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Roha Khalaf, Architect, M.A., Ph.D.

Student at the Chair from 2009 to 2013

Roha  Khalaf

Roha has a Bachelor of Architectural Studies with a minor in French literature, a Certificate in Teaching Skills and a Master of Architecture degree from Carleton University, Ottawa. In the fall of 2009, she began her doctoral studies in environmental design at the Université de Montréal School of Architecture under the supervision of Dr. Christina Cameron. Her research aimed at contributing to the debate animated by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and non-governmental organizations over the reconciliation of conservation and development. As a research assistant at the Canada Research Chair on Built Heritage in 2009-2010, she worked on the heritage assessment of historic lighthouses of Quebec, a project undertaken for the Quebec Ministry of Culture, Communications and the Status of Women. In 2011, she completed an internship at the Heritage Council of Montréal (CPM). In 2013, her article “Traditional vs. modern Arabian morphologies,” published in the Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, received an Emerald Literari Award for Excellence. Roha speaks four languages: English, French, Arabic and Spanish.

Description of research project

The thesis project contributes to the current state of knowledge on the compatibility of new buildings with historic urban environments. It follows a classic mode of presentation: Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, Research Findings, Discussion and Conclusion. The problem under study is insufficient guidance to integrate the processes of development and safeguarding in established contexts. Recent literature reveals that preservation rules, also known as standards and design guidelines, cannot guarantee a compatible relationship between an intervention and its surroundings. Contemporary thinking in the field of heritage conservation and management, therefore, urges the exploration of other means for relating new architecture to old. 

The research project explores an alternative approach to preservation rules with a view to achieving the goal of compatible new buildings and improving values-based decision-making. To generate specific and convincing results, a case study was selected. The latter is a city in the Arabian Gulf region: Kuwait City. The main research finding is the development of an approach, implemented by asking probing questions about the location, design and construction of new buildings. The questions suggested in the thesis put emphasis on heritage values and design options to enable thoughtful change in historic urban environments. They also help assess new project proposals on a case-by-case basis. To demonstrate how this approach might be presented to, and used by, applicants and evaluators, a theoretical model is proposed. This model was later discussed with local and international practitioners who identified its strengths and limitations.  

The research findings show that the provision of rules and/or probing questions is not a satisfactory solution because there are other important issues that must be addressed: how to effectively apply guidance once it has been created, how to develop the skill of values-based decision-making and how to embed heritage conservation in the mentality of local government and communities. When actions will be taken to deal with these issues, heritage could become a part of the planning process, which is the ultimate goal. 

Selected Bibliography

Books, articles and reports

2012, Khalaf, R.W.,  "Traditional vs. modern Arabian morphologies," Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, 2, no. 1, p. 27-43.


2011, Khalaf, R.W., “Policy Guidance for the Contextualization of Infill Buildings in Historic Urban Environments,” Sustaining Communities in their Built Environments, Association for Preservation Technology International (APT) Conference, Victoria B.C., Canada, 14 October.  

2008, Khalaf, R.W., “Cultural Diversity and Material Imagination in Canadian Architecture (CDMICA),” Finding the Spirit of the Place, Stone Conservation Committee Roundtable, 16th ICOMOS General Assembly, Quebec City, Canada, 29 September.