Saturday, 30 June 2007

Hermann Tilke

A German architect known for his work on motor racing circuits. He established Tilke Engineers and Architects in 1984 and today it has 2 offices in Germany and an office in Bahrain. It could be said that Tilke has a monopoly on designing new circuits for F1; those circuits include Sepang (1998), Bahrain (2004), Shanghai (2004), Istanbul (2005), Singapore (2008), Valencia (2008), Abu Dhabi (2009), Cape town (2009), and South Korea (2010). In addition to those circuits the office made many adjustments to existing circuits and high speed roads in Nunburgring, Barcelona, Japan and many more. Here are some of their projects in Bahrain, I can't say that I am fond of all of them... aside from the BIC and RUF, I can't see anything special about the other concept designs.

Bahrain International Circuit (completed)

Bahrain Racetrack Hotel (concept design)

BIC commercial center (concept design)

RUF automobile assembly complex (under construction)

Villas at Tubli (concept design for client; Shaikh Rashid bin Khalifa bin Hamad Al-Khalifa)

Flugzeug Hangar (concept study for client; Shaikh Hamad bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa)

Make Architects

Here are some of Make Architects designs that I really like...

Project: The Cube
Where & When: Birmingham, UK. 2005
Description: Mixed use development that will accommodate shops, bars, cafes, offices, apartments and a hotel. A public space is in the middle of the development providing a lightwell that will improve the spacial qualities of the building.

Project: Sherwood Forest
Where & When: Nottinghamshire, UK. 2007
Description: A visitor center in the form of an iconic structure. The shape is influenced by the trees of the forest. It has a restaurant and a viewing platform providing great views of the forest. The building is aimed to achieve a zero carbon footprint by careful selection of materials and by producing its own energy through wind power, rain water collection and recycling systems.

Project: Stellar Tower
Where & When: Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Description: Still in its design stage... the building is another attempt at a low carbon building in the UAE. It will incorporate rainwater collection, sea water cooling systems, wind turbines on the roof and PV cells on top of the lower canopy. It is estimated that half of the energy required will be provided by those systems.

Friday, 29 June 2007


This is the first and most famous print of Katsushika Hokusai's 36 Views of Mount Fuji. I was browsing this interesting website when I stumbled into this section about Perception in different cultures.

John Lockerbie, the author of the site, was arguing how people from different cultures would perceive things, a western who reads left-to-right would see things differently from an Arab who reads right-to-left... Siting Hokusai's Great wave as an example, the top picture (the original) would appear to an Arab or any person who is a right-to-left reader as threatening because it is coming to meet him. However a western or any left-to-right reader might not feel the same threatening effect... the bottom picture (mirrored) will be more intimidating to them.

"Incidentally, this reading of pictures also operates subconsciously with moving pictures. In the West, people moving into a film frame from the left are understood to be moving forward or progressing the action, while those moving from the right can be seen to be going back, countering the action or in conflict with it."


Since I've been posting a lot of Atkins development in the ME.. I thought I'd post their latest projects that caught my attention.

Location: Isa Town, Bahrain
Status: Tender Stage
Project Description:
Office and retail facilities joined by an axial connection built in 2 phases. The site has an existing mall where most shops who locate themselves there either loose money and close or earn just enough to break even. The project started as an extension and development into a complete master plan redesign.
My opinion:
The mall is in desperate need for revitalization but there are so many factors to be considered about the surroundings... there are mosques which causes severe traffic during Friday prayers because of the lack of car parking... the existing mall itself lacks enough car parks and that needs to be addressed. For some reason that I don't seem to understand only few malls seem to maintain their tenants in their retail spaces... a lot of malls that have been built for years now remain new because more than half of their retail spaces are unoccupied... This really needs to be addressed as well.

Client: TEDA
Location: Tianjin, China
Status: Design stage
Project Description:
3 mixed-use office, residential, commercial and hotel towers which will form a central landmark. On top of each building there are wind turbines.
My opinion:
The towers look nice with a relatively original concept of stacked cubes shifted slightly different ways to form gardens at different levels. The appearance of the building is great there are no info about its functions so can't say if its as practical as it looks.

Client: Nakheel Hotel and Resorts
Location: The Palm Jumeirah
Status: Preliminary design
Project Description:
2 asymmetrical towers which will house the first Trump Hotel in the ME with its concept of luxury condominium. The towers will accommodates residential apartments, boutique offices, resort spa, swimming pool, health club, restaurant, a business center and a Beach and Yacht Club making use of the Canal under. It will be located at the center of the trunk of the Palm island to be the gateway to the new development.
My opinion:
Although the development concept is great with trains and pedestrians in a higher level and water features/activities and all that... the tower itself is hideous... It looks like the headquarter of an evil villain in a Batman/spiderman/superman comic book story... or an alien spaceship that just landed in this man-made island to punish us for messing with the earth natural resources... I just don't feel that its welcoming... its very intimidating and not in a good sense...

Location: Kuwait, Kuwait
Status: Design Stage
Project Description:
5 star hotel, apartment tower, office tower and retail complex. Because of the intense heat of the country the development has a central courtyard and plaza that is intended to be used and enjoyed throughout most of the year by the use of evaporative cooling and shading devices. Passive and active solar features are being used to achieve energy efficiency and sustainable development.
My opinion:
Its good to see that sustainability is an issue here and its being studied carefully. However I think that the three towers look lifeless and meaningless... they have no characteristic at all that links them to the surroundings.

Client: Park Gulf Construction Ltd.
Location: Islamabad, Pakistan
Status: Design Stage
Project Description:
5 buildings consisting of a 5 star hotel, 2 apartments tower, 1 office tower and a shopping mall underneath. A panoramic restaurant is located above the hotel capturing views of the city and the mountains.
My opinion:
Ummmm... could it be another sail shaped building to add to Atkins record? I don't know... the building looks nice and fancy I have to admit but I think its design concepts have been overused there are too many building that look very similar. I wonder if there are any sustainability concepts involved and if its aimed to be a low carbon building?

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Wembley Stadium

It was the most boring match I saw in my life... the first FA cup final that took place at the new renovated Wembley Stadium. It was a match between the best team in the world, Manchester United, and the most boring team in the universe, Chelsea. And what do you know... the boring team managed to kill the game and steal a late goal in extra time... well good for them.

The stadium looks amazing though with its retractable ceiling and all the other accessories. Although I've heard from friends who went to the stadium that approaching the stadium at a high profile match like this was like judgement day... the streets were too narrow to take in all the spectators... the underground station was too crowded... cars were not moving at all... It sort of reminded me of all the sort of thing we expect from Bahrain with all the new developments going on yet the roads, sewerage system and the infrastructure are as old as my grandma... I guess the Saudi old saying fits here: Ma induhum ma ind jaddity (They havn't got what my grandma have).

Horse Dance

Again with Naseer shamma... he is known with his story telling music or (moseeqa tasweereya)... this is the first musical piece that he compose with this style... check it out

Warning: please avoid getting distracted by the other guy shaking and waving his head... I guess the music provoked the horse in him.

Bearth & Deplazes

This is a chair lift station in a resort in the mountains of Arosa, Switzerland. It's one of three stations designed by Bearth and Deplazes. Their designs are very bioclimatic with lots of solar architecture involved. They are a Swiss-based practice and their website is in German or French (not sure which) and I couldn't find any English articles about their buildings except for few in Detail website and few other blogs. This is a good one if you speak whatever the language is.


In a previous post I mentioned that SOM & Muharraqi studios worked together to produce conceptual images of how Bahrain would look like in the future as an aid for the government and developers. The concept is supposed to encourage sustainable development with a lot of proposed greenery and environmentally friendly infrastructure that will help in stable economic growth. Well here are the images from Muharraqi studios

Project: Bahrain planning development strategy
Concept: SOM
Visualization: Muharraqi Studios
Completion Date: 2030 (Oh man I'll be as old as my dad by the time this happens... that is if I am still alive)

Wednesday, 27 June 2007


Client: DIFC
Project Description: Low-carbon commercial tower with lighting features that accommodates offices, retail, convention centers and car parks.
Location: Dubai, UAE
Architect: Atkins ME

Finally Dubai started thinking green. This is the first environmentally friendly building in Dubai and will be a prototype for future low carbon developments in the region. This commercial office building will be 400m high with 66 storeys. Part of te southern facade will be covered with 4000 PV panels and will have 3 29m diameter, 225 KV wind turbines at the top of the building (much better than having them centimeters away from your office like the BWTC)...

The building will incorporate passive solar systems as well as low energy, low water engineering solutions. Materials will be selected carefully from sustainable sources leading designer to consider steel frame structure as a solution. Vertical gardens and micro-atria are being considered to enhance social aspects of the building and improve the interior qualities.

The lighting feature is important to the client because the building is aimed to be a new landmark with something special that will make it stand out at night, hence the idea of the lighthouse.

The commercial building aims to reduce its total energy consumption up to 65% and water consumption up to 40%... beating BWTC's 15% energy reduction. The project is still in its concept design and the good thing is that the client is involved in the design process because of their sincere interests in achieving a real environmentally friendly building... I just hope that more wealthy developers catch up with this trend.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Floating mosques

Project: Tengku Tengah Zaharah Mosque aka The Floating Mosque
Location: Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
Architect: Raja Bahrin Shah (Senibahri Arkitek)
Completion date: 1994

This mosque won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1994. It can accommodate 800 to 1000 prayers and built with water flowing under it.

Project: Floating Mosque
Location: Dubai, UAE
Architect: Waterstudio
Completion date: 2008???

Located in one of the largest artificial islands in the world, Palm Jebel Ali, the design is modern with exaggerated Islamic architectural features.

Monday, 25 June 2007


A prefabricated house that is designed mainly to go on rooftops to provide an affordable penthouse-like flat... just hook it up to a helicopter, head towards your preferred building and stick it on top of it and there goes your penthouse.

Design by Alchemy Architects, not only can this house be a penthouse... but it can be a beach house, desert house, country house, jungle house... Hook it up to a crane or helicopter and point your finger at wherever makes you feel like home.

This is photography

Three Gorges Dam Project, Wushan #5, Yangtze River, China 2002

Oxford Tire Pile No. 7, Westley, California 1999

Densified Oil Drums No. 4, Hamilton, Ontario 1997

How can you take something that looks horrible and hideous and turn into an inspiring and amazing work of art?? Edward Burtynsky can show you how... this is his vision:

Nature transformed through industry is a predominant theme in my work. I set course to intersect with a contemporary view of the great ages of man; from stone, to minerals, oil, transportation, silicon, and so on. To make these ideas visible I search for subjects that are rich in detail and scale yet open in their meaning. Recycling yards, mine tailings, quarries and refineries are all places that are outside of our normal experience, yet we partake of their output on a daily basis.

These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear. We are drawn by desire - a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Nabih Saleh

Found this before and after image done by GEOMATEC of Nabih Saleh, an island in Bahrain... its a known fact that this island was once a green paradise full of gardens and public parks where the average family could go for a "kashta" as Bahrainis say which basically means going out and having fun... however with the continuous reclamation works, waste disposal into the sea and lack of care it got reduced to few private gardens and a club. With all the developments going on around the island it will sure be nice to see it restored to its former glory.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

My second favorite building in Bahrain

Client: Al Zamil Group
Project Description: 2 linked office towers with parking spaces that creates a new gateway to Manama Souq
Architect & Civil Consultants: Gulf House Engineering
Project Manager & Quantity Surveyor: Hisham Abdul Rahman Jaffar
Main Contractor: Chapo
Electromechanical Services: Gemac
Completion Date: 2004
Project Cost: BD 8 million ($ 21.2 million)

This is my second favorite building in Bahrain. I've been trying to find some info about it but couldn't find anything on the net other than this promotional site... If you see my first favorite building (which I also couldn't find a lot about it on the net) you'll see a striking resemblance, yet they are completely different. Almost the same materials are used in both buildings yet you have 2 different experiences. And this is what modern Arabic architecture or Islamic architecture in the Gulf should look like. Buildings should relate to each other, they should relate to their surroundings, and most importantly they should relate to the inhabitants.

Both buildings have this idea of combining the old with the new... in the Zamil tower the new emerges from the old... so when you see the lower levels you'll see stone cladding with detailed geometric decorations that are known in Islamic architecture, and as you go to the upper levels the building gets stripped of those details to reveal a modern aluminum structure with tinted glazing as a gesture to relate new materials and technology with old traditional ones. However, in Batelco building you see abstract forms and shapes that resembles the traditional architectural elements from the lowest to the highest level of the building, it uses few details to achieve symbolic abstract geometry.

When you see the Zamil Tower or Batelco building there is no doubt in your mind that you are in an Arabic Islamic country... these sort of buildings give identity... identity gives soul and character... and that's what attracts people from other cultures. Its not just the glazed skyscrapers and the complexity of the shapes of the buildings that makes you admire the engineering work which will attract tourists and investors... that helps of course and its good to have some of it but not to the extent that it becomes the theme of the city... otherwise you'll have a generic city and although many may think that is a positive thing I don't believe stripping new emerging cities of their identities is the best way to go.

Rem Koolhas says that the generic city is a multi-national city... its population is mixed and that is why obsessing with giving the city identity should not be the dominant feature in architecture... he goes on to say that a small part of the city should be dedicated to old things like those London buses or telephone booth but that part is a sort of amusing park or outdoor museum... I would prefer to have it the other way around... to have a city with a strong identity which is revealed in the people and the architecture... and have a small part of that city freed of this identity where developers and architects can be free to show off their designing and engineering skills along with their big wallets by building whatever they want... and that area could be an outdoor exhibition. A good example of this that comes to my mind is Paris, walk through the Champs-Élysées and tell me can you get more French than that... then go to La Défense and see the difference.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Dubai Central Library

Client: Dubai Municipality
Project Discription: Public Library
Architect: 'asp' Architekten Stuttgart in association with Obermeyer Planen+Beraten Munich and ACG Architecture Consulting Group
Completion date: 2009??

The inspiration... traditional islamic lectern "rehle"... a positive step in architecture for Dubai!!

Food Supply Around the World

I received this really interesting forwarded e-mail. Its a research about food expenditures of different families with different income or status around the world... I don't know by whom or for what purpose was it done, but it sure makes a man think where would he fit in this shrinking world... I sorted out the families in order from the lowest spenders to the highest spenders.

Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp
Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23
Favorite foods: soup with fresh sheep meat

Bhutan: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village
Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03
Family recipe: Mushroom, cheese and pork

Ecuador: The Ayme family of Tingo
Food expenditure for one week: $31.55
Family recipe : Potato soup with cabbage

Mongolia: The Batsuuri family of Ulaanbaatar
Food expenditure for one week: 41,985.85 togrogs or $40.02
Family recipe: Mutton dumplings

Egypt: The Ahmed family of Cairo
Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53
Family recipe: Okra and mutton

Poland: The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna
Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27
Family recipe: Pig's knuckles with carrots, celery and parsnips

China: The Dong family of Beijing
Food expenditure for one week: 1,233.76 Yuan or $155.06
Favorite foods: fried shredded pork with sweet and sour sauce

United States: The Caven family of California
Food expenditure for one week: $159.18
Favorite foods: beef stew, berry yogurt sundae, clam chowder, ice cream

Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca
Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09
Favorite foods: pizza, crab, pasta, chicken

Kuwait: The Al Haggan family of Kuwait City
Food expenditure for one week: 63.63 dinar or $221.45
Family recipe: Chicken biryani with basmati rice

Great Britain: The Bainton family of Cllingbourne Ducis
Food expenditure for one week: 155.54 British Pounds or $253.15
Favorite foods: avocado, mayonnaise sandwich, prawn cocktail, chocolate fudge cake with cream

Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily
Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11
Favorite foods: fish, pasta with ragu, hot dogs, frozen fish sticks

Japan: The Ukita family of Kodaira City
Food expenditure for one week: 37,699 Yen or $317.25

United States: The Revis family of North Carolina
Food expenditure for one week: $341.98
Favorite foods: spaghetti, potatoes, sesame chicken

Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide
Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07