Thursday, 31 May 2007

Manhattan of the Dessert

Shibam, one of Yemen's most atmospheric towns, has been called "the Manhattan of the Desert."
Photograph by Tom Downey, article published in New York Times at 10-12-2006

This is a 16th century city, could be the first example of urban planning that depends on vertical structure. This site is included in The World Heritage List sponsored by the UNESCO. Makes me wonder why would Islamic countries depend on western modules for their urban planning instead of looking at their own history and learning from it.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against western urban forms (like the grid system which makes up Manhattan, New York). But living in a country with a completely different climate and needs, I wonder why do we adopt urban systems developed in the UK for example instead of developing systems that have worked perfectly fine in our countries to suite our modern life?? After all doing this will give our cities more soul instead of mimicking cities all around the world and loosing any sort of identity.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Close Call

"Scrambling to save her from a 60-foot (20 meters) fall during horseplay, Legadema's mother wrestled the cub back onto a branch—a tricky maneuver for an animal equipped only with teeth, claws, and determination."

Photograph by Beverly Jouber... Article called "Lessons of the Hunt" by Dereck Joubert from National Geographic.

A captivating picture... Look at the helpless cub named "Legadema"... Look at how her feet are stretched wide open... you don't need to see her eyes or anything else to capture the terror that the cub is feeling... Now look at the mother... look how she's gently pulling the cub making sure that she doesn't hurt her with her claws yet pressing hard with her teeth to make sure not to let her go... I mean a mother may be harsh on her kids... but after all its for their own good!!!

My favourite building in Bahrain

Client: Batelco
Project Description: 8 levels mixed use building including car park, shopping mall and offices
Consultant: Mohamed Salahuddin Consulting Engineering Bureau
Contractor: G. P. Zachariades (Overseas) Ltd.
Completion Date: 1996??

I was thinking about my favourite building in Bahrain. I thought about the Bahrain World Trace Center, the Bahrain Financial Harbor and other new developments. But none of them touched my heart like this building. I mean most of the buildings in Bahrain today are taking the shapes of sails, boats, fish and other sea creatures... Which is justified since Bahrain is an island and the sea was once the main source of living... Not anymore though...

What I see in this building is a great step of what Bahrain's Architecture should move towards. A pure Islamic architecture that reflects the society's values and the vernacular traits of the island. Look at the carefully studied poetic reflection of the minaret in the glazing... Its as if the building was deliberately designed to embrace the mosque next door (Yateem mosque is designed by a famous Egyptian architect called Abdul Wahid AlWakeel. The cladding material is flamed white granite panels which has a strong resemblance to the traditional materials used in Bahrain. The decorative wooden mashrabiya at the entrance, the simplicity of the exterior, the geometric play with squares, all relate to the essence of what Islamic architecture is about.

The most important feature in my opinion is the balance between the glazing and the granite cladding. The glass takes up a decent amount of the facade which allows natural daylight, in addition to two atria that enhances the lighting quality which improves the interior space and saves lighting energy as well. Yet its not overdone that the entire building is wrapped with glass like some of the emerging buildings that are being erected today in Bahrain. Bahrain is an extremely hot country and we can't afford transparent buildings that will feel like ovens inside them and relying on mechanical air conditioners to live in those buildings... We have to adopt a more sustainable approach to our architecture... And this building is a great step in that journey...