Tuesday, 10 August 2010

CARchitecture: Porsche

I came across this wonderful Porsche Museum dedicated to exhibiting the history of the corporation. The exterior of the building did not appeal to me, but the interior, and particularly the details on the stairs were breathtaking. Credit have to be given to the photographer Michael Schnell, however, for capturing such elegant shots of the building.

The interior of the exhibition hall is designed to "convey a sense of arrival and approachability", guiding the visitors throughout the different spaces. It is located in Stuttgart, joining the Porsche plant and the Porsche Center at the historic birthplace of sports cars bearing the Porsche logo since the 1950s.

Thursday, 8 July 2010


Promenade is a word that I came across several times within the past few days without really knowing what it means. The definition in the dictionary says "a leisurely walk in a public space or a social activity", and the intervention by OAB in Benidorm's sea front is a perfect visual aid of what the word means.

Benidorm was developed in the 1960s as tourist oriented with the construction of hotels and skyscrapers along the coast. Before the intervention, a long stretch of the seaside (1.5km) ran parallel to a four lane road and ground level parking spaces. (Unfortunately, this is how the beaches surrounding our beautiful island of Bahrain look at the present time) In the 70s, it was covered with paving and the sea views were obstructed with a 1.2m high concrete balustrade which provided access to the sand every 200 meters.

The intervention was aimed to improve the seafront facade by creating a coherent access to the beach and a visual relationship between the sea and the city. A method that proved to be much more successful for tourism than invading the seafront with high rise buildings. The new "promenade" serves as a transition between the skyscrapers and the beach. The structure consist of walls of white concrete with terraces, garden plots, stairs and ramps, animated by a joyful interplay of coloured tiles. The concave and convex shapes and surfaces are inspired from the waves and cliffs. The result is not only a transitional space, but an area with its own lifestyle allowing for play, leisure and meditation.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

The Beauty of Architectural Drawings

Found these wonderful plan and section drawings which I just had to post here. The drawings are of a conceptual house designed for a competition by Greek architects. For more info click here...

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Design as Reform

I wonder what makes a Manhattan based design studio like RUX think of entering a mosque design competition after designing a condom wrapper and a vodka bottle, and amazingly winning the competition.

The competition is called Design as Reform and is arranged by Traffic, a Dubai based art and design practice founded in 2007 which includes a store, gallery and studio. In the second edition of their competition, the focus was on design through the reapplication of existing Arab forms, preserving authenticity of the Arab culture in the age of mass production and exportation. The competition, open to both students and professionals, has been divided into four categories that address different aspects of the urban landscape of everyday Arab life, which consist of a mosque (architecture), majlis (interior design), a pattern (graphic design), and a public installation (experimental design).

The mosque winning entry has a very interesting idea behind it, although it is one of those unpractical ideas that can only work inside the imagination of a designer, and not real life. The idea is rather than designing a mosque as a building with doors and walls, the mosque here is an urban plaza. Designed as a "developer's tool", this public space orientated towards the qibla, would extend this "sense of community" towards the surrounding buildings. Although a romantic idea, as the category falls under architecture, I am afraid that it does not address key issues, most obvious is climatic considerations. The project also assumes that a mosque has the single function of serving as a space for praying, where in fact in most mosques, lectures are given, children are being educated in religion, and many mosques have adjacent halls for special occasions like weddings and funerals.

Most importantly, as the competition aims for preserving the authenticity of the Arabic culture, the idea of a public square is not really that common in the urban fabric of Arab cities. Public outdoors spaces, like a market for example, are usually narrow and shaded by surrounding buildings. I guess the main reason for ignoring these issues is the fact that the design strategy was to serve as a "developer's tool"!

The majlis entry was another interesting one, one which I thought was much more successful in addressing the theme of the competition. Designed by German interior designers 22 Quadrat, the project is called "white space" and combines a minimalistic aesthetic with references to the Islamic tradition of abstract art. The building provides separate divisions for men and women yet with the flexibility of being opened up.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Alila Villas Uluwatu

As it is summer time yet here I am stuck in Manchester with nothing to do other than work and watching football, I thought about looking up some exotic holiday destinations. I came across this breathtaking resort called Alila Villas Uluwatu in Bali designed by Singapore based architects, WOHA.

The resort comprises of a 50 suite hotel with 35 residential villas, which start from around US$ 725 for a 1 bedroom villa and up to US$ 3300 for a 3 bedroom cliff side villa. The design fuses vernacular architecture with modern design, combining traditional Balinese pavilion architecture and rural landscapes with modern treatment of space and form. The hotel rooms are designed as inhabited gardens where sleeping eating and other relaxing activities take place. The villas are designed as pavilions linked by bridges across water gardens.

A key element in design approach was ecological sustainability. The design focused on preserving the site by avoiding cutting and filling the natural contours as well as maintaining all large trees and site vegetation. Materials are all sourced locally; either from Bali or the neighbouring island of Java. Craftsmen form Java and Bali worked on the interior furniture, which further promoted local materials.

Besides the recommended sustainable approaches such as water recycling, natural cooling, and low energy lighting, the resort also promotes nature awareness programs for guests, involves local community in activities outside of the resort as well as employing surrounding villagers.

The message that the resort aims at is that luxury does not mean excessive consumption, but instead delight and enjoyment of the natural beauty and sense of place... Through showcasing local skills, materials and vernacular elements, it confirms the local people's opinion that they live in a marvellous place that should be cherished and maintained.

More info can be found here and check this out for a wonderful flickr set

Monday, 21 June 2010


M'Afrique is an interesting exhibition that was inspired from Africa. Even though it took place a year ago in Milan, with all eyes on Africa at the moment I guess it is appropriate to show some of the contemporary culture of this continent from an artistic point of view.

Commissioned by Moroso, the exhibition was designed by Stephen Burks and took place in Moroso's showroom during Milan design week. The goal was to show the true colors of the African continent through works of contemporary art, photography, architecture and design. Many contributed to the exhibition, including acclaimed architect David Adjaye. But what caught my eye were the bright colourful furniture, handmade with African techniques. If only more and more companies promoted their products in such an artistic fashion. Here are some pictures of the exhibition...

More info can be found here and here and here

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Qatar 2022 World Cup Bid

When I first heard about Qatar's bid for hosting 2022 FIFA World Cup, I have to admit that I wasn't very thrilled about the idea. Even though I am a huge football enthusiast, having the most anticipated and most watched event in the whole world a little more than 40km away did not appeal to me. From the articles that I read, it seems that most people are concerned about the heat of the summer and how it will affect both players and fans, but my reservations are not about the weather. I'd rather watch the world cup on TV being held in a place like Mexico, Russia, or even Australia; a nation with some sort of history in the world cup, a country that qualified at least once. I am sure Qatar has a lot to offer, after all I think Qatar's opening ceremony and organization of the 2006 Asian Games were amazing. But should hosting the world cup be based just on capability?

One could argue that Bahrain were given the opportunity to take part in Formula 1, so did Abu Dhabi which also hosted the FIFA Club World Cup, without any connection to the sport whatsoever. And Qatar certainly have shown their capability in their development of the Education city, Aspire academy and other projects, and in the following images I think they certainly showed their will to succeed in this bid. Whether this will be enough to make for a special atmosphere to host the world cup, I still have my doubts.

The official bid consisted of 5 stadiums, 3 brand new and 2 existing ones that will be renovated. However, I have came across several images of other proposed stadiums but I included only 1 that caught my eye.

Al-Shamal Stadium

I am not the sort of person who saves best for last, so here is my favourite bit of Qatar's bid. A brand new stadium with a capacity of 45,120. The stadium's shape is derived from the "dhow", a traditional fishing boat used all around the Arabian Gulf, and will be built near the Bahrain-Qatar Friendship Bridge.

Al-Khor Stadium

A new stadium as well, with a capacity of 45,330 and inspired by the shape of a seashell. One notable feature is the retractable roof providing shade for both spectators and players.

Al-Wakra Stadium

The brand new 45,120 capacity Al-Wakrah stadium will be located in a sports complex that will consist of an aquatic centre, spa, sports facilities and a mall, located near the future route of the Doha express way.

Al-Gharafa Stadium

The existing 21,175 capacity Al-Gharafa stadium will be expanded to 44,740 seats with temporary modular elements forming an upper tier. The facade will be made up of ribbons representing the nations that qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, a gesture symbolizing the values of the tournament; mutual friendship, tolerance and respect.

Al-Rayyan Stadium

As in the case of Al-Gharafa Stadium, the existing Al-Rayyan Stadium with a seating capacity of 21,282 will be temporarily expanded to 44,740 seats using modular elements to form an upper tier, which will be removed after the tournament. The stadium is designed with a special "media facade" membrane that will act as a screen.

Tameem bin Hamad Stadium

Inspired from Qatar's culture, the stadium takes the shape of a traditional Bedouin tent, called in Arabic "Beit Al Sha'ar". It will have the capacity of 65,000 seats. However this stadium is not included in the official website for Qatar's bid.

For more info check out the official website for Qatar's bid and the flickr set for more images

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Red Bull

As a hardcore red bull addict, downing 2 cans a day is normal for me. So after stacking a wall full of cans I had this idea of doing something sculptural with them. I thought I would google red bull and see what I'd get, and to my astonishment I stumbled into this amazing Art of Can campaign that seems to have been going on for years.

The Red Bull Art of Can is a "nationwide hunt for creativity and is open to everyone". Exhibitions have been held since 1997 throughout the US, Europe and as far as New Zealand. The rules are simple. Buy a can of red bull, enjoy it, and instead of throwing it away do something creative with it. And it seems like artists are relishing the idea.

Red Bull have been having a fantastic marketing strategy. I guess it began with the slogan Red Bull gives you wings and it just spiralled aggressively. Besides sponsoring and owning numerous sports teams, it established the Red Bull Air Race and owns 2 F1 racing teams.

After disappointing seasons at the beginning, one of the teams, Red Bull Racing managed to climb up the constructors championship ladder. The team was leading this year's championship, but an incident between the two drivers while competing for the First and Second positions cost them dearly and at the moment the team is a point behind in second place.

From a simple beverage drink, this company managed to influence sports, engineering and the arts. I wonder what's next for them?

The pictures in this post are from the Red Bull Art of Can Exhibition that took place in London at 2005, more can be found at this flickr set.

Monday, 31 May 2010


Check out these wonderful posts about cardboard architecture, which consisted of an entertaining/comedic analysis on "cardboard fort architecture". The critics, who make up an American architectural practice called Build LLC, were fascinated by this underrated design methodology that goes back to every architect's basic instinct, back to their childhood design and build urges, which "helped us figure out the ABCs of design and construction... that helped us get where we are today. " It sort of reminded me of the projects we used to get as first year architecture students, projects like creating an architectural dish or a 1 pound tower.

These posts were very entertaining, but an earlier series on what they called "couch cushion architecture" really made my day. Just like the cardboard series, this couch series examines a more primal example than cardboard boxes as a material, and that is interior furniture. The analysis of each project consisted of light commentary and a mark on each project. Here are some of the submissions along with their evaluation as given by the critics:

A brilliant synergy between the weighted foundation and the light tensile structure, this project impressed us with its attenuation of structure and bright interior spaces. The courtyard and formal entry are also well thought-out and provide a clear means of way-finding.

Grade A+

The A-frame’s sound structural properties and ease of construction have long since proven their architectural merits. We applaud the use of red shag carpet as a departure from what would otherwise be a mere pedestrian form.

Grade: B+

This whimsical project draws inspiration from the classic Tuscan stone towers of Italy; where a taller tower symbolized an owner’s power and prosperity over neighboring structures. Unfortunately the design falls short of greatness with its lackadaisical cushion placement and poor choice of plaid.

Grade: C

While typically the stacked foundation technique leads to a stable and impressive base, this particular application seems dubious. Fraught with apparent labor strikes the project is rumored to have developed irreconcilable technical inadequacies and unresolved scheduling conflicts.

Grade: D-

Good God gentlemen, you’re a mess! You need walls, you need a roof. Get to work man!

Grade: F

Friday, 28 May 2010

Sea Orbiter

It is often said that we know more about outer space than we know about the ocean, which makes up around 71% of our planet. So it is natural to hear that the technology for exploring the ocean base, which goes as deep as 11km, is as advanced as the technology used for outer space expeditions, if not more.

Recently, French architect Jacques Rougerie have designed a prototype called the Sea Orbiter, which should help scientists in exploring our oceans. This incredible project have garnered the backing of several international agencies including NASA. The Sea Orbiter is a huge floating vessel, with two thirds of this 51m high sail shaped structure submerged under water, allowing continuous underwater observation, twenty-four hours a day.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

World Cup

FIFA World Cup Trophy.

It hasn't been the best of times in my life lately, with too many distractions keeping me away from taking care of this blog. But as the most watched and anticipated sporting event is knocking on our doors, I felt like I had to say something about it. Well, at least from an artistic point of view.

The world cup trophy is perhaps the most beautiful sports award I have ever seen. Perhaps even the most beautiful award at all. Maybe even the most amazing sculptural piece ever made. Unlike its predecessor, also known as the Jules Rimet Trophy, the FIFA World Cup Trophy have really stood the test of time in terms of its aesthetics, and perhaps even contributed in increasing the popularity and possibly even the status of the World Cup as the ultimate sporting event across the world. Being a sports fan generally and football particularly, nothing have ever captured me as much as the beauty of this trophy.

This significant sculptural piece was designed by Silvio Gazzaniga, who hails -as one might predict- from a nation with a strong passion to the arts, football, fashion, and even though its irrelevant, food. The Italian sculptor from Milan designed the concept and collaborated with a Milanese trophy and medal manufacturer, GDE Bertoni, in its production and are still in charge of its maintenance in behalf of FIFA. The company's other notable trophies include the UEFA champions league, UEFA cup, UEFA super cup as well as many other trophies, perhaps most notable for its beauty is the new Arabian Gulf Cup.

Where the older trophy was a representation of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, this trophy represents the "joy and greatness of the athlete in the moment of triumph". According to the artist, the shapes of two athletes are reproduced through lines that rise spirally from the base to open on top to contain the world, outlined in an amazing dynamic tension of the body of the sculpture, which symbolizes the athletes effort and exertion while expressing harmony, simplicity and peace.

The trophy at 1974 when it was first awarded.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Saudi Arabia Pavilion for Shanghai Expo 2010

I haven't been a good blogger as of late. But when I saw the design for Saudi Arabia's pavilion for Shanghai expo in Arch Daily blog and the comments that followed, I started writing my comment until I noticed that it was getting a bit longer than I expected. So I decided to drop everything else and post my comment here on this blog and simply post the link to it.

The Saudi Arabia Pavilion

I am from Bahrain, not Saudi Arabia, but still from the same Arabian Gulf (or Persian Gulf as the West like to call it). It is safe to say that people from that area share the same culture, mentality, and perhaps even taste. After seeing the design of the pavilion I have to say that I thought to myself that this is a typical combination of Western complete lack of sensibility and Arabian blind eagerness and naivety. It 's a very shallow and superficial design for a pavilion. And if that reflects anything, it would reflect the shallowness and poor artistic taste of the designers rather than the values of a whole society, which many people seem to be eager and happy to say.

It is clear that the bowl (which is attracting most of the criticism) itself is not inspired from Saudi Arabia but from Chinese tradition which represent good luck, which is stated in the video. And it is supposed to be a gesture symbolizing the friendship between Saudi Arabia and China. What is supposed to reflect the Saudi culture here is the Islamic decorations on the surface of the bowl, the palm trees and tent, which, in my humble opinion, does not reflect what the pavilion is intended to display. According to the official Expo website, "The pavilion showcases the Arabian wisdom in creating wonderful city life in spite of the severe natural environment without rivers or lakes." I mean just look at the delicate details in the mashrabiyas of Jeddah and how they respond to the environmental and social needs of the society. Look at the playfulness of the bright colors of the vernacular architecture at the south of Saudi Arabia in the harsh Arabian Desert. Or you can even ponder at the magnificence of the engraved temples of Mada'in Saleh which date back to the Nabataean Kingdom. I am sure one of these architectural examples would have inspired a better pavilion design.

Mashrabiyas in Old Jeddah

UAE pavilion

I said earlier "Western lack of sensibility" because I was assuming that the pavilion was designed by some European or American firm just like Foster designed UAE's pavilion, which I liked by the way. So I tried looking up who designed the pavilion, hoping to provide the evidence for those who jumped at the opportunity at criticizing a whole culture at the sight of few pictures of this pavilion. I did run into this blog though, which says that the pavilion "is a collaboration between architects from China and Saudi Arabia". And it was at this moment that I thought to myself again, "Now how can I prove those people, who are saying nasty things about our neighbours' artistic taste, wrong?"

I decided to look up other Arab pavilions, after all I was hoping to maybe visit this expo. Unfortunately I found out that most of the other Arab pavilion were very traditional and straightforward. As if the emphasis was not on being creative in design but more on building informative miniatures of what those nations are like. Again, I thought to myself, "This is very disappointing, I am sure that Arabs are better at architectural design than this. What can I show to prove this? Other than the magnificent mosques and palaces in Andalusia, Egypt and Turkey that existed for hundred of years, which are reflections of Islamic design more than Arabic?"

I remembered my visit to Venice Art Biennale. There I encountered two Arabic pavilions, UAE and Egypt. Now these are pavilions of art works, not architecture, but good taste can manifest itself in both I guess. The UAE pavilion wasn't that interesting with its models of modern developments in Abu Dhabi. But the Egyptian pavilion was an amazing experience. So I looked up the Egyptian pavilion in the Shanghai Expo, and yet another disappointment. Yes it was what can be called "modernly" designed, but I didn't feel that it will touch the visitors the way the art pavilion in Venice did.

Egyptian pavilion

Egyptian pavilion in Venice Art Biennale

So what am I trying to get to? I guess I am trying to rationalize the hideous Saudi pavilion and here I am posting an irrelevant picture of the Egyptian pavilion from Venice Art Biennale. Some comments written about Saudis lack of taste where just simply annoying, although I have to admit that I understand why many would say such a thing in this particular instance. So I was just hoping that this post could open some people's eyes and see Saudi Arabia without the negative connotations that are associated with it in this day and age. Yet I ended up digging myself in a deeper hole. But I still stick to my initial argument that the poor pavilion design reflects the poor artistic taste of the designer, and maybe the people who gave the thumbs up for it, not the values of a whole society.