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.