ARCHITECTURE, DESIGN, INTERIORS + PROPERTY
Bernard Khoury / Revitalisation of Muharraq / Carl Gerges Architects / Styled Habitat VSHD Design / Kitchens / Rifat Chadirji / Studio D04 ISSUE 199 / JUNE 2020
The Home Issue DHS 25.00 OR 2.70 BD 2.60 SR 25.00 KD 2.10
A MOTIVATE PUBLICATION
Contents 16 Architecture as resistance
Lebanese architect Bernard Khoury discusses how Beirutâ€™s political realities have shaped the development of his projects
22 Preserving memory
An ongoing project in the Bahraini city of Muharraq sees the preservation of traditional housing
28 Chasing the sun
Carl Gerges Architects has completed the design of an isolated private residence in the semi-arid landscape of Baalbek in Lebanon
36 Blurred lines Styled Habitat has completed the renovation of its d3 studio that marries the concepts of home and office
42 Human Touch VSHD Designâ€™s residential property in Dubai prioritises human needs and behaviours
48 Design Focus: Kitchens Learn about the latest trends, products, projects and sustinability from the heart of the home
Sustainability On our radar
60 ID classics
THE HOME OF STORYTELLING IN THE MIDDLE EAST
“I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT BOOKS” THOMAS JEFFERSON
Editor-in-Chief: Obaid Humaid Al Tayer Managing Partner and Group Editor: Ian Fairservice Editor: Aidan Imanova Designer: Hannah Perez General Manager - Production: S Sunil Kumar Production Supervisor: Venita Pinto Chief Commercial Officer: Anthony Milne Group Director: Andrew Wingrove Deputy Sales Manager: Mrudula Patre Sales Representative - Italy: Daniela Prestinoni
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Photo by Young Habibti
s I write my first introduction as the new editor of identity, I can’t help but look back to the lead up to this decision, when I often wondered if it was a strange time to be making such defining new beginnings. But it seems that new beginnings are happening all around us so maybe the time is the most fitting after all. It is also such an honour to be taking over the editorship of such a pioneering magazine in the region, one of the earliest publications for design in the Middle East. With that comes a lot of responsibility and I hope I am able to fulfil it while attempting to introduce various developments to the history of this long-standing design title. Starting a new job remotely has been interesting to say the least, as all introductions and inductions have been made in the comforts of my own home. And although this may come with its own set of challenges, it has also made me acutely aware of how blessed many of us are to have a safe place to work and to connect from. I have never felt more grateful for my home, a place that has taken on so many roles since the lockdown and one that has acted as a refuge and a shelter in the real sense of the word. This is why I dedicate this issue to the value of ‘home’. From looking at preserving housing as a manner of preserving memory and history through the story of the revitalisation of Muharraq in Bahrain that has won the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture to speaking with Lebanon’s legendary architect Bernard Khoury who thinks of home as a space but also as the wider city of Beirut where he lives, this issue presents the idea of home in its many forms. We also explore how the line between work and home can be blurred by entering Rabah Saeid’s loft-like studio in Dubai Design District. Gracing our cover this month is the reading room of a home that stands in isolation amid the semi-arid landscape of the Lebanese city of Baalbek, a room for contemplation and learning that seems fitting with the times where both things are so important in order to move forward successfully. Later in the issue, we examine the defining role of the kitchen, which has during the last three months become the true heart of the home, a place from where we can share so much more than just food. You will also likely notice that identity has been given a new look, from its cover to the layout design, which has been done in an attempt to contemporise the magazine aesthetically and allow for more flexibility in its content in order to approach design and architecture from a wider perspective. As we continue to showcase beautiful projects and objects for inspiration, we aim to create a greater sense of dialogue about design and architecture at a time when rethinking various approaches from the past is needed more than ever. I would also like to add that everyone’s support so far has been very humbling and encouraging and I really hope you enjoy my first issue. And with the easing of lockdown restrictions in the UAE, I look forward to reconnecting with all of you and making a lot of new and meaningful relationships. Until we meet.
Aidan Imanova Editor
On the cover: Villa Chams in Baalbek, Lebanon by Carl Gerges.
From haute couture to healthcare
ollowing in the footsteps of international fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton, Prada and Ermenegildo Zenga, Dubai's luxury fashion labels and designers have pledged to create thousands of protective gowns and surgical face masks for the UAE's frontline medical workers under an initiative launched by the Arab Fashion Council and Design District entitled #AThread4Cause. The seven paticipating designers include couturiers Michael Cinco, Maison Yeya and Amato as well as Emirati designer Yara Bin Shakar, Egypt’s Marmar Halim, Arab-American designer Zaid Farouki and women’s clothing retailer Si Fashion. To facilitate logistics, d3 is set to host a unified distribution centre, to store and deliver the medical gowns and surgical masks. This will turn the d3 community into a strategic hub for personal protective
equipment (PPE) made by luxury brands. “With six d3-based designers, we aim to aid the life-saving work of vital medical staff by contributing to the UAE’s stockpile of gowns and facemasks," said Khadija Al Bastaki, executive director of d3. Jacob Abrian, founder & CEO of the Arab Fashion Council said, "Due to this uncertain time, the Arab fashion industry has been able to highlight its strong capacity to operate a purely local value chain.” Yasmine Yeha, founder & creative director of Maison Yeya, who has been instrumental in working on the project since its inception, added: “The UAE has worked extremely hard to address the current situation and the creative community stands ready to support these efforts because it’s our duty to stand united against this challenge.” To provide the designers with ample material and to support local suppliers, d3 has established a partnership with a Dubaibased Saudi Arabian fabric manufacturer who will supply over four tonnes of technical fabric to the participating brands.
Hongjie Yang Synthesis Monolith
Art for a good cause
uction house Cambi partnered with Milan-based creative agency Mr.Lawrence to create an online auction to raise funds for Italian hospital Ospedale Luigi Sacco in Milan, that has been helping treat thousands of COVID-19 patients. The Design Loves Milano auction took place on May 12, gathering an incredible roster of prominent international designers such as Fernando and Humberto Campana, Formafantasma, Roberto Sironi, Muller Van Severen and Analogia Project, all curated by Mr.Lawrence. Each designer is set to donate one or more limited edition or collectible design pieces. The association was chosen as the charity partnership for Design Loves Milano in light of their current and future projects ensuring the recovery of the city of Milan, one of the Italian cities severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The donation will help Ospedale Sacco with the purchase of equipment and services to sustain local research groups in the development of a vaccine to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. "We are working on this extraordinary project with great enthusiasm. Milan, the beating heart of design, has its ‘children’ all over the world and it is incredible for us to see so many designers and design professionals come together with the common goal to help support the city," said Matteo Cambi, president and CEO of Cambi Auction House. "We like to think that the great design masters of the past, but also of today, international icons of Milan, are all reunited in this charitable initiative. Design Loves Milano is not just aimed at the city but at the entire population." Milanese collage artist and art director Alvvino also contributed to the auction with an illustration featuring the city’s key architecture and design landmarks. Design Loves Milano was able to raise €120,000, 70% of which was sold by lot and 90% sold by catalogue value.
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zaz Architects' coffee shop for Saudi coffee roasters Elixir Bunn in Riyadh references Islamic architecture with the aim of creating a spiritual-like experience. Coffee is strongly rooted in the local culture of Saudi Arabia, tracing back to the times prior to the formation of the Kingdom. It has since evolved into a flourishing industry within the Gulf country, with this particular coffee house being Elixir Bunn's newest location in the city. While the structural column set at the centre of the space posed a challenge for the architects, the team decided to transform it into the focal point of the overall design. New walls stem from this existing column and shape into massive arches, paying tribute to the historic shapes found across Islamic architecture worldwide. This combined with a mud finishing contributes the "feel of a local sanctity," the architects said. Traditional architectural references are then contrasted with contemporary detailing and materiality, with the use of Italian Terrazzo flooring and a deep blue spiral staircase that offsets the otherwise neutral tonality of the interiors. The boutique studio based in Riyadh established itself in 2017, founded by Saudi architect Shahad Alazzaz. The firm is also a Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) representative in Saudi Arabia. Photography: Abdulrahman Bayashout
X Architects’ desert resort in Saudi Arabia
ubai-based architecture practice X-Architects has won a competition to design a desert resort in Saudi Arabia inspired by the landscape of the Arabian Peninsula’s Empty Quarter. The luxury 60-key desert hideaway resort is set in the world’s largest sand sea that holds about half as much sand as the Sahara Desert. The terrain is covered with 250-meter-high reddish orange sand dunes that are interrupted by white salt flats called ‘sabkhas’. The project aims to intensify the visitor’s natural desert experience by utilising its surrounding landscape and creating a “constellation of architecture” that is integrated with the land. The Dune units are shaped in the form of sand banks that resemble the existing texture of the terrain, forming an architecture that is respectful to its site and context. Other units are designed to grow vertically like a desert flower and are placed on the highest point of the site, offering uninterrupted views to the stars through its elongated form while a polymer fiber mesh encloses the
structure partially to minimise exposure to sandstorms and harsh sun. Its wellness offerings include a white spa carpet, created out of salt, that intensifies the minerals existing on the salt flats which are used for their healing qualities. Similarly, a ‘living room’ hidden between walls of sand offer visitors a calm, serene and tranquil environment. A vertical garden incorporated to create an ecosystem is served by reusing water and vegetation, and enhanced by the stepped back wall that seamlessly sinks into the existing sand dunes. The formation of the dunes and the carving nature of the desert also inspired the conceptual approach of the main arrival hall. The interior spaces are carved from the landscape while the dunelike columns are filled, over time, with sand. The roof includes skylight openings that radiate natural light and brings the desert landscape into the indoor spaces. Using a similar organisation system as the interior, the exterior begins to form cascading pools, terraces, and garden spaces that extend out of the landscape. Image courtesy: X-Architects
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RESIDENTIAL • HOTELS • RESTAURANTS • OFFICE • OUTDOOR
identity D E S I G N AWA RD S 20 20
Launching soon Visit identity.ae
SATELLITE This monthâ€™s issue includes inspiring narratives and projects from the Gulf to the Mediterranean
Bahrain Germany Iraq Italy Lebanon UAE
ARCHITECTURE AS identity speaks to Lebanonâ€™s legendary architect, Bernard Khoury, about how a home can be translated from a physical space to the wider city while remaining representative of a political struggle CONVERSATION WITH AIDAN IMANOVA
Â© DW5 BERNARD KHOURY - PHOTO BY IEVA SAUDARGAITE
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our work consistently tackles the political realities of Beirut. During your earlier years, you wanted to work on a monument for the city but that never materialised. Why was this important to you? Bernard Khoury: I’ve worked on anti-monuments or anti-manifestos because this was what Beirut was about and this is what Beirut is still about. In my early years of practice, I Iooked at my colleagues in the West with a bit of envy because they were working on noble programmes such as museums and opera houses and hospitals and public buildings and so on. And this was completely absent here in the absence of public institutions. We were operating on very rough territories. The city was totally and completely in the hands of the private sector, so we had to build other strategies and try to find political meaning outside of the conventional territory of architecture, which is usually the monuments and serious institutional buildings. These don't exist where I come from. Years later looking back, this was not bad because true resistance happens under rough territories and truly meaningful work should be done where it is least expected. At this point in my life, I am not interested in formulating any sort of consensual, political position through a monument because conventional monuments are very consensual. Beirut with all its contradictions has allowed me to sometimes take very radical postures that I would not have been able to take on more conventional and secure territories in the West, for instance. Your projects saw a massive shift from designing temporary “party” buildings to working with big developers in the country and abroad. What propelled this development in your work? BK: For the first four to five years of my practice after completing my degree in the late 1990s, yes I was only given temporary projects based on scale and mainly in the entertainment sector. I wasn’t trusted to build permanent buildings, I wasn’t trusted to build large scale projects that had to do with bigger budgets and so on. I wasn’t trusted to conceive dwellings in which people will have to raise their kids because I was immediately classified as the bad boy of architecture. But with that came a lot of media attention. It did not come locally at the beginning but by the late 90s to early 2000s, the three tiny entertainment projects I had built had gotten media coverage that was worth financially many times what it cost to build them. I did not do it for that, but it just came. When the media attention came so did the people who invest money
so the second wave of clients were banks, strangely. And then came the developers. In the beginning, there were young developers of my generation who were smart enough to question the prevailing, existing typologies that we were stuck with for the last four decades, which produced very bad dwellings and a very bad urban fabric which is the catastrophe you see in Beirut today. In the beginning, they were smaller-scale developments which ended up being extremely successful. Every time we conceived a building it was sold out before we even applied for the building permits. The success is not something that falls out of the sky or something that happens behind closed doors in my studio. It is an extremely complex process that involves a lot of people and that takes a lot of intelligence to also navigate and construct these relationships in a way that can make these situations possible. A lot of people look at me sometimes very superficially as someone who has served the private sector, someone who has worked with pirates and they tend to think that I am not a good guy. But that is not true (laughs). You have definitely gained the reputation of a rebel, with many commenting that your projects may be too harsh for the urban landscape or don’t blend in with context. What do you make of that? BK: I have heard that. There are some people who have a dangerously simplistic definition of what our context is or what our city is. The people who see the
B018 nightclub in Beirut built in 1998
sugar-coated postcards and those are very dangerous simplifications of history. I live and breathe on toxic grounds and at least I see it and I recognise it. This is what my work is in context to. I think that the architects that you recognise through their formal approach, or aesthetics or their architectural syntax, are dinosaurs. They are stuck in the stone age because they are stuck in form. Today, we live in an era where meaning is developed and created far more spontaneously through far more dynamic means while unfortunately, architecture is still stuck in matter. I am not stuck in that. I like to think my buildings don’t look like each other. You have always been quite critical of the way Beirut is being built and the people who are financing and leading its urban development. But then you are also working with high profile clients on big projects across the city. Do you see this as a contradiction? BK: I am not being critical for the sake of it. When you look at the history of the fast development of the fabric of Lebanon in general or Beirut, it’s interesting to see the glory years of the modern era that came with independence. From the early 1940s up to the early 70s, you had 30 years during which the nationstate was building itself through institutions and institutional projects. It was the beginning of the illusion of the state. It goes bankrupt in the early or mid-70s. I start my career in the late 90s at which point there is no state in the real sense of the term and
© DW5 BERNARD KHOURY - PHOTO BY IEVA SAUDARGAITE
My home is Beirut in all its horrors and all its splendour.
Plot # 1282 residence built in 2017, located on the northern periphery of Beirut
Â© DW5 BERNARD KHOURY - PHOTO BY BAHAA GHOUSSAINY
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Â© DW5 BERNARD KHOURY - PHOTO BY IEVA SAUDARGAITE
Qui comnist rumquat emposap erfersped mo
Plot # 4328 residence built in 2010
N.B.K Residence built in 2013 also houses Khoury's self-designed apartment
with that, no mechanisms to regulate the development of the city and its fabric. The problem is political, it is not architectural. We are really at the end of the chain. The problem when it comes to architecture is that an overwhelming number of architects abided by or did not take any relevant courageous postures to try, within the limits of our profession, to do something. I would say, however, that through even our presidential projects with developers, we did take suicidal postures sometimes. But they are incidents on single plots in the middle of an ocean of an aggressive fabric of buildings surrounding us. A very good example is the ship building [Plot # 1282 designed by Khoury] which is open on 100 per cent of its periphery, while 98 per cent of its periphery is surrounded by private plots who could turn their backs to us. That’s what I call a suicidal posture. But to a commercial client, these are not the typical narratives that sell. BK: Well this is where the supposed intelligence of the architect comes in. The intelligence of the architect is not in his ability to manipulate architectural syntax in the correct way or to produce pretty buildings. I have absolutely no interest in that at all. I’d rather look at what people point out as a terrifyingly ugly building if that makes sense.
© DW5 BERNARD KHOURY - PHOTO BY IEVA SAUDARGAITE
I have absolutely no interest for polished, smooth, cynical, well-behaved architecture; that to me means nothing. So, it is very important for the architect to work on what precedes the architectural act, to construct a relationship with the client that allows you to have a dialogue and a discourse that is more profound than just producing well behaved, catalogued good architecture. Tell us about your own home in Beirut that you’ve designed. BK: This started back in 2007-8 when one of the young developers I had been doing many projects with took me to a plot and was very hesitant about purchasing it because right next to us was the Maronite cemetery and to our back was another cemetery and so on. I immediately encouraged him to take that plot which was a very good deal. It was very affordable probably because of the presence of the cemetery and also because of its proximity to the demarcation line. To encourage him to take the plot, I told him I would take the last eight metres of the land. So I built a box or a house on top of the building, that rests on the building but has an internal structure that’s dependent on what’s underneath it. Call it a house perched on top of a building. All around us are low rise or landscaped plots
which is truly exceptional in Beirut. On a clear day, I see uninterrupted views way beyond the southern suburbs of the city. It's this big rectangular picture frame that you see from the street and the main window of the living area around which all the vital functions of the house are plugged into. But this big volume is completely open through that window and through the uninterrupted views you can see in the background, the catastrophic fabric of Beirut. And I see that every morning when I wake up as the most frightening picture of what the political situation has produced. I look at Beirut in its marvellous horror and I love it. On top of that, I have a terrace with a very decadent posture that allows me to float and see the landscape. Above all of that are two cannons [that are in fact lights] pointing south towards the enemy, but who the enemy is, is another story. You can say then you have a strangely positive relationship with your home… BK: My relationship with my house is the most calm and emotional relationship that you could have with Beirut which you have to love and admire because she is ugly as hell, she stinks, she is dirty, she lies, she is toxic, but there is something absolutely marvellous about her. My home is Beirut in all its horrors and all its splendour. id
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Preserving the past Traditional Bahraini houses in the pearling city of Muharraq are being preserved in an effort to protect the area’s architectural and cultural heritage while allowing residents to reconnect with their past and forge a promising future
Words by Aidan Imanova
etween the 1850s and 1930s, the pearling industry across the Gulf flourished and Bahrain’s third-largest city of Muharraq – its then capital – was at the centre of the trade. However, with the arrival of cheaper alternatives, such as Japanese cultured pearls, and the discovery of oil in Bahrain, Muharraq’s pearling economy dwindled, and eventually faded out, and by the 1950s the city began to fall into decline and negligence, with much of its architectural heritage destroyed. Closely tied to its pearling history, Muharraq’s architecture boasts coral stone constructions sourced from the nearby sea, unlike many other pearling centres that were home to temporary structures made of palm leaves and trunks. Many of the prominent families associated with pearling still own their homes, and some even currently reside in them. The lack of economic intervention and development in Muharraq since its decline had allowed these buildings to remain intact, although in derelict condition. “Of all the Arab cities in the Gulf, Muharraq is probably the best-preserved pearling town in the region,” says architect and writer, Ali Karimi, co-founder of Manama-based Civil Architecture. Describing Muharraq as “the best example of pre-oil urbanism in the Gulf”, he added that the remaining set of archetypal buildings in Muharraq proves “crucial to understanding regional architecture prior to the 20th century.” Muharraq’s historic residences range from the modest homes of pearl divers to opulent courtyard 22
houses that once belonged to wealthy pearl merchants, as well as writers, artists and musicians alike. And this is where the story of the revitalisation of Muharraq begins: conceived by Her Excellency Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa – now the president of Bahrain’s Authority for Culture & Antiquities (BACA) – the original goal of the project was to rebuild the demolished majlis of her late grandfather Sheikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa. What had started out as a personal project grew into a citywide initiative that has since earned worldwide recognition and the efforts and involvement of many high-profile architects from around the world. “The goal was to preserve the identity of the city and encourage people to stay in the old town of Muharraq and benefit from its treasures instead of demolishing these homes and building new ones in their place,” Shaikha Mai Al Khalifa says. “If you lose your identity, what do you have? The future begins with our history, and this is the most important message for me.” The reconstruction of the first majlis in 2002 grew into what is now the Shaikh Ebrahim Centre for Culture and Research, which honours the efforts of Sheikh Ebrahim who used this space to debate matters of culture, philosophy and the arts at the beginning of the 20th century. The centre now accounts for over 25 houses, some of which are old homes that were renovated while others have been rebuilt as cultural spaces that are open to the public. Most of the houses are also made to reference their original owners and their occupations within the arts
with the aim of preserving contributions to the city of Muharraq. “This started at a time when there was still a big race for development and modernisation and not so much awareness about what was being lost,” says Noura Al Sayeh, head of architectural affairs at BACA. “20 years ago, the mindset was very different to how it is now. These houses were being lost one by one and with them the history of the city. That is why preservation is always two-fold and both aspects are really important. There is the preservation of the urban fabric as well as the preservation of the intangible heritage: memories and personalities who were part of history and who were starting to be forgotten.” The Shaikh Ebrahim Centre initiative gave rise to an even more ambitious project under BACA, a comprehensive programme entitled ‘Pearling Path, Testimony of an Island Economy’ involving various architects, planners and researchers. The project highlights the town’s pearling history and aims to rebalance its demographic makeup, enticing local families back through improvements to the environment and provision of public, community and cultural venues. The Pearling Pathway is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. All new planning applications are reviewed by the project team to ensure further developments are in keeping with the scheme’s overarching objectives. The project has also received the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture, which rewards positive contributions to the built environment of Muslim communities worldwide.
House for Architectural Heritage by Noura Al Sayeh and Leopold Banchini Architects
PHOTO BY AIDAN IMANOVA
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Research centre designed by Japanese studio Atelier Bow Wow
PHOTO BY AIDAN IMANOVA
Nuzul Al Salam boutique hotel
PHOTO BY AIDAN IMANOVA
The 3.5km Pearling Pathway involves 16 structures as well as 400 houses along the route that are having their facades restored. Alongside the preservation and adaptive reuse projects stand contemporary structures completed by notable architects such as PAD Architects, OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen, Leopold Banchini Architects, as well as Valerio Olgiati, whose brutalist construction serves as the central gateway to the Pearling Pathway. Future projects are also planned for the area including the redevelopment of the oldest market in the city by Studio Anne Holtrop and the rehabilitation of the Murad House, which will be turned into a guesthouse for visitors while its ‘women’s room’ will be converted into a tea house that is open to the public. Additional initiatives include multistorey car parks designed by
Christian Kerez, which are planned for completion by 2021. So far, the restoration and conservation strategy has involved preserving original parts of the homes’ structures while allowing for adaptations to happen where necessary, and predominantly to cater to the needs of the residents’ changing lifestyles and household conditions. “The challenge was that a lot of the families that were living in Muharraq that needed to expand [their homes] would apply for a grant or loan from the Ministry of Housing and often times they would be relocated to other parts of Bahrain in new housing projects. So, what we wanted to do was reverse this trend and show that while conserving the old parts of the house, you could allow for some flexibility to expand the spaces,” Al Sayeh explains. THE HOME ISSUE
House of Art
PHOTO BY GREY IMAGES
House of Art
While the project has done a tremendous job at raising awareness around the importance of architectural preservation and the cultural significance of Muharraq both locally and regionally, it has also managed to spark foreign interest, gauged by a rise in both architectural tourism, media attention and international awards. However, it isn’t immune to its own set of pitfalls and concerns. Karimi, who also teaches modern architecture at the University of Bahrain, comments that while on an urban and architectural level, the efforts of the Shaikh Ebrahim Centre and BACA provide a case study on mindful and patient development which could serve as an exemplary model to other countries, culturally, the initiative leaves a lot to be desired. “Many of the Shaikh Ebrahim buildings have little to no functional programming,” he says, explaining that the houses mainly function as private spaces that are open for visitation. “The problem with that is if a building isn't in use, people can't engage with it or internalise the values that the project aims to convey. This could easily be resolved by hiring locals to run programming and enabling parts of the community to utilise the houses as a way of keeping them active,” he adds. Architect and urban conservation consultant, Ghassan Chemali, who is responsible for the urban conservation of the Pearling Pathway, on the other hand, argues that with on-going restoration works, it is difficult to estimate the lack of programming but adds that plans for competitions and events to attract the local community have been put in place, “and this will only improve with time”. Studying the effects of the revitalisation on the residents themselves, a two-fold reality presented itself where on one hand, residents have a
PHOTO BY GREY IMAGES
renewed sense of pride to be living in the historic city, while on the other, several complications on an urban scale have surfaced. “Previously, the approach to urban regeneration was to demolish entire neighborhoods and rebuild them to accommodate the contemporary needs of local Bahraini families, but this approach destroys Muharraq’s special identity. Our current approach is certainly better than this alternative but it needs to be supported by policies that allow middle to low-income dwellers to remain in the vicinity of the restored houses,” explains Chemali. “The other danger is that the remaining inhabitants feel alienated by a new environment and they don’t feel they can relate to it. A corresponding policy empowering locals and allowing them to appropriate the restored areas so as to increase their feeling of belonging, needs to be in place.” Another question then arises that is central to the original motivations of the project: will the new efforts drive back Muharraq’s original residents? “The restoration works are still ongoing, and while it is expected that the new venues will attract economic activities and investments, it is unclear whether residents will come back to live in Muharraq just for that,” Chemali explains. “BACA is rather counting on satellite projects which are being implemented around the restored houses such as four multistorey parking structures and 16 public spaces. Making the city equipped for practical contemporary living conditions while at the same time preserving its identity is the strategy we hope will bring back local residents.” While these and other concerns remain, there is no doubt that the rehabilitation of Muharraq’s historic houses has instilled a sense of positivity in the city, and one that looks to the future for further economic opportunities and social revival. id
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The languages of nature and architecture intersect with the newly completed Villa Chams by Carl Gerges Architects in Baalbek, Lebanon Words by Aidan Imanova Images courtesy of Carl Gerges Architects
Chasing the sun
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o the east of the Litani River in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, about 85km northeast of Beirut, lies the city of Baalbek. Once known as Heliopolis (the City of the Sun), Baalbek remains entangled in many mysteries and mythologies: here, the Greeks and Romans once built temples for their deities and in ancient times, pilgrims congregated to worship the Phoenician sky god Baal and his consort Astarte, the Queen of Heaven. Lying remotely within its semi-arid landscape is the aptly named Villa Chams (meaning ‘sun’ in Arabic) – a rectangular structure that blends with its surroundings while remaining monumental in its architecture, much like the temples that grace the historic city. The private residence was designed by architect Carl Gerges – better known as the drummer of Lebanese rock band Mashrou’ Leila, which played its first big concert in the Temple of Bacchus, part of the Baalbek temple complex. Perhaps a little-known fact, the band members met while studying architecture at the American University of Beirut, and Gerges had since completed his own apartment in the Lebanese capital. While he is working on other projects in Lebanon, Villa Chams is the first completed project under his eponymous architecture studio. At a distant glance, the single-shell structure grounds itself horizontally, while respectfully blending in with its wild landscape of rocks and native flora. Upon closer inspection, the building reveals a series of equidistant walls and columns that orchestrate a sense of rhythmic musicality formed on a rudimentary grid, featuring a series of introverted and open extensions. The physical site of the building played a major role in informing the design, from its reddish façade – which is part earth found onsite and part concrete – to the landscaping which includes native Opuntia cacti, olive trees and rocks. “I took a lot of notes and sketches. I knew every rock by heart,” Gerges recounts. “I hate when you see the human impact on a built site. Sometimes when you accidentally hit a rock, for example, that has been there for millions of years, because it’s white and oxidated with water, it just breaks into pieces. It will probably take hundreds of years for it to heal so you have to be extremely careful on site.” Villa Chams is composed of three main sections: on one side sits a cluster of public areas while on the other side the private quarters, which leads to a small garden and fountain at the back of the house. An indoor garden set in the middle connects the two living areas. The main living area is also linked to the large outdoor pool area.
THE HOME ISSUE
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“The beauty of the site is that it is slightly sloped,” Gerges explains. “Inside the house, it starts above the the pool where you have a height of 4.5 metres and on the other side, where you have the bedrooms, the height is 2.8 metres. You can feel it when you walk inside the house, that each space is at a different level.” Inside, the rooms are furnished with poured earth concrete walls and stone, where light and layered views of rocks, cacti, water and the distant mountains combine to create a sensorial experience. The flooring, while maintaining the reddish tint of the exterior façade, is polished and reflective, enhanced by the play of light that contrasts with the outer shell. The music and reading room is sunk at a lower level into the ground and opens to an eye level view of the outdoors, while the bathroom is fully enclosed with only skylights used for illumination. “I didn’t use wood or curtains in the bathroom, just stone, concrete and glass,” Gerges says. “So, you can hear the water flowing and reverberating. I like to play with these elements –sound, smell and light. I know it’s cliché to talk about these things but to me they are materials, like concrete.” Water elements flow throughout the building, from the large pool that reference the Roman baths found in antiquity to the subtle whispers of fountains that offer an understated aura of tranquility. “The sound of water is very important to me,” Gerges continues. “When you walk outdoors and there is a tiny fountain or a tiny movement of water, it immediately brings serenity and tranquility. I once went to a spa in Switzerland designed by Peter Zumthor and it was a huge inspiration for me, a life changing experience.” Gerges notes the way the Prizker Prize-winning architect uses spatial and material elements to consistently remind the visitor of nature – an approach
he incorporates in his own projects and one that is already evident in Villa Chams. The connection to nature weaves its way across many of the design’s elements. For example, in the villa’s s outside area, flowing like a river through concrete columns, the pool’s floor is created using rough terrazzo mixed with native mineral aggregates, emitting a grounding effect that massages the feet. The choice of certain materials further establishes the living nature of the residence, which were selected based on their ability to respond with grace to the natural wear and tear of time. “I am completely against using fake woods and ceramics because they don’t age,” Gerges says. “For the columns in the pool I didn’t want to use another material that is water resistant or that doesn’t age with water. They are going to live and eventually turn a bit green. I always like to use materials that age well. I call them noble materials.” For Gerges, the role of the architect is to use the available context as a means to enhance and shape the experience of being in a space, even if that means staying humble with your approach. “Architecture is all about the experience of the person inside the space. If you design it while thinking only about your concept and your ego, and trying to make a big statement, you lose a lot of sensitivity,” he adds. Keeping in mind the graceful manner in which the Romans and Greeks built their temples in Baalbek to venerate the gods of the sun, Gerges has paid an equal level of respect to the tangible and intangible nature surrounding Villa Chams, binding it with the home’s man-made elements. While the structure itself appears monumental, it does not intrude on the land. Instead, the residence honours its surroundings as a true celebration of nature. id
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Blurred lines Styled Habitat has completed the renovation of its design studio in Dubai Design District that exemplifies the co-existing notions of work and home Words by Aidan Imanova Photography by Oculis Project
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he often-detached concepts of office and home life have come to a collision in recent months, with many questioning the boundaries and intersections of the two distinct realities. Interior design practice Styled Habitat tackles these precise boundaries in the renovation of its studio in Dubai Design District, creating a space that encourages the best of both worlds. Opening up to an airy yet casual living room-like space, the studio emulates a sense of being in a private loft that aptly overlooks Dubai’s Downtown and Burj Khalifa. The large, inviting space acts as the central core of the studio, serving as a welcoming lounge, meeting and collaborative space. “We studied different models of office spaces but we found that traditional models didn’t represent Styled Habitat’s aesthetics or values,” says founder, Rabah Saeid. Instead, she decided to marry elements of both to create a space that felt authentic to Styled Habitat; one that is welcoming, personal, calm and contemplative. “The studio environment allows for team members and guests to step back and be able to see the whole space while still being able to zoom in on how individual moments play together,” Saeid explains. The result is a studio comprising fluid spaces that adapt to its various uses. The hybrid model combines both open and closed office plans teamed with a selection of finishes, textures and furniture that further
contributes to the feel of a comfortable and inviting living space. The open central core overlooks a series of beautifully plastered arches that separate the public space from the individual offices on one side, while on the other side, a tall, floor-to-ceiling custom materials library establishes an anchor between public and private spaces. “Good design has to be functional and meet the actual needs of the users,” Saied explains. “Pulling a space together is all about building character. The series of arches create a visual boundary for the lounge area and emphasise the thickness of the openings and walls with an old-world plaster finish. This is further balanced by the European herringbone wood flooring. All these elements collectively melt together to give the studio a sense of character and history, but more importantly, an approachable and inviting feeling.” Another area that has been given meaningful attention is the pantry that was once an isolated storage room but has now been transformed into a dramatic space. The decadent room features custom joinery, integrated appliances, rich four-season marble countertops and a marble ledge, that acts as both a functional shelf as well as a display to showcase beautiful collections of handmade ceramics. Much like other areas of the office, interwoven spaces take precedent over closed doors, with the pantry similarly spilling into the studio using a cosy bench dressed in vintage velvet set at the end of the counter, creating an alluring spot to enjoy a cup of coffee.
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“The pantry becomes more of a flow-through from the rest of the studio,” says Saeid. “It is not choppy or an afterthought or purely utilitarian.” Saeid’s attention to detail and nuanced design choices is also expressed in the endless curiosity of “honest” materials, textures and objects that are carefully curated and positioned across the studio. From natural oak herringbone floors, pitted travertine tables and marble countertops to textured linen fabrics and a plush rug area all, all chosen elements are used to enhance the lived-in narrative of the space. “I love the challenge of adhering to a limited palette of whites, linens, warm wood and a few hints of black,” Saeid comments. “To achieve a curated, well-lived in space, we layered tones and textures in a way that was super considered yet minimal. We also needed to energize the deepest parts of the studio where there was little natural light such as the pantry by painting the back wall a rich burgundy colour and carefully placing lights to draw attention to the vintage framed artworks.” The studio also boasts a range of brands and products
that are showcased in a manner that feels collected and admired, celebrating their quality and craftsmanship. From locally-made custom designs to classic pieces and contemporary works, each of these serves their intended function and highlight Styled Habitat’s creativity in seamlessly mixing different styles. One example of this is the classic CH20 Elbow Chair designed by Carl Hansen & Son whose curvy and graceful form fits beautifully against the pure and simple lines of the Fredericia-Mesa table. Other brands that grace the studio include lighting from Flos, furniture pieces from Ikonhouse – who’s Alserkal Avenue showroom is also designed by Styled Habitat – as well as pieces from Cassina and DesignItch. “I find that allowing the design to unfold piece by piece, material by material, is when the magic of design can take you by surprise. This unfolding is what stimulates comfort and excitement in design,” Saeid points out. “In my opinion, there are no hard-and-fast rules. Anything that truly makes your heart sing should find its rightful place in your space,” she adds. id
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Human touch VSHD Design has completed the interiors for a new residential property in Dubai that aims to make its residents as comfortable in the lobby as in their living rooms Words by Aidan Imanova Photography by Oculis Project
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esigned to feel like a home within a home, the new Marquise Square tower in Dubai’s Business Bay offers residents a living space that extends beyond the walls of their apartments. Combining elegance, comfort and a welcoming atmosphere, Dubai-and-Montreal-based VSHD Design focused on creating shared spaces in which residents can feel at home no matter where they are in the building. “The common spaces were created as an extension for the residents to have a place to go to when they leave their apartment: a place where they can work, relax, entertain, or simply have a coffee and use free Wi-Fi,” says Rania Hamed, principal at VSHD Design. “All common areas are designed to feel like a big living space shared by the residents. Hence, being welcoming and comfortable was of paramount importance to us.” The 29-floor Marquise Square tower offers a range of studios and one-to-three-bedroom apartments that range between 64m2 and 216m2, created by SRG Holding, an Emirati family-run development firm launched in Dubai in the 1970s and responsible for projects such as Sheraton Grand Hotel and Burj Al Salam.
The apartments are designed to feel modern, clean and minimal with a neutral colour tone and a seamless flow of materials and finishes that aim to provide a more spacious feel to the living spaces. While also leaving room for residents to add their own personal touch and style, the design leaves its distinctive mark on the space without being intrusive. “As living spaces are becoming increasingly small, we had to make sure that all the living aspects of a resident is taken into consideration in our design,” Hamed explains. “For example, where he or she puts their keys, gym bag, where they store their towels or vacuum cleaner. Comfort and style can go hand in hand if the design is well thought of.” The firm was challenged in providing a design that offers a high standard of living within a modestly-sized floor plan, which it approached by utilisng what Hamed describes as an honest design approach over a decorative one, allowing for spaces to feel larger and void of any visual clutter. “Quality housing is not always a question of square metres, but rather of functional layouts that are suited for everyday use,” she adds. THE HOME ISSUE
Hamed describes VSHD’s design philosophy as one that aims to change how people live by introducing a new kind of minimalism that understands modest sophistication, offering design solutions that combine refined details, authentic materials and finishes and a creative use of lighting. While this approach was employed when designing the living areas, the same attitude weaves itself into the shared spaces, creating a cohesive design language. A long table offers a space from where one can work, much like at home or at a coffee shop, while a more casual set up features an array of chairs and sofas that allow for more relaxed activities such as reading or having a cup of coffee. In the reception area on the ground floor, or the ‘building living room’, suspended light boxes of different sizes cover the ceiling ducts, while also acting as a design element that brings the space together. Huge bookshelves have been used to provide a warm, home-like feeling of a study room or library, while the timber-cladding, plaster and brass offers a modern take on the 1920’s Art Deco style. A gym and pool are set on the third floor of the building. Hamed believes that changing tastes and habits are shaping the kind of residences that are being offered, with the residents themselves at the helm of this change. “Residents are becoming increasingly aware of the need for style, comfort,
convenience and design,” Hamed explains, “therefore, we believe that more and more developers today are striving to meet the requirements of young residents, whether they are singles or couples. They are the ones actually dictating what the market should offer today. “In the past, developers might have thought that hiring a design firm to properly design their spaces would mean more expensive units that are hard to sell, or one that will cause a dent in the profit margin. This is not the case at all. We believe that residents today are more willing to pay a small extra premium to live comfortably and in style,” she says. However, with the current climate and government-imposed social distancing measures, the project poses the question of whether the future will see a continued demand for communal areas in residential buildings? Hamed thinks so, but only if measures of flexibility have been applied. “I believe that social distancing is here to stay for a while, but definitely not for good,” she comments. “I think communal spaces will prevail if there is flexibility in the initial design to accommodate social distancing whenever the need arises. As designers we will start finding new design solutions to implement social distancing but in a subtle way that appears to the user as a part of the design intent.” id
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design focus / kitchens
DESIGN FOCUS KITCHENS The kitchen is slowly beginning to take its rightful place at the heart of the home. This monthâ€™s Design Focus explores the trends, products and materials that are propelling kitchen design to the forefront, while showcasing projects that highlight its position within the home.
Bromo range from Cosentino's Dekton Portfolio '20 collection
Biophilia Being confined to one’s home environments and lacking a connection to nature has brought the importance of nature back into the living space, and in turn, into the kitchen. Natural materials and textured finishes are becoming more widely available amongst new kitchen collections as brands rush to offer a sense of naturalness back to our homes. Part of Cosentino’s Dekton Portfolio ’20 collection, the Bromo range comes in a dark blue shade, inspired by homogeneous metamorphic rocks such as
slate, born to fit seamlessly into the Natural Collection by Dekton®, a series in which Cosentino continues to express its desire to recreate the best of nature and its geology. Featuring a carefully-created texture and nature aesthetic, this colour proposal is neutral enough to be perfect for any type of environment. Also, as part of its commitment to sustainability and a circular economic model, various Dekton® colours are made with recycled materials from the product’s manufacturing process. THE HOME ISSUE
design focus / kitchens
Metallic Gold collection from Hacker Kitchen's 2020 range
Metallics With kitchens moving to more dominant positions in the house, the need for them to stand out is becoming more desired. Hacker Kitchenâ€™s 2020 ranges offer just that with this Metallic Gold collection that boasts a textured gold effect that adds lustre and theatre to any space. While dramatic, the design remains elegant and harnesses the metallic trend and updates it for the ultimate in-home style. The gold contrasts spectacularly with high gloss black cabinets, and has been designed with the Middle East and Asia Pacific regions in mind. Additionally, Hackerâ€™s tropicalised kitchens adhere to the heightened attention to hygiene and safety. The kitchens are specially sealed and treated with an anti-fungal layer during the manufacturing process, using a sealant that expands and stretches with temperature. This makes the cabinets less penetrable by moisture, and therefore increasing durability.
Metallic collection from Hacker Kitchen
Next125 range by Schuller
Open plan The lines between living room and kitchen are blurring as kitchens become more open plan and part of the larger living space. This can certainly be said of Schuller’s Next125 high-end kitchen range. Open on both sides and serving as a room element, the open shelf unit subtly emphasises the homely character while, simultaneously, acting as a bridge between cooking and dining. The kitchen uses the innovative Fenix laminate material in mocha brown that features an easy-care, anti-fingerprint finish complete with ceramic elements for recess and worktops that reinforce its homely character. The absence of an extractor hood allows for a clear view of the living space as vapours and odours are extracted by downdraft directly at the hob. The lighting in the recess can also be used as ambient lighting in the evening. All these elements come together to create an interplay of living and kitchen spaces.
Clean lines Minimalism in the kitchen is becoming more prominent, with more people beginning to declutter their spaces and opting for less but more valuable pieces and ample open space. Kitchens are also employing this strategy, focusing on efficiency and formal cleanliness, as well as aesthetic simplicity. The new APR 60 collection by Italian brand Boffi designed by Pierro Lissoni and CRS Boffi offers just that, while also leaving room for customisation. From mixing between wood and glass or steel and wood, the collection also offers an abundance of colours to choose from. Its’ defining features, however, include a raised worktop with a special section that creates a gap with the door and extra thin shelves that look like lines, adding to the minimalism of the kitchen space. Another feature that adds to its minimalistic approach is the handle-less base units where the fronts can be opened by gripping the protruding part of the door. Its ‘Tip On’ base units are fitted with a push-opening mechanism that doesn’t require an immediate handrail, allowing for a smoother interaction.
APR 60 collection from Boffi
Photo by Tommaso Sartori
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design focus / kitchens
Ordine from Fabita
Flexibility With living spaces becoming smaller within residential developments as more spaces becomes dedicated to common areas and amenities, the sizes of kitchens are being reduced to suit the new floor plans and with this comes its own set of challenges, from storage to appliances. Turin-based Adriano Design has taken flexible kitchen appliances to a whole new level with the design of the new Ordine for Italian kitchen brand Fabita that can be hung up like a pan between uses to ensure safe efficiency. Advancing the flexibility of induction cooktop technology, Ordine strays from the typical model and instead opts for a sculptural form that is atypical of other space-saving objects found in the market. With both burners mounted on the wall, Ordine takes on an ornamental form that becomes decorative rather than space-consuming. The twin appliances can be used separately or simultaneously, and come in different colours as well as wall or countertop versions.
Sustainability Architect and designer Agata Kurzela looks at various materials available on the market that could contribute to creating a sustainably-conscious kitchen space
KUNGSBACKA from IKEA THE HOME ISSUE
design focus / kitchens
Wooden Aquarelle from Meike Harde
id you want to build a sustainable kitchen but the task, which seemed deceptively easy at first, now appears overwhelming? True, calculating the exact ecological footprint is practically impossible. Yet, knowing what to look for can help in making good decisions. Sadly, the basic fact is that the cheapest way of creating a product is rarely the most sustainable or ethical. Not everything labeled as “green”, “eco”, “organic” and “environmentally friendly” is, in fact, sustainable. Certified products often come with a higher price tag because certification itself can be costly. Often, so is the ethical renumeration of labour. In the end, it all comes down to making conscious choices that require effort and time. For Vitra, possibly the most famous furniture-maker in the world, “sustainability is the creation of products that omit non-essential elements and last a long time”. The Swiss company looks at the continued value of its products, their resale prices and their desirability as they age. In that context, the value of the product is in looking beyond temporary trends. Today, even mainstream manufacturers understand the value of sustainable materials and increasing consumer awareness and are beginning to offer a number of products that cater to the environmentally-conscious.
How to start
The first step is to decide what is the realistic life-cycle of your kitchen. This decision should help drive the choice of materials. Will they be able to withstand the test of time – or have a useful second life? Ideally, you’d want both. 54
Usually, the way companies produce sustainable products include the efficient use of raw materials: a closed-cycle production process that reduces the use of water and energy, and the recovery or repurposing of production waste. It is also important to know how and how far the products are being transported as well as how they are maintained, how they are put together and how they perform – and what happens after their current life cycle comes to an end.
Recycling + life cycle
The efficient use of resources is not an entirely new concept. Ubiquitous terrazzo was originally created as a way of using scrap material from broken marble slabs. Similar principles apply to many contemporary composite materials where chips or particles are set together in a binder. Depending on what base material has been used, the resulting appearance varies between expressly vivid to homogenous. IKEA has recently promoted its KUNGSBACKA kitchen fronts that are made from recycled wood and recycled PET bottles as well as other furniture that is made out of recycled composite materials. Several companies offer reconstituted materials optimised for their performance. Silestone, one of the most durable materials for countertops has an Eco line that is produced from 50% recycled material while maintaining an extremely high performance. If you are willing to pick from a limited
palette, Fenix Bloom has the benefit of a much reduced environmental impact. Beyond these easily available materials, it is worth considering more adventurous choices such as the beautiful Foresso that is produced out of wood waste from sawmills or Plasticiet that is created out of plastic waste. Both products have been introduced to the UAE market by Colab, a company focused on promoting the knowledge of sustainable, and often unusual, materials.
Natural materials are not automatically sustainable, especially if they come at a cost of depleting scarce resources or if their transport generates a considerable amount of carbon emissions. A desire to use rare and beautiful wood species, for example, can be disastrous for the environment and for local communities displaced by deforestation. It’s best to focus instead on FSC-certified wood that comes from managed plantations for all timber-based products, including solid timber, veneers and plywood. Another environmentally-friendly choice is to consider rapidly renewable wood species such as bamboo. Plywood, which may seem unappealing at first, can be creatively finished, too. Just look at Meike Harde’s stunning Wooden Aquarelle, a plywood material that can be used for tabletops, accessories and even cabinet fronts.
Whenever possible, support local. Using locally available resources and labour is socially sustainable and saves energy. Local and regional materials include a range of Omani marble, stone from Saudi Arabia and Palestine. They have to
be used in line with the stone’s inherent qualities as some varieties may have limited applications due to their vulnerability to acids and oils.
Efficiency, maintenance, durability
Efficiency of design means a simplicity that stays clear of unnecessary maintenance requirements. Avoid elaborate detailing, difficult to reach corners and materials requiring complicated tooling. Frequent use of cleaning products can lead to a much larger environmental footprint than the materials themselves. It is also worth remembering that sustainability lies in due diligence and upkeep. Correct installation in line with the supplier’s recommendations and regular sealing will allow the materials to last. Consider materials that can be easily fixed or reconditioned. Many contemporary materials today allow for thermo-healing (ex. Fenix) while others can be re-polished or refinished to bring back the original performance and appearance. They can also be altered with special stains, or even thermally treated like the ancient Japanese technique of Shou Sugi Ban. The preservation of resources, to a large degree, is an exercise in shaping our own habits by overcoming the urge to follow superficial trends that largely drive our consumption. Will you really still love that terrazzo floor five years down the line, once interior design magazines pursue another hot trend? Beyond materials, we should consider water-saving faucets, energy-efficient appliances, LED lighting and good habits that reduce unnecessary waste. All it takes is some basic research and commitment and seeing it as a process rather than a one-off gesture. THE HOME ISSUE
design focus / kitchens
PHOTO BY PIET ALBERT GOETHALS COURTESY OF MAR PLUS ASK (MARPLUSASK.COM)
Glogauer Strasse by mar plus ask A minimal kitchen takes centre stage in a renovated home and office space in Berlin
alencia-based studio mar plus ask has renovated a former supermarket into a minimalist home and office space, set on the ground floor of an 1880â€™s apartment building in the heart of Berlinâ€™s Kreuzberg district. Envisioning quietness and simplicity, mar plus ask converted the former space into a calm oasis, complete with a 60m2 garden. All elements in the home were designed to be built-in wall to wall in order to avoid unneeded distractions. The high ceilings and polished concrete floor spread throughout all the rooms, while a
beautifully coloured stucco brings a sense of unity to the overall space. The floor-to-ceiling interior and closet doors are frameless and rendered in the same stucco finish as the walls. While the geometry of the space becomes potent, the dusty surfaces of the stucco soften the aesthetic. From this base, each room develops into a mood of its own right through a specifically-designed configuration. In the living area, the old small windows were replaced by four, large 3-metre-high oak windows, brightening up the space by opening up to a small, private garden in the courtyard.
At the centre of the common area is the kitchen, orchestrating all the main activities of the house. A 4.4 metre-long concrete island was casted directly on site with a terrazzo-like texture, and is offset by a long wooden dining table that stands at its side. The Berlin home perfectly merges the functions of the kitchen, dining and meeting spaces into one seamless space by a precise use of materiality, colour palette and an overall minimalistic approach. This transcends into the living room area that is marked by a change of height, creating its own territory in an otherwise open-plan layout.
Villa Soncino by SuperFutureDesign* A renovated ancient farmhouse conveys traditional Italian values of putting the kitchen first
uperFutureDesign* has converted an ancient 2,000m2 farmhouse, located in a mysterious Italian countryside, into a contemporary home for three families, merging its complex of structures into a single house. While Italian design is renowned for its elegant applications, the rural culture of the country remains a vital part of Italian tradition and design, in which the kitchen serves as the breathing heart of the home; typically organised around a fireplace as a source of heat. The architects wanted to translate this cultural element into the layout of the house where, although remaining contemporary in its
formality and application, the result stays rooted in traditional Italian values of the home. In turn, the kitchen becomes a crossroad within the layout of the space, set close to the entrance which allows visitors and home owners alike to pass through it in order to access other areas of the house, from the kids’ room to the laundry room, as well as the garden and the courtyard. The design itself remains minimalistic but true to its site, using elements of millwork that clad the walls, hiding any visible doors and joints, while the long central kitchen counter stands as the protagonist of the overall space.
“The kitchen is as important to the design as the heart is to the body,” the architects said. “In a contemporary Italian lifestyle, the kitchen and dining areas must be one-space, especially as cooking has become a passion that the owners of the house share with their guests and other family members – and even more so now in times of lockdown." Additionally, during the renovation, the architects opened the Masonry wall facing the garden and built a greenhouse that extends to the outdoor park. In this way, the house gains additional space to accommodate a generous dining area that faces the kitchen.
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on our radar
Common language UAE-based Studio D04 is on a mission to create a contemporary architectural language that will help define the future of tradition in the Gulf
As Emirati females, what have been some challenges that you have faced? Studio D04: We get underestimated all the time, not only because we’re female but because we’re Emirati, too. We really don’t like playing the female card, or even the Emirati card – we really want our work to speak for itself. We have faced our share of challenges in terms of enforcing our decisions on site, which usually consists of a group of men, but we have now gotten the hang of it over a series of projects. We want to inspire the local community to recognise not only female talent but young and local talent as well.
ounded in 2014 by Fatima Al Zaabi and Noor Al Awar, Studio D04 has a wideranging portfolio spanning architectural and interior design projects, renovations, as well as product designs. Following a contemporary approach to their work, the Emirati designers hope to create a niche in which the lifestyles of the Gulf are being addressed.
on digital technology and exploring different material processes with advanced digital fabrication methods, while Noora’s work focuses more on exploring different material processes with a reflection on traditional concepts derived from her surroundings. As a team we share the same design aesthetics and believe our collaborative nature distinguishes our work and adds to our design dynamic.
Tell us about your studio. How did you meet and come to work together? Studio D04: We were a group of four undergrads studying architecture together at the American University of Sharjah. Early on, we realised that we shared a common design language and aesthetic. As a group of friends, we talked and dreamed about starting our own design studio after graduation. It started with the two of us and two other colleagues who have now gone on their own separate path across the world. As a team we have different interests but share the same backgrounds. Fatima Al Zaabi’s work focuses
What was your first project? Studio D04: We decided to participate in the Urban Commissions programme launched for the first time in 2014 by Dubai Design Days. Unfortunately, we were the runners up, but one of the competition judges from Dubai Culture became interested in our proposal that was inspired by merging traditional crafts into modern outdoor seating, and decided to commission us to design their booth for the design fair. It was a challenging project as we had a week to design it and another week for production. This first experience encouraged us to start our design studio.
What defines your designs? Do you apply a specific style or approach? Studio D04: We pride ourselves on marrying sensitive, regional lifestyle needs with modern architectural practices. We noticed early on that the region was made up of either commercial, contemporary design or old, traditional spaces, but there wasn’t very much in between. We started to explore what contextual ‘contemporary regional’ architecture could look like. When you look back 50 years from now, what’s going to be our tradition? That is where Studio D04’s work comes in. As Emiratis, we have a certain lifestyle as well. For example, the majlis is still an important space for our community and family gatherings, but it’s often missing in the residential architecture that’s offered today. There’s little consideration to our dayto-day lives, like our concerns with privacy. When we design, it’s not simply about how the space looks, but how we live in that space. What are your ambitions for the future? Studio D04: We want to produce more culturally sensitive and regionally appropriate architecture that will create a new reference for future generations to look back on as UAE-based design. The end game is clear: to continue grappling with the tensions between tradition and modernity, to evoke the domestic lives of the next generation of Arabs and, when viewed by future analysts, to be part of a narrative about life in the UAE.
on our radar
PHOTO BY NATELEE COCKS
PHOTO BY NATELEE COCKS
PHOTO BY NATELEE COCKS
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Central Post Office by Rifat Chadirji ID Classics celebrates buildings, personalities and objects that have left their mark on the fields of design and architecture. This month we pay tribute to prominent modern Iraqi architect, Rifat Chadirji, who passed away aged 93, this April during the COVID-19 pandemic Words by Aidan Imanova
celebrated figured of modern Iraqi architecture, Rifat Chadirji’s buildings are exemplary of local construction techniques applied through a modernist lens, a style he called ‘international regionalism’. Chadirji devised a synthesis of form that referenced tradition, but one that hoped to modernise its architectural language by drawing from international styles, while guiding the creation of a genuinely modern urban landscape for Iraq in the latter part of the 20th century. “I set out to learn from traditional architecture, he once said, “and to achieve a synthesis between traditional forms and inevitable advent of modern technology. My aim was to create an architecture which at once acknowledges the place in which it is built, yet which sacrifices nothing to modern technical capability.” Having contributed to the realisation of approximately 100 buildings – most of which are in Iraq – many of them have since been lost. The remaining structures across the country’s various cities including Baghdad and Mosul stand as markers of the late architect’s legacy, which goes beyond physical constructions. His contributions to architectural education in the Arab world and internationally as well as his photographic documentation of regional architecture further establishes his influence. The Central Post Office (pictured) is an example of Chadirji’s functional and contextual approach to architecture, completed in 1976 in Baghdad. The 10-storey tower comprises the main communications facilities in the city, with the fourstorey, long block containing the post office with the postal hall set on the ground level and additional public services located on the mezzanine floor. The second and third levels of the building contain offices. The telecommunications block is set back from the street, while a central service tower links the two blocks. The building was bombed during the Iraq War in 2003, after which it was minimally repaired and has since been preserved as an important monument of Iraq’s modern architectural history. His other notable buildings, developed through his architecture practice Iraq Consult, include the Tobacco Monopoly Headquarters and the Hamood Villa in Baghdad, as well as the National Insurance Company in Mosul. Chadirji was elected Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1982. He eventually left Iraq for good in 1983, when he was offered a teaching position at Harvard. Later, Chadirji was awarded the Chairman Award of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1986, as well as being elected Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1987. On April 10, 2020 Chadirji passed away after contracting the novel coronavirus. In an email announcing his death, Nasser Rabbat, Aga Khan professor for Islamic Architecture at MIT, described Chadirji as “one of the most influential shapers of modern Baghdad and an original theorist of architecture with a broad historical and cultural breadth”. Chadirji’s legacy continues to live on through his many buildings, photographic documentations and publications; and in the many fond memories of those who knew the legendary architect.
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Products From brightly coloured tableware and whimsical furniture pieces to bold accessories, this month’s selection of objects is all about bringing a sense of play and ornamentation into your home
Dongyeop Han Korean furniture designer Dongyeop Han has launched a collection inspired by the traditional Korean ‘soban’ – a low, tray-like table used for carrying food. The tops of the tables have been made with grooves at a constant depth and spacing, giving them a ‘zig-zag’ pattern that are both decorative and functional. The table comes with coasters that also have grooves of the same size that fit snuggly on the table, on which glasses, plates and vases can be placed. The collection is made using American hard maple and American walnut wood, that is contrasted with bright and playful colours. Learn more on handongyeop.com 62
This large pink Strom vase by Raawii offers geometric proportions, inspired by the shapes found in 20thcentury Cubism artworks, expressing Danish designer Nicholai Wiig Hansen’s exacting eye. Handcrafted from smooth ceramic with a matte finish, the vase can be made to pop even more with the addition of an unconventional flower arrangement or offset with colour-blocking pieces for an uplifting homeware edit. Available on matchesfashion.com
Elisa Ossino for Viccarbe Sicilian architect and designer, Elisa Ossino’s love for geometry is translated in her latest range of side tables for Spanish brand Viccarbe. Tino is born with a sculptural soul and a bold form that is offset by an inherent elegance that offers it a place in any type of interior setting. Its handle – which is available in three different finishes including metal, solid oak and marble – makes it easy to move around the room. Combining form and function, Trino is guaranteed to add a quick dash of quirkiness to any space. Available locally at OFIS – ofis.ae
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Vintage coffee pot The Wolesley
While many of us are still staying at home, why not bring a touch of an iconic Art Deco-inspired café into your home through The Wolesley’s vintage silverware? Our favourite is this coffee pot that is made in the UK from silver-plated metal with a tiered hinged lid and matching base. It’s framed by a heat-resistant black wooden handle and finial, and can be served alongside similar antique crockery or juxtaposed with more minimalist earthenware. Available on matchesfashion.com
Fruits and Vegetables Iittala
Iittala has relaunched its playful Fruits and Vegetables collection by design legend Oiva Toikka, just in time for you to grow a little garden out of these handmade art objects that that offer a perfect sense of delight. Celebrating Toikka’s limitless imagination and sense of fun, the various fruits including Apple, Aubergine, Grape, Onion, Pumpkin and Zucchini all feature quirky details and lively colour combinations that add elegance and fun to any interior. The pieces are available in a wide range of deep, vibrant shades that showcase Iittala’s special colour expertise while highlighting the fluid design of the glass. The objects look lovely alone or grouped together and are soon to be a favourite for collectors. Available on iittala.com
I Left My Heart in Mexico 2 Nimerology
For its SS20 collection, Reflections Copenhagen’s Julie Hugau and Andrea Larsson have designed four flacons inspired by bottles used for perfume dating back 1000 BC. The distinct lines of this blue Rochester piece – that can almost be considered as object d’art – will certainly lend a dramatic note to any interior. Crafted from crystal, the arch-shaped stopper sits in a blue geometric base surrounded by pale pink fans that are a nod to 1920s Art Deco architecture. Available on matchesfashion.com 64
Nimerology’s luxury tableware sees the second edition of ‘I Left my Heart in Mexico’, designed exclusively for collectible design gallery, Galerie Gabriel et Guillaum. The collection was part of a carefully selected array of treasure that the gallery presented in its first New York City showcase at the Landmark Penthouse earlier this year. ‘I Left my Heart in Mexico’ is inspired by Mexican textiles and sculptures that are referenced in its earthy colors of deep blue, teal and maroon. The plates that are embroidered with flowers and animals in black and platinum, highlight its founder, Nour Al Nimer’s fascination with nature. Available on nimerology.com
Books Untold stories of architecture and the urban environment have been compiled within the pages of these two publications for those who wish to catch a glimpse of the past, while looking towards an optimistic future
Cairo Since 1900: An Architectural Guide Mohamed Elshahed AUC Press From its celebrated film industry to its modern literature and music, Cairo has long reigned as one of the Arab world’s most revered capitals for the arts. However, rarely does attention fall on the city’s architecture that isn’t tied to its ancient past or Islamic history. Amid its many minarets, Cairo also houses a rich modern architectural heritage that spans across various styles and movements, from turn-of-the-century revivalism and romanticism to concrete expressionism and modernism. Cairo Since 1900: An Architectural Guide by architecture academic and
Red Envelope: Urban Planning & Regeneration (Limited) LWK + Partners
Drawing from Chinese and South East Asian cultures that share the idiosyncratic custom of gift giving in red envelopes or packets comes the three-part ‘Red Envelope’ series by Hong Kong-based architecture firm, LWK + Partners that seeks to freely share thoughts and insights on the built environment from a global perspective. Although not a traditional book, the journals encompass a selection of stories that tackle critical themes within the built environment through the lens of knowledge, culture, art, society and technology. Referencing journals of the 1950s and 60s that celebrated
researcher Mohamed Elshahed features a first-of-its-kind collection of buildings that have shaped and continue to shape the Egyptian capital since the early twentieth century. Featuring 220 modern structures, from Inji Zada’s sleek apartment tower in Ghamra designed by Antoine Selim Nahas in 1937, to the city’s many examples of experimental church architecture, and visible landmarks such as the Mugamma and Arab League buildings, the book is arranged by geographic area and provides photographs, drawings and maps to tell the story of a Cairo that has remained overlooked until now.
a world on the move, Red Envelope opens its triennial series with a timely focus on urban design and regeneration – disciplines that are catalysts for change, renewal and hope. Edited by Rima Alsammarae, ‘Urban Planning & Regeneration’ weaves narratives from how a community in Gujarat responds to an emergency re-urbanisation plan following the disastrous 2001 earthquake (by architect and researcher Nipun Prabhakar) to how local artists in Sudan are beautifying their streets in a post-Revolution Khartoum (by journalist Ola Diab). The stories, that are often anecdotal, are a documentation of architectural and urban history told from a perspective that is fundamentally human, while remaining refreshingly optimistic about the urban environment.
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id most wanted
Hashira collection is a Nordic take on the traditional Japanese rice paper lantern that offers a balanced fusion of East and West, tradition and modernity as well as simplicity and character. A selection of floor, table and
Photo: Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen
Hashira by Norm Architects for Menu 66
Available on menuspace.com
pendant lamps makes it the perfect choice for any modern home.
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