Wednesday, 5 December 2007

George W. Bush

This is not a political statement or anything... I just stumbled upon these two collages of Bush that were very interesting. One is made of 600 dead soldiers and the other is made of porn. This really shows how powerful art is... a simple portrait of the same person could have very different meanings by the materials used.

Most famous logos

I was arguing with a friend the other day about what were the most famous logos, she came up with this ridiculous list of top 10 which she said she read about them in The Times or some other newspaper or website... and knowing my friend and how she would always make up resources inside her head I came up with my own list and my own undisclosed resources. We argued for a long time and after ending the argument and going home, I decided to find out for real what are the most recognizable logos. Unfortunately I couldn't find any official list all what I found were individual lists with no apparent survey or study. However what I found common in all the lists is the there are 2 companies that were always in the top 5. And they are:

Of course no explanations are needed here and I am sure these immediately came to your minds when reading the title. I would appreciate it though if someone out there could lead me to a site with an official surveyed list of the most recognizable logos.


Everybody knows that Google is the best company to work for; and this is a video I found of their headquarters in Mountain view, California. Its called in the video "a country inside a country". Its amazing how a PhD project by two guys at 1996 turned out to be one of the most recognizable companies in the world today.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Ombres Chinoises

"Ombres Chinoises" is a french word for Chinese shadows. Shadow play is an ancient form of storytelling and entertainment using figures in front of an illuminated backdrop to create the illusion of moving images. It is said that this art form originated in China during the Han dynasty when one of Emperor Wu's wives died. The emperor was devastated and ordered his court to bring his wife back to life. Constructed of joined pieces of donkey leather and painted clothes, the wife was animated using an oil lamp by making her shadow move. The French are known for spreading the Chinese shadows through Europe when French missionaries in China took it back and put on performances in the mid-1800s.

Pilobolus started at Dartmouth College at the early 70s as a Dance group and went to become a major American dance company. The video is of a live performance by Pilobolus displaying the "Ombres Chinoises".

Saturday, 1 December 2007


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that usually come and go at the same times every year. Sad symptoms appear during winter and go away during the sunnier days of summer. But some people have the opposite pattern, developing what is known as Subsyndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder (SSAD) with the start of spring or summer. SAD symptoms may include depression, anxiety, loss of energy, oversleeping, appetite changes, wight gain, and difficulty in concentrating among others.

Causes and Risks

The causes of SAD are still unknown and debatable. Genetics, age, and most importantly the body's chemical makeup all play important roles.

Circadian rhythm
Some say that reduced level of sunlight in winter may disrupt the circadian rhythm in certain people. The circadian rhythm is a physiological process that helps letting you know when to sleep or wake and disrupting it could cause depression.

Others say that melatonin, a sleep-related hormone that is produced at night, causes SAD because longer winter nights could increase the production of melatonin and result in oversleeping and tiredness.

Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin, a natural brain chemical that affects mood, and may play a role in leading to depression.

SAD is more common among young adults older than 20, and it's diagnosed more often in women, but men may have more severe symptoms. Factors that may increase the development of SAD are location and family history. SAD is more common in higher latitudes away from the equator and that people with SAD are more likely to have family members with the condition.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing SAD is very important because it could lead to serious complications such as suicidal thoughts, social withdrawal, work problems and substance abuse. However its hard for doctors to diagnose and it isn't recognized by professionals as an official disorder, it can be diagnosed as a subtype of depression or bipolar disorder. Diagnosing it depends on experiencing the symptoms for at least two consecutive years during the same season, the periods of depression have been followed by periods without depression, and there are no other explanations for the changes in mood or behavior.

In easy cases, SAD can be treated simply by spending more time outdoors or sitting closer to bright windows while at home or in the office. Other treatments for seasonal affective disorder include:

Light therapy
Because increased sunlight improves symptoms, light therapy is often a main treatment for many people with SAD. In light therapy, you sit a few feet from a specialized light therapy box that mimics outdoor light. Its generally easy to use and has relatively few side effects.

Some people with SAD benefit from treatment with antidepressants or other psychiatric medications, especially if symptoms are severe.

Although SAD is thought to be related to biochemical processes, your mood and behavior also can contribute to symptoms. Psychotherapy can help you identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be making you feel worse. You can also learn healthy ways to cope with SAD and manage stress.

Coping with SAD require skills, here are few tips:
1- Stick to your treatment plan.
2- Let there be light.
3- Get out.
4- Exercise regularly.
5- Take care of yourself.
6- Practice stress management.
7- Socialize.
8- Take a trip.

Note: You might notice that the past few posts and the next posts may be of a negative nature that is because I believe I have SAD. In addition to that we have a very depressing project that we will work on for the next 6 months. Plus the weather these few days sucks. I barely see the sun.

Friday, 30 November 2007

5 star prison

Not long after receiving an email of the worst working stations... I receive an email of the best prison in the world. Designed by Hohensinn Architektur, Justice Center Leoben is located in Styria, Austria. I guess when the guy behind those filing cabinets snaps and put the manager's office on fire, its only fair that he's taken to this prison.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Saddest Cubicle Context

I received this funny email of the Saddest Cubicle Contest, and did I feel bad for those who worked there. I mean everything that could go wrong in an office space is wrong... bad lighting, nasty ventilation, lousy decoration and the list goes on. Here are few winner cubicles:

Check out this poor guy's desk... hidden behind filing cabinets with no windows and proper lighting.

I just love it when I see people used overturned boxes as cabinets or even better as tables... I know few friends who have done that... very efficient and Eco-friendly though.

Another great example of recycling... I love the effect the Persian carpet has on the desk space... its sort of defines a territory.

Containers can be a source for great architecture if designed properly... however this is not an example of such architecture.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Death and Architecture

I just got back from Genoa. A wonderful city in Italy that is rich with history and culture, unfortunately lack of future planning kind of ruined the city. Nevertheless, its still worth a visit.

I was lucky enough to be there at the same time of a major public holiday which I still don't know what is it for, however it allowed us to wonder inside Staglieno Cemetery. I've been to cemeteries before, mostly Muslim ones though, but going Staglieno made me think about how different people perceive the idea of life after death. Muslims are forbidden from mimicking any life-like creatures, and that is evident in their arts, architecture and cemeteries as well; graves usually are a covered hole with a natural or undecorated stone coming out of the earth indicating the location of the grave. I think even writing names on those stones is not encouraged to leave total privacy for the dead. And I think the main reason for this is to stress the principle that God created all humans equals. So you'll find a wealthy noble man buried alongside a poor working man, and you won't know the difference between the two graves. Basically, cemeteries in the Muslim worlds are places for dead people.

In the western world however, it seems that cemeteries are not for dead people only, they are designed for visitors who are very much alive. And therefore you see a lot of greenery, huge trees, colorful flowers, decorated and artistic gravestones, even tombs (which are buried and hidden under the earth) are carefully selected by the family of the deceased. In Stagliono Cemetery, the Genovese apparently took this concept to a whole different extreme level.

This is first pile of graves on our entry. From what I understand the higher your grave is the lower your social status is, and that is because low graves are easier to maintain and place flowers on. Also note that the floor in this corridor is actually made up of graves, so you would actually walk on top of those graves. Something that you'll never find in a Muslim cemetery.

Perhaps this part is a more (traditional Christian cemetery??). It looks more like a park with decorated gravestones and flowers on top of the graves.

Now this is clearly a rich family's grave, it might contain only one or an entire family. But its more of a sculptural object that makes a statement about the family. These sorts of sculptures dominated the cemetery at a time when Genoa was a prosperous marine force.

This might look like a nice neighborhood, but it isn't. Each of these villa-like buildings is a shrine for a family with graves.

One of the villa-like graves with its black and white tiles which the Genovese are famous for. I'd guess that again this belongs to a rich family.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Mimetic House

Project: Private House
Location: Dromahair, Ireland
Architect: Dominic Stevens
Completed: 2007

Sitting in the middle of a richly textured, marshy field, just outside the town of Dromahair, this house in fact literally evolved from the ground up. It has two parts: a cast-concrete, part-buried series of sleeping, working and washing chambers below ground, and a glass-clad, open-plan living space on top. The glass room is a pavilion in the round, and a loose, informal rockroad brings you to the house and down into the landscape, the grass allowed to grow up to, around and under the house itself. The glass room tilts out and up in varying ways, so the ground but not the sky is reflected. In some lights and locations, the form disappears. The house dissolves and recedes back into the landscape, in a dynamic and delicate way, shifting minute by minute, depending on the light, the rain, the time of day. You can see right through the house, the landscape uninterrupted by its presence. The tilted, planted roof is even happily growing a little wild in places.

More info here and here

An Archi-Tete

I have been looking for this book for 3 years now... since I couldn't find any new or used book... I decided to simply borrow it from the library and scan every single page of it... and here I am sharing the archi-tete of my favorite architect/starchitect... Jean Nouvel. The archi-tete has him as a panel from the mashrabiya screen of the Insitut du Monde Arabe with a variety of facial expressions.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Banyan Tree

Another Al-Areen development. Banyan Tree Desert Spa and Resort is part of a luxury resort chain in Asia. With other heavenly resorts in China, Indonesia, Maldives, Thailand and Seychelles, Bahrain is the latest unveiled destination. I went to check out the villas which were simply breath taking. The villas are all designed as a traditional arabic court yard house, they are either 1 bedroom for couples or 2 bedrooms for a family, they all have a private courtyard with a swimming pool and a jacuzzi, a majlis, and dinning and living areas. The interior decorations are all orienatal... I especially like the wall fountains at the entrance which produce light water sprinkling sound that is very relaxing. They are pricy I have to say which could get up to BD 1600 (US$ 600) per night.

On another note, there is something about Al-Areen area which makes it very special... travelling to it from Riffa, or Manama or any other city... you really feel like you are travelling somewhere else once you get to Sukheer... which I think is a really nice thing... it really feels like a getaway and an excellent opportunity for people to relax. With all the new developments going on in Al-Areen and around the BIC area... I just hope the desert landscape do not get destroyed because thats whats giving it its special character... the roads needs to be fixed and a proper route needs to be added to Al-Areen and everything... but I just hope that when we go there we still feel like we are in the middle of the desert... and all those new resorts and hotels do fit in the middle of the desert and not make it into something else.

The Lost Paradise of Dilmun

Picture Source

And another place that Bahrainis can be proud of. After the completion of the BIC, now we have The lost paradise of Dilmun.

A £15 million themed water park, "each aspect of the park is based on the history of the Dilmun period, reflected by unique stone architecture / sculptures and encompassing theming works. Over 14 slides and attractions are blended seamlessly to create a desert oasis and garden of paradise for guests to enjoy - spa pools, interactive children's wet play area and family raft ride to name a few. The park will also feature the gulf regions' largest wave pool, the first in the area with a natural sandy beach."

Developer: Al Areen Holding Company
Designer & Operator: Malaysia Sim Leisure Consultants
Equipment: White Water West
Total Plot Area: 77,682 square meters, Water Park area 45,000 square meters

More info here and here

F1 photo

A photo of the start of the Turkish Grand Prix, I found it on Monday 27th of August 2007, in p.10 of the sports section in Al-Ayam Newspaper. What amazes me about the picture is how the smoke and heat of the engines blurs the crowd behind and makes them look as if they were roughly painted on canvas. Another thing is how all the cars are pointing their noses towards the photographer, it would be great if this was a video and I would have one of those 3D glasses that makes everything seems to come out towards your face... this would definitely make me jump.

Monday, 23 July 2007

A dream house

I don't know if its the architectural design of the house or the fact that its located at the top of a rocky mountain with a view of a perfect blue sea; this Californian Casa Finisterra is my dream house. Designed by Steven Harris Architects, the house reveals the struggle between blending in the rocky mountain by using stone cladding in certain areas, and defying the mountain by using contrasting smooth surfaces painted white in other areas. Huge areas of glazing in the living rooms allow maximum natural daylight in and views of the extraordinary landscape surrounding the house.

Tulach A'Tsolais Memorial

"Tulach A'Tsolais" means "Mound of Light"... the monument, designed by Scott Tallon Walker Architects, is located in a hill in the landscape of Ireland's County Wexford and was built to mark the 1798 rebellion against English rule. The monument was completed at 1998, exactly 200 years after the rebellion.

Playing with shades

Designed by Mansilla+Tunon Architects, this is the facade of the gallery of the León Auditorium in Northern Spain. I really like the playful geometry of the facade and the way it manipulates the shades... I just wish that the auditorium was as playful.

More info here and here

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Lute Light

A wonderful portrait of Dhafer Youssef, a Tunisian Ode player. I think there is an intimate and special relationship between this wonderful instrument and its player (the guitar has this relationship too)... that's because you place it on your lap just like a child that wants to play with you... you embrace it with your arms just like you would embrace your lover... and most importantly you hold it close to your heart so that whatever you play really comes from your heart.

I remember I heard from a teacher that an Ode is actually a living being; the sound of an Ode changes with age just like humans... it has feelings just like humans; if you leave an Ode for a long time without playing it gets sad and depressed and the strings will loosen up... its responsive and interactive just like humans; the sounds it produces depends on how the player hits the strings... its a very spontaneous instrument that can help a person pour his heart out like no other instrument.

When I saw this picture all those thoughts came back to my mind... the light at the centre between the Ode and the man's bald head is very moving... it shows how an Ode and a musician can shine together... their relationship is like the sun and the moon... the Ode being the moon that can't survive without the musician's creativity... or perhaps is it the musician who can't survive without the Ode's delicate sound?

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Casa Kike

Project: Casa Kike
Architect: Gianni Botsford Architect
Location: Cahuita, Costa Rica

This is a house in the Caribbean coast for a writer. Raised 1.2m above ground level on round wooden posts that rest on small concrete pad foundations, the house is sensitively designed to respond to the culture by using local construction techniques and materials; local timber is used for beams and columns as well as the cladding and decking.

The shape of the roof was the main design element in the environmental strategy. In response to the high levels of sunlight and rain, the parallelogram shape was developed in relation to the sun's path which insures shading throughout the day. With the front and the rear sides open, it allows sea breezes to naturally cool the house.

Rather than taking the western-influenced style favoured by wealthy Costa Ricans, the house takes reference from native building styles which makes it sit perfectly amidst the trees without interfering with the surrounding greenery. I think its a very inspiring place that provokes creativity.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Sketches of Frank Gehry

This is a documentary about Frank Gehry... although I do admire his architectural style, I can't say I am a big fan... I think most of his buildings should have been in Disney Land right next to Disney concert hall that he designed. His buildings do look intriguing and they certainly put a smile on your face and that's what Disney is for... but can people really work productively and concentrate, for example, in his dancing house? When I first saw the building I thought that it was being crushed by giant ropes (those contour lines on the facade of the building looked like ropes to me at first).

But you can't judge a building by looking at it from photos you have to experience it... and the only Gehry building I've been to is the DZ bank in Berlin which I thought was good and that's mainly because all the craziness is tucked inside the building rather than out... because of its plain and simple facade it sits nicely in Pariser Platz respecting the history of the Brandenburg Gate... but once you get in and enter the atrium, you face a huge blob which looks to me like a shark (or some wild animal that I don't know the name of) staring at you... which I think is very suitable for a bank because banks are wild animals eager to jump you and make money out of you. So I wonder if I visit other Gehry buildings would I change my mind about them or not??

Anyway here is a link to his movie trailer, I would love to see it and get to know what goes on inside this man's head.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

My teacher

Hmmmmmmmm... now this brings back memories... this is one of my Ode teachers... man was I surprised to see him in youtube... I looked around for videos for my other teachers but I guess they don't come from an Internet-enthusiastic generation... my first teacher was Bahraini and he is the one who got me to love this wonderful instrument... then I trained under one of the best Iraqi Ode players and perhaps one of the pioneers of the Iraqi musical school, however he was a bit old and very serious... Sa'ad Mahmood Jawad is the last teacher who combined both the skills of an Iraqi professional musician and the character of a young fun teacher... very good combination.

I knew that I was privileged enough to be trained by the best teachers... but I never really knew how big they were since I was a child... but now knowing that my teacher has his own website adds a nice flavor to it.

"Now I don't want to brag or anything" but I used to play this piece "leita le janah" which translates to "I wish I have a wing"... not as fast as him though... however after 5 years without touching the Ode for more than 5 minutes... its kind of impossible to play it with rusty stiff fingers. Check out other youtube videos of him


A demolished installation by sculptors Dan Havel and Dean Ruck called Inversion in Houston, Texas. Very inspiring but its a shame that it got demolished... I always wonder why would certain temporary exhibits are not kept permanently especially if they were as wonderful as this... could it be a marketing strategy to increase the work's popularity because people never really know the value of what they have until they loose it... or is it kept temporarily simply so that people won't loose interest and get sick of it no matter how fascinating it is?

Another later post by archidose touched on an interesting point... one of the comments said "... the blogosphere is just one huge echo chamber..." which is exactly what I am doing here... this blog is just a way to jot down interesting things I found on the net so that I can find them easily when I need them.

Monday, 16 July 2007

The Leadenhall Building

Project: The Leadenhall Building
Architect: Richard Rogers Partnership
Location: London
Completion: 2011??
Description: A competition entry for a potential development of a site at 122 Leadenhall Street in the City of London.

The site is currently occupied by a 12-storey office building built in the 1960s which will be demolished to make way for the new building. A number of historic Grade II and Grade I buildings in the immediate vicinity of Leadenhall Street needed to be taken into consideration. In addition, the view of St Paul's Cathedral from Fleet Street was to be preserved in compliance with the City Council's Strategic Views Policy.

All those site characteristics resulted in a tall tapered development envelope. The tapering form, inclined away from St Paul’s, creates a spire-like western elevation which produces a contrasting form to the soft profile of the cathedral’s dome and complements its setting within the existing spires of the north and south entry towers and Wren’s St Martin-within-Ludgate. A seven-storey open space at the base of the building maintains existing pedestrian connections and creates an important new meeting space in the City.

I really like the building... its supposed to be another landmark in the city's profile and I think it would... the only think is that its one of those buildings that would look amazingly beautiful at night with colorful lighting manipulating it... however it won't look as spectacular at daytime. I've read somewhere that "all architecture is great architecture at night"... and I suppose there is some truth in that.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Words of wisdom

I was reading a book called The Funniest Fhings You Never Said that had all sorts of quotes said by all sorts of people... and there are three quotes that really stuck in my mind:

"Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes"

"Experience is a comb life gives you after you lose your hair"

And my personal favorite......

"The only way of catching a train is to miss the train before"

The Earth from the Air

EARTH FROM THE AIR is an exhibition of large-scale photographs of astonishing natural landscapes. Created by the French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, the theme of the exhibition is to tell a story about the changing planet that we live in today... the content varies from vast desert and colorful fields to urban activities and crowds all around the world.

Brightly colored fields in France.

Camel Caravan in Mauritania.

Carpet Industry in India.