe it has been aided by a small population of 4.5 million for a country of the size of 300,000 square kilometres and enthusiasm to preserve the mountains spread across the length and breadth of the country.
Muscat is surrounded by cities that have gone vertical rapidly since the advent of this century. Tallest buildings in the country may not still be beyond 12 to 14 floors approximately. But citizens and residents of Muscat who frequently travel abroad to cities with tallest buildings, are nostalgic about the architectural uniqueness.
Some of the new headquarters for corporate entities in the capital have managed to stay smart within the height limits. What it indicates is that standing tall is not about conquering the world.
“Skyscrapers have been associated with a nation’s growing stature as a commercial powerhouse. Some of the relatively poorer cities of the world in South Asia, Africa and Latin America have some vertical landmarks. But I doubt they have any classical value. We still admire the Victorian-era buildings for their architectural elegance, but who will offer the same tribute to tallest buildings in the world,” said Andrews Burns, a tourist from UK who was visiting Oman after spending a few days in the neighbouring Dubai.
“I am not against tall apartments, but I think people of Muscat should be proud of its identity. Who will believe that the buildings of Royal Opera House, the Supreme Court and Council of Oman and even the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque have come up in the recent decades,” he added.
“Mountainous topography is unique to Oman and we should take care not to hide them with tall structures. Take the development outside Muscat, which will help resist the pressure to go vertical in Muscat,” said an expatriate architect based in Oman, who has been working on a few apartment projects.
“We are seeing the arrival of medium-sized apartments of around 10 to 12 floors and that’s all. In times where we need to worry about the availability of water and electricity for future generations, this is the wise thing to do so unless there is a population explosion,” he added.