Sunday, 27 December 2009


As I returned to Bahrain for a quick holiday, I noticed that there was a re-branding wave across the country which caught up with BTV and Batelco logos, perhaps commemorating the 10 years passed since our King came to the throne.

Amidst all the advertising boards on the highways, I was captivated by Batelco’s add near Seef Mall, which had the above picture; two hands, one red and the other white, coming together forming the flag of the Kingdom of Bahrain. The way in which the hands interlock with each other is very forceful, whenever I try it, I do have to force the knuckles through until there are no gaps. Yet the resulting bind is equally unbreakable. I almost sense that I need more force to take my hands away from each other than bring them together. Is there a political statement behind this gesture? Well Arabs generally like to bring politics in everything, so I might be reading way too far into it if I said so.

Nevertheless, the image is strikingly beautiful, whenever I pass the billboard on the highway it stays in my head throughout the journey. The brightness of the colors and the texture of the human hand’s skin made it a beautiful abstract piece of art. This is the first time that I actually saw the beauty of our national flag.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Inverted skyscrapers/Inverted pyramids

Iberia Quarries, Portugal.

Vermont Marble Quarries, Vermont.

Rock of ages, Vermont.

As I was looking through a beautiful book of photographs called "Earth", I came across this wonderful set by Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, whom I posted about long time ago.

The set is entitled "Quarries", and the concept emerged from the idea of the landscape as architecture. According to the artist, when looking at buildings made of stone, what comes to mind is an inverted cubed architecture on the side of a hill, an interesting landscape where stones would be taken out of the quarry one block at a time. As the artist puts it, "Openpit mines, funneling down, were to me like inverted pyramids... the idea of inverted skyscrapers."

Monday, 30 November 2009

Billboard Living

Billboard Living is a project by Dolf Robertus displayed at the Graduation Show of the Design Academy in Eindhoven. The concept of the project is to turn advertised corporate logos into housing, animating the adverts by inhabitants. So a Mac's logo would be animated by people using Mac laptops or ipods. Dove logos will be animated by people taking showers. And my favorite, a "Playboy" logo will be animated by nudity.

What attracted me about this is the drawings, or presentation sketches. I am a huge fan of caricatures, specially architecturally related caricatures. And the technique used here is very elegant. The sketches are simple, with the appropriate detailing required, without loosing the fantasy or the humor aspect of the project.

For more info about it, look here.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Trees and Architecture ii

Project: Tree of Knowledge Memorial
Architect: m3architecture
Location: Barcaldine, Australia

Here is another project involving a tree. Perhaps not as exciting as the previous one. Nevertheless an interesting one. This is a pavilion design by Australian architects commemorating the site where the Australian Labour party is said to have been founded in 1891. The pavilion frames the remaining part of a dead tree that is considered a historical landmark, which was poisoned in 2006. The dead tree is surrounded by "18 metre-high cube-like structure of hanging timber batons, intended to mimic the shape of the tree’s canopy in 1891.

More info can be found here.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Trees and Architecture i

Project: Yellow Treehouse Restaurant
Architect: Pacific Environment Architects
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Completion Date: December 2008

If this isn't the best advertisement in all time I don't know what is. The idea of this treehouse project started as an advertisement for Yellow Pages. Now this is a company that print out billions of phonebook directories around the world annually, with each book containing hundreds of pages, despite the fact that more and more people are starting to use online phone directories. You wouldn't really call it eco-friendly, would you? So I guess that is the reason behind this advertisement, to enhance their image in a modern society that is obsessed with the sustainability trend.

The idea behind this "reality" TV advert, as you can see from the youtube video link and their website, is to prove that whatever you want to do, you can do it relying solely on yellow! To make it challenging, the chosen project was: "A restaurant. 10 metres up a redwood tree."

All products and services were sourced through Yellow Pages listings (the book, online and mobile) to build this treehouse restaurant on an enormous Redwood Tree which is over 40m high and 1.7 diameter at the base.

The tree-house concept is reminiscent of childhood dreams and playtime, fairy stories of enchantment and imagination . It’s inspired through many forms found in nature -the chrysalis/cocoon protecting the emerging butterfly/moth, perhaps an onion/garlic clove form hung out to dry. It is also seen as a lantern, a beacon at night that simply glows yet during the day it might be a semi camouflaged growth, or a tree fort that provides an outlook and that offers refuge.The plan form also has loose similarities to a sea shell with the open ends spiralling to the centre.

The selected site and tree had to meet a myriad of functional requirements -18 seated people and waiting staff in relative comfort complete with a bar; gaining correct camera angles with associated light qualities for filming the adverts, web cam and stills, have unobstructed views into the valley and entrance to the site and structural soundness . The final selected tree is one of the larger trees on the site and sits above a steep part of the site which accentuates the tree’s height. Kitchen/catering facilities and toilets are at ground level.

The Architectural component embodies a simple oval form wrapped ‘organically’ around the trunk and structurally tied at top and bottom, with a circular plan that is split apart on the axis with the rear floor portion raised. This allows the approach from the rear via a playful tree-top walkway experience, slipping inside the exposed face of the pod and being enchanted by the juxtaposition of being in an enclosed space that is also quite ‘open’ and permeable to the treetop views. There is also a ‘Juliet’ deck opposite the entrance that looks down the valley.

The construction of this amazing project took 66 days only! The restaurant is located on a private land, so the consent granted for this project was to permit diners onto the site only. Unfortunate for the sightseers who were just fancying a glimpse of this wonder. So for those who are interested in visiting this building, you will have to book in advance to dine there for an unforgettable experience.

More info and pics can be found here

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


An intriguing BLDGBLOG post pushed me to look up some of the works of San Fransisco based design studio Matsys.

The design studio "explores the emergent relationships between architecture, engineering, biology, and computation" in addition to investigating "methodologies of performative integration through geometric and material differentiation."

As part of his MA dissertation in Emergent Technologies and Design at the Architectural Association, Andrew Kudless, an architect and founder of Matsys, researched a "honeycomb system that is able to adapt to diverse performance requirements through the modulation of the system’s inherent geometric and material parameters", which then can be industrially produced for use in architectural applications. You can see this clearly in his works Honeycomb Morphologies, Sature Chair and C_Wall.

Honeycomb Morphologies, 2004.

Suture Chair, 2005.

C_Wall, 2006.

P_Wall, 2009.

My fascination with Matsys' work might have something to do with the fact that I am always captivated by anything related to light filtration. However, it is the above P_Wall project that I really admire, which takes a different direction from the light filtering cellular structures above it. (I am sure I have posted something about it earlier but can't find the post!)

The two materials that are experimented with here are plaster and elastic fabric, to produce evocative visual and acoustic effects. It is "inspired by the work of the Spanish architect Miguel Fisac and his experiments with flexible concrete framework in the 1960-70s". An earlier version of this (P_Wall) is first exhibited in Banvard Gallery, Knowlton School of Architecture in Ohio at 2006. The picture above is of a commissioned version that is further developed and exhibited at The San Fransisco MOMA.

Next up is Sietch Nevada, a futuristic prototype project based on the "first planetary ecology novel" Dune. You can see this project as a continued development of the honeycomb and cellular structures experimentation. Or perhaps an application of those experimentation in architectural and urban planning. This prototype stems from the idea that water banking will be "the fundamental factor in future urban infrastructure in the American Southwest." Towns that once relied on "the promise of endless water via the powerful Colorado River... have increasingly begun to create underground water banks for use in emergency drought conditions" as droughts are becoming more frequent, possibly because of the heavy agricultural use and global warming.

The form of this urban prototype is derived from the performance of urban life based on storage, use and collection of water. "A network of storage canals is covered with undulating residential and commercial structures. These canals connect the city with vast aquifers deep underground and provide transportation as well as agricultural irrigation. Cellular in form, these structures constitute a new neighborhood typology that mediates between the subterranean urban network and the surface level activities of water harvesting, energy generation, and urban agriculture and aquaculture. However, the Sietch is also a bunker-like fortress preparing for the inevitable wars over water in the region."

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Eid Spirit

As Eid is approaching, I would like to take this opportunity to say Eid Mubarak to you all. For this wonderful occasion, I thought I'd post this amazing painting by Ali Akbar Sahiwala, a friend and an architecture student that I believe one day will be among the "starchitects" that future generations will look up to.

I think Mecca has a unique spatial characteristic that is captured beautifully in this painting. As you can see from the painting above, and the aerial view below, taken by photographer AbdulRahman Roslan (I think), the white marbles that cover the floors and most of the walls, the white ihrams of pilgrims and the intense lighting system within the holy site illuminate this space adding to its grand status. Of course as a Muslim, I believe that there is a divine intervention that contribute to the captivating light within this holy site.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Venetian Moments

Gondola Ride: Since gondolas are one of the main symbols of Venice, I thought it would be worth it going for a ride. This enthusiastic gondolier who was eager to pose for any camera that flashed in front of him made this Venetian moment worthwhile.

Bridge of Sighs: Locally known as Ponte dei Sospiri, the bridge connects the old prisons to the Doge's palace. It is said that the name comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice out of the windows of the bridge, before being taken down to their cells. During my visit, the scaffolding of restoration works on the surrounding buildings were covered with advertisements. That and the transformation of the place between day and night made this a special Venetian moment to me.

Lightly Monumental at the Egyptian Pavilion. La Biennale di Venezia - Giardini della Biennale.

The Egyptian Pavilion was the climax of my quick expedition in the Venice Art Biennale. The pavilion contained the works of self-taught Egyptian artist Ahmad Askalany and Egyptian painter, who abandoned medicine for the sake of art, Adel El Siwi. Maie Yanni, a qualified doctor who currently manages art and design ventures and promotes unknown Sudanese artists to give them international recognition and visibility, describes the pavilion's experience beautifully in this article.

She says, "Upon stepping into the Pavilion the viewer is greeted by eight monumental figures by Askalany akin to deities welcoming us into a sacred temple... The temporal dimension is emphasized by the upward structural progression. Both sculptures and paintings are monumentally big and recall the "little people" who built gigantic and great things. Thousands of years on and these magnificent historical creations still watch over us unmoved by earthquakes and the tides of change."

Moonlight (Venice, March 10, 2009). La Biennale di Venezia - Arsenale.

Created by Spencer Finch, the American's "artworks attempt to re-create his subjective impressions and scientific observations of light and color. His works take many forms, but what unites them is an attempt to transpose culturally significant or privately important moments or sites to a gallery setting."

Querini Stampalia Foundation: I saved the best for last here. This building by Carlo Scarpa is one of the many buildings that I read and heard so much about and always wanted to visit. Even though I had high expectations of it because of all the hype, the building exceeded all my expectations and was an absolute delight and the highlight of my trip to Venice. The way Scarpa's new editions to the building comes so close yet always distinguished from the old structure was so detailed that made me walk the entire exhibition with a smile on my face. I don't remember I was ever so pleased with a building like this one. The pictures I saw of the building on books and magazines, even the ones I took don't give this magnificent building justice. I thought I'd post this picture of the steel gate anyway since it was the best picture I took of the building I guess.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Greetings from Venice

This is my first day in Venice. And after a long long, really long day of walking around the city, nothing feels better than soaking one's feet in warm water. Anyway, I just had to buy an internet voucher for an hour to post this picture, which for me summarizes Venice.

What really attracts me in this romantic city is that even though it is crowded by tourists, it is really peacefully quite in here. It’s really an amazing sensation to stay in a vibrant city without hearing the chaotic noises of trains, planes and automobiles. Except for the occasional honk of a motorboat turning on a canal or the waterbuses, which you only hear when they are really close to you.

For my first day in Venice, I am captivated by the sound of the water knocking on the buildings and the beautiful scent of the sea which I love so much. Here I leave you with few words in Arabic describing the city, for those who understand Arabic:

في ديرة من أحلى المدن الإيطالية ... قعدت فيها أربعة أيام وشوية
فينيس بالإنجليزي وبالعربي البندقية ... عرفت فيها معنى الرومانسية

Monday, 19 October 2009

Wave deck

Project: Simcoe Wave deck
Location: Ontario, Canada
Architect: West 8
Completion date: 2008

Coming from an island surrounded by water yet with very few available beaches, I found this project very interesting. It is a great way to create a lively and fun public space as a waterfront with having to reclaim large amounts of sea water, destroying the few marine life we have left.

This is Simcoe Wave Deck, one of four unique decks planned for the Waterfront Toronto. It is a wooden wave deck that features an informal public amphitheatre-style space with impressive curves that soar as high as 2.6 metres above the lake. Inspired by the Canadian cottage experience and the shorelines of Ontario’s great lakes, the wave deck is meant to give urban dwellers a feel for life at the lake.

More pics can be found here.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Broken Promises

"Broken Promises", Damian Ucieda Cortes, 2007. Scanned from Portfolio.

My parents always told my that I have a really weak memory of my childhood, since I can't remember most of the stories they say about me when I was young. But I can't help but seeing myself in this picture, as I remember many times being in this little kid's position.

Just look at the position and direction of the bodies of the mother and daughter, opposing each other in incredible intensity that can be seen all over their facial expressions, more so in the kid's face. I can only imagine the silent treatment that these two are going to give each other for hours after this moment!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


Project: Walter Towers
Location: Prague, Czech Republic
Architect: BIG

As a person very fond of calligraphy and graphic design generally, I was really thrilled when I stumbled upon this building. The "W" may stand for the name of the tower, but according to this blog post here, the Danish architects leaves the interpretation of the letter to us, which I find very amusing. Does it stand for wow just like the luxurious W Hotels? Does it stand for weird? Wonderful?

Nevertheless, as beautiful as the graphics of the letter "W" may appear on that building, there are technical reasons backing up the shape of the building. The cut on ground level allows pedestrians to cross the site, an important factor since the first four floors are for commercial use. The cuts in the top levels, which are residential in use, allow for air and views. With 27 floors the ‘W’ should reach a height of 80 meters. I couldn't find when is this building going to be completed or if even they started its construction, but this is one building I'd like to visit when it's done.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Living Fabrics

New York-based Vienna-born photographer Bela Borsodi has breathed life into product photography. His unique method transforms products from what could be called lifeless objects into fun characters that can speak out to the viewer. He works with all sorts of products, and in some cases mixes his photography with animation and caricatures. I only chose the works that I found from this website, with the theme of shaping clothes into faces and animals. To me, this is really inspiring because now I see clothes as a new medium that can be experimented with. Instead of giving away old clothes now I see them as a source for sculptures, or better yet, toys for children. For more of his work check this out.

Here are some in the wilderness:

Monday, 5 October 2009


Peter Callesen is a Danish artist who started his education in an architecture school before venturing into an arts school. His most interesting works, which have been dominating his art lately, is with white paper in different objects, paper cuts, installations and performances. As the artist's puts it:
"A large part of my work is made from A4 sheets of paper. It is probably the most common and consumed media used for carrying information today. This is why we rarely notice the actual materiality of the A4 paper. By taking away all the information and starting from scratch using the blank white A4 paper sheet for my creations, I feel I have found a material that we are all able to relate to, and at the same time the A4 paper sheet is neutral and open to fill with different meaning...

The paper cut sculptures explore the probable and magical transformation of the flat sheet of paper into figures that expand into the space surrounding them. The negative and absent 2 dimensional space left by the cut, points out the contrast to the 3 dimensional reality it creates, even though the figures still stick to their origin without the possibility of escaping. In that sense there is also an aspect of something tragic in many of the cuts."

I really enjoy the beauty in the different scales that these works take on. As well as the variations in the complexities of the cuts; where some works consist of a simple shape cut, others are far more complicated than that. I leave you with pictures of some of his works.

White Hand, 2007 (A4)

Traces in Snow, 2005 (A4)

The Impossible Meeting, 2005 (A4)

Nature's Maze, 2005

My God, My God, 2009 ( Framed A4)

The Core of Everything, 2006

The Roots of Heaven, 2009