Browse Category: Blog

Presenting at the AIA (Middle East Chapter)

Around a year ago, I was invited to present at the AIA (Middle East Chapter). I was going to talk about Refugee Camps from a designers perspective. I’ve had previous experience studying about this topic and so I had no problem sifting through all that information again.

But the audience was not the typical audience I was expecting. Many of the attendees were architects and urban planners. I wasn’t prepared for that. I thought I was going to see a lot of students, perhaps enthusiasts … But not architects.

At first I was nervous, but I had prepared well and I was (still am) enthusiastic about the topic, so I would say that it went quite well.

My topic was “Refugee Camps, cities of tomorrow”. The reason why I chose this topic is because I stumbled upon an article that was encouraging architects to reconsider the temporariness of these shelters. To consider these settlements as units with infrastructure and all the services you would find in a typical city. The reason for that is the “temporariness” of these settlements is creating problems, not being able to develop these into even “semi-permanent” units, designers are forced to provide structures that are temporary and need replacement over time. Costly.

I talked briefly on the history of refugee camps then I moved towards the similarities and differences between cities and refugee camps (there are many). I also briefly touched upon my graduation project which involved designing units and other central services. I talked about the importance of providing infrastructure for such settlements and the role of architects in all of this.

I believe that this problem is bigger than what agencies can handle. It is time we consider more concrete solutions and regard this as a global issue that requires careful study.

The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

I decided to read this book because at the time I was feeling quite de-motivated about the course my life was taking. I wasn’t so happy with some of the decisions I made and finally took the initiative to do something about it.

Having said that, I felt that this book helped me understand better what makes our life so full of clutter. The fact that we are pulled in so many directions being the main reason. And if that applies to anyone, it certainly is me. I mean I am always about trying new things in life; and at some point I thought it was a good thing. But I know now that the best thing we can do in our life is to focus on one thing. This book tells you how. And I like that it not only tells you how, but also gives you step-by-step approaches to achieve that. I am already in the course of answering some of the questions provided by the author, and I hope that this will ultimately help me achieve my goals.

Designing with Passion

I always wondered about those early birds who come to work before all the others; always excited to start their day, always designing with passion. What is it that excites them in that way? I was like that when I first started my job about two years ago; and I don’t think it was because I was trying to make a good impression …No, it was much bigger than that. I was full of energy; thirsty for knowledge, ecstatic … Like a new born trying to discover the world. I remember skipping breaks quite often, hastily munching my sandwich on my work desk … I think many of my peers found that strange, perhaps even annoying. I wasn’t at all social, so I didn’t really interact with many of them. At the time, I was also working part-time, which left no time for “co-work relationships”. I felt I had to catch up on all the others because I was the fresh graduate and had something to prove. I would buy books and learn on the job, always trying to apply what I read into my work. It was a thrill at times really. I enjoyed it very much and I guess that was all that mattered.

Six months later I began working full time; yup the usual 9–5 job. I felt I wanted to do more things; working full time was the kind of step I wanted to take at this point. This was also the time I was allowed to handle projects on a larger scale.

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Outdoor Places to Visit in Bahrain

I think I live in one of the hottest places on Earth. Do you know what that’s like? Hardly any outdoor activities to enjoy, a lack of physical activity, laziness and a whole lot of ice-cream (not that the latter is bad in any way). Yet living here has its’ many advantages. Places to enjoy an afternoon cup of coffee over the water, or somewhere you know you’re going to find a friend in. It’s a small town and you’re bound to come across someone you know in one of these places. Because I am an architect, I will share illustrations with you that will capture the essence of the these places. Where even my words would not be able to convey.

Riffa Palms (Riffa Views)

All ideas start somewhere, mine started in this place. It’s a cafe’ a few blocks away from my house. I always hated crowded places, and though this is a crowded place, there is something about it that makes it unlike any other place. The semi-circular openness of the place is a winner. I bet this is essentially why people always come back here. Opening on a void of space that attracts all sorts of people. Children playing, people grocery shopping and then there’s the people like me … sitting across that coffee table … watching. This is Riffa Palms.

I have noticed the increase of open spaces like this in Bahrain over the last 5 years. It’s good to see that investors are beginning to introduce new enterprises to the area aside from the many malls sprawling across the country.

Tala Plaza

Then there’s the place I have lunch in almost every day. A 2 minute drive from where I work. This is Tala Plaza. I don’t feel like I am in Bahrain when I am here. Its mediterranean architectural style, road cafes and stone walls make you feel at home. I love how this place is full of textures. One of the reasons why this place does not echo modern.

Restaurants and cafe’s: Burger King, Guzel, Nestle’, Dairy Queen, Yougurt Berry, Costa Cafe (across the street),

Tala Plaza, at the road intersection

Reem Center:

2015 was a bummer!

As the year 2015 comes to an end I thought of writing a short post of some of the things that I think went well for me this year. I don’t think I have achieved most of the goals I set for myself this year. I wanted to apply for a master’s degree and get accepted for that, but that never happened. I also wanted to write a book; that didn’t happen either. But perhaps the most disturbing of them all was my 100 books to read goal which -that too- I did not achieve.

I am not writing this post however to simply jot down a list of the things I did and did not do. I am writing this to look back and reflect on some of the things I could have done to achieve better. Let me start with the first goal I had.

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How Many Mistakes is an Architectural Intern allowed to Make?

You’re always put under a lot of pressure when you’re working in an environment which expects you to get things right all the time. Impossible in any case, it’s more so when you’ve only just graduated. Which was pretty much my case.

Being an Architectural Intern; every time I was given a project, I was very briefly talked through the details of the task. There were times in which I wished I had a tape recorder. It really was that hard.

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Calculating the Total Construction Area

he Total Construction Floor area sums all areas for all building floors. This includes the surface area and thickness of exterior walls (excluding voids), excavated basement areas, and inner and outer balconies.

The Construction Area also includes parking lots, where the asphalted surfaces are considered in the total built area.

Let’s take an example to make things clearer. This is a 5 storey flat located on a plot area of 810 sq.m
We are given three floor plans (The Ground floor plan, The Typical Floor plan, and the Roof Floor plan).

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Attention to Detail

“The Details are not the design, they make the design.”

Details make the difference between a drawing on a paper and  a built project. If you cannot detail what you’ve drawn, you cannot build it.
Take for example a detail of a door. While everyone else sees “a door”, we tend to look into the details that keep the door in place. The frame, the hinges, the screws … The same way designers see colors, architects see details.

Our eyes are accustomed to see things and overlook details that do not matter. This tends to occur especially with places we are in the habit of revisiting on a regular basis. The next time we drop by, we’re seeing what our mind has already stored in our memory and not precisely what exists at that very moment.

When we try to explore details, we begin by training our minds to see beyond what our eyes see. Beyond the people, colors and things. This can be achieved by routine exercise that train our minds to pay more attention. I list some of the techniques I use below:

  1. One sketch a day.
    Sketches form the bridge between the visual and the actual world. When we sketch or draw something we document everything our eyes can capture. All the things we may have overlooked.
    It’s important to know that you don’t have to be a great artist to sketch objects. Sketching is a medium that anyone can use. And this will come handy when practiced on a daily basis. Draw something that lies within your reach or someplace you visited today. Do this again the next day, and the next, till it becomes a daily routine.
    A great tool you can use is this journal: http://www.amazon.com/One-Sketch-Day-Visual-Journal/dp/0811875342
    It’s a lovely journal, and it’s clear formatting makes it very easy to commit to a sketch a day.
  2. Neufert.
    Whenever you have the time- open your copy of neufert and look through some of the details in the book. The biggest library of details you’ll find is in neufert. If you’re looking for a way to understand details better without looking into dimensions, this is a good place to start.
    If you’re a student and find it tiring to keep a neufert in your backpack, you can always save a digital copy that you refer to in your e-reader.
  3. Look around.
    While looking at details can be important, seeing how things look in reality is almost as important. Sometimes if you cannot picture something in your mind it will be difficult to understand it. You wouldn’t want to spend your time learning details that you cannot understand. Where’s the fun in that anyways?
  4. Lumoisty.
    I’ve tried some of their games (http://www.lumosity.com/) one of them being attention games. You can also set daily reminders and notifications on your phone so you don’t miss a day.
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