The Sharjah Architectural Triennial could be one of the built environment professionals gatherings of importance in the MENA region. Here is an article dated 25 August 2019 written by Rima Alsammarae who gives a fairly well-described idea of some thoughts of this event’s main contributor. And according to this latter, the Sharjah Architecture Triennial will address climate change.
The event was founded in 2017 and is led by Sheikh Khalid Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Urban Planning Council.The Triennial editions aim to highlight topical aspects of architecture and urbanism that have local relevance and to engage Sharjah’s existing built environment and social fabric.
Middle East Architect (MEA) speaks with curator Adrian Lahoud, who says the triennial is an invitation to ‘radically rethink’ questions about architecture and address climate change – ‘the most urgent challenge facing humanity today’.
The coastal emirate of Sharjah is the third largest city in the United Arab Emirates – and it’s considered the cultural capital of the country. Among the many cultural centres, government institutions that support art-led initiatives, and the ongoing regeneration of heritage spaces, the emirate’s creative realm is further defined by the upcoming Sharjah Architecture Triennial.
The latest move in connecting the city’s motivations with its architectural past and future, as well as a step towards rethinking its urban and environmental footprint, in addition to that of the wider Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, the triennial was launched as a non-profit initiative and is legally housed under the Sharjah Urban Planning Council and funded by the Government of Sharjah. Chaired by Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, the team behind the initiative is formed by its partners including the Directorate of Town Planning and Survey; the American University of Sharjah’s College of Architecture, Art & Design (CAAD); the Sharjah Art Foundation; and Bee’ah.
The curator of the triennial, Adrian Lahoud, architect, urban designer and dean of the School of Architecture at London’s Royal College of Art, spoke to MEA about the event ahead of its launch in November 2019.
According to Lahoud, the theme ‘Rights of Future Generations’ is an invitation to “radically rethink” fundamental questions about architecture and its power to create and sustain alternative modes of existence.
“The theme prompts us to interrogate the fact that, while individual rights have expanded over the past few decades, collective rights, such as rights of nature and environmental rights have been neglected,” he said.
“Following various lines of enquiry around housing, education and the environment, the triennial seeks to question and decolonise architectural discourse; it uses architectural design as an opportunity to realise these alternative modes of living, including new concepts of buildings, cities, landscapes and territories, and to consider how these may be better adapted and understood as part of contemporary life and possible futures.”
Rights of Future Generations intends to explore how inheritance, legacy and the state of the environment are passed from one generation to the next, and how present decisions have long-term intergenerational consequences, as well as how other expressions of co-existence, including indigenous ones, might challenge dominant western perspectives.
Lahoud noted that inherent in the theme is a commitment to address climate change as the most urgent challenge facing humanity today.
“Through its exploration of how particular conditions in the Global South produce unique relationships between human beings and the environment, the triennial seeks to bring awareness to specific models,” he said. “Ones that allow interacting and living with the environment, rather than dividing ourselves from it.”
In addition to raising awareness via the exhibition and public events, the triennial has formed the Rights of Future Generations Working Group. Its mission is to advance the protection of future generations’ fundamental rights in a world where climate change is dramatically shifting along socio-economic, legal, gender, racial and political dimensions.
The group will collaboratively produce the Sharjah Charter to be presented as part of the triennial, which Lahoud hopes will prove to be a significant moment in the ongoing global discourse around climate change.
“I believe that architecture as a practice holds a key role in addressing climate change,” Lahoud said. “However, in order to leverage this potential, we must move away from the extractive and exploitative models that dominate architectural practice. We are at a point of ecological collapse and one fact must not be ignored: that the sites, regions and populations most immediately and irreversibly threatened by climate change are the same ones that face regimes of global socio-economic extraction and exploitation.
“Valuable insight can, therefore, be drawn from paying attention to existing social struggles at the frontline of climate change, including indigenous ones. There is a particular problem with the western ontological distinction between humans and the environment. This distinction views architecture as ‘shelter’ from the environment, thereby validating land grab and resource extraction. Human history offers a myriad of examples of alternative social orders, of relationships between humans and other beings that evolved according to various beliefs and practices, and through these examples, we might understand our agency and relationship with the world differently.”
Most recently, the triennial announced the two venues that it will be held at – the old Jubail vegetable market and the Al-Qasimiyah School, which is currently being renovated to form the triennial’s permanent headquarters.
The choice in venues was no coincidence, asserts Lahoud. They speak directly to the theme of the triennial. Both buildings are leading examples of the emirate’s 1970s and 80s architecture. And in the adaptive reuse of these structures, the triennial offers a sustainable approach and example of working with existing infrastructure.
“The mission of the triennial is to serve as a space for dialogue that supports an emerging generation of architects drawn from across the Global South and their diaspora,” said Lahoud. “Ultimately, we hope to prompt our audiences to rethink the potential of architecture – to interrogate existing models, disrupt dominant perspectives and consider the alternative ways of living that can be formed.
“Inherent to the theme of Rights of Future Generations is a commitment to legacy building, and I hope to create a lasting community beyond the exhibition,” Lahoud said. “Physically, the school will serve as a central hub for architectural learning within Sharjah. For those based in other regions, texts and publications produced during the triennial will be available across a variety of online platforms long after the exhibition has ended, offering a globally accessible resource for those who wish to interrogate existing architectural discourse.”
(Images courtesy of Sharjah Architecture Triennial)
Posted on July 29, 2019, and written by Whitney, an American traveller, is the following article titled Doha, Qatar… Epitome of Opulence. Having personally stayed in the country in the 90’s through to early 2000, I can confirm every single detail of the author’s story. The difference would perhaps be that I was leading a quasi-normal resident life whilst making a living through practising my skills of Architect. Indeed, today there is a bit of a situation vis a vis its surrounding neighbours, Qatar is the most open country in the Middle East but it was not exactly as enthralling as you might imagine in my early years but at least I had the privilege to see before my very eyes, the making of this city. I must say, I did contribute however modestly into the shaping of its skyline. But enough of me, here is Whitney’s.
A tidbit of information – Qatar is the most open country in the Middle East, allowing Transit Visas upon arrival for free, given you have a valid passport and return ticket. These Visas are valid for stays from 5 hours and up to 96. Additionally, Discover Qatar offers one-night free hotel stay in a variety of 5-star accommodations, or two to three nights for a fee of $100 in the same hotels. Given that the layover in Doha is a whopping nine hours, this was absolutely worth the extra money for a good nights sleep in luxury lodging.
Unfortunately, I did not know that Qatar Airlines offered a stopover through Discover Qatar in Doha when Hubs and I initially booked our Maldives flights through Qatar Airlines (ranked the #1 airline in the world). We made this delightful discovery after we had already departed the States. However, the airline (for a fee, of course) altered our flights, and we made a two day pit stop in the incredibly wealthy, insanely hot, and bustling country.
The money flowing through Qatar is obvious before you even land at the airport. From the sky, you can see the intricate, man-made island. The skyscrapers litter the cityscape. Upon landing at the airport, a sparkling air-conditioned building greets you. We were met by a smiling gentleman driving a black luxury sedan. He ferried us the 25 minutes through Doha to our accommodations for the next couple of nights. He deposited us at our five-star hotel in the ‘City Center’, the Marriott Marquis.
Unlike US hotels, security has a much larger presence. We had to go through a metal detector upon returning to the hotel each time we left. They scanned our bags before allowing us access to the enormous lobby. The friendly, multi-lingual front desk checked us in, and we took the elevator up to our room.
Downside to vacationing in a conservative Muslim country… twin beds in hotel rooms.
We are actually married (at least in Slovenia), does that entitle us to at least a queen-sized bed?
However, we were at least provided a decent view through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the city center on the 11th floor.
Tiny little admission… I may have slept brilliantly while buried beneath the blankets in my personal feathery, comfy haven in the starkly cold room thanks to the wonderfully chilly air conditioning.
We began our Doha exploration with a City Tour provided by Discover Qatar for a minimal cost of $24 a person. We were ferried around the city by a local gentleman, who regaled us with Doha facts throughout the jaunt. Doha is the capital of Qatar and boasts a population of about 2.4 million. It is located along the Persian Gulf. He informed us, water is more expensive than fuel in the wealthy country. And if we happened upon any green spaces (grass is a novelty there), it was likely watered every 30 minutes in order to survive in the extreme heat of the desert.
We cruised through the city in air-conditioned comfort in a van, just the two of us and our insightful guide. A few highlights and/or stops:
The Pearl-Qatar, an artificial island jutting into the Gulf, is a $15 billion (so far) project. It will be a stunning residential estate made up of luxury villas and commercial amenities. The project was originally to cost $2.5 Million, but clearly, that budget was a tad off.
A colossal to-scale model of the not yet finished island takes up the first floor of a building, displaying a life-like representation of the what the man-made archipelago will look like upon completion.
The imitation even has people, boats, greenery, and lighting!
And it was so enormous that I could not even get a photo of the entire model in a single photo.
Moral of the story: Sorry for the disjointed photographs that do not portray the full enormity of this undertaking.
Yet another displaying of probably the most financially stable country I have ever travelled to. They successfully made the desert desirable.
MOSQUE (Unfortunately, I don’t recall the name)
We also crept into a mosque. Thankfully, I had smartly packed a shawl and light sweaters to cover my provocative shoulders. I was also clad in baggy, white linen pants (thanks, Athleta for selling breathable and comfortable pants perfect for the occasion).
Anywho… the lower floor, only suitable for men, was basically an open floor for praying. The upper balcony was where the women were relegated to. I was escorted outside to the separate entrance they were banished to. The much smaller space overlooked the men’s sanctuary below. After collecting our footwear, we returned to our Discover Qatar chariot.
MUSEUM OF ISLAMIC ART
Our guide dumped us at the entrance to the Museum of Islamic Art. This free museum sports an unusual exterior facade. It is geometric and quite unique, looking vaguely similar to a stack of building blocks. Our chaperone challenged us to guess the significance. Stumped, he enlightened us that it is meant to resemble a woman in a hijab with only her eyes visible. If you decide to visit the museum, abide by the conservative dress code, otherwise, you may be refused entrance. Little update: My recent perusal of the museum’s website showed there is now a fee in order to gain entry to the museum. You now… because Qatar is a poor country…
The collection was fascinating, with pieces ranging from the 7th to 19th centuries, and included scrolls, textiles, ceramics, and metalwork, along with items of early mathematical importance. There is also a cafe, a gift shop, and an exterior park. Don’t forget both male and female private pray rooms. The glass windows at the rear of the building provide an uninterrupted view of the water beyond.
We were given 45 minutes to peruse the sprawling Souq Waqif by our chauffeur. The Souq is a maze of vendors selling everything from spices to jewelry to daily goods to birds to furniture. We could have spent hours wandering the alleys, and made a mental note to return later with more time to spare.
Fast forward several hours, and we returned by cab to the Souq. Unlike when we were roving the passageways earlier, most of the merchants were open for business at the later afternoon hour. The bazaar is organized into areas by means of the goods the shopkeep was bartering. Spice hucksters were in one section, while rug peddlers were off in another. I must admit, the souqs have become one of my favorite places to visit common in many Middle Eastern countries. We walked out of there is color footwear, mugs, spices, tea (cinnamon was my poison, but should one have consumed a few too many beans that day, flatulence tea was also an option), kitchen wares, and a chess set. Bartering is welcomed!
We opted to walk the 5.5 km from the Souq back to our hotel. We strolled along the pathway ringing the water front. Due to the requirements of my gender covering up, it was quite the toasty saunter. Regardless of my clamminess, the walk provided quite the view of the very colorful skyline.
And a handstand of course. I made sure to wait until there were no other onlookers, so that I did not offend anyone when my shirt dropped to my shoulders, revealing my stomach. GASP! I’m such a heathen.
During our exploration of the hotel, and the attached mall, we discovered several restaurants that were housed in the same building as the hotel. After perusing the options, Hubs decided we were going to splurge on our meal that evening. He settled upon Ipanema, a Brazilian-style steak house. Because… when in Rome??? I suppose we spent the previous couple weeks dining on Indian food, for the most part, we can branch out on our final night overseas.
The food did not disappoint. I could not tell you everything I ate that night since I felt like a whale upon departing. After getting a smallish sampling from the buffet (I had to save room for the immense amounts of meat to come), we purchased a bottle of wine, and awaited the first round of meats to be whisked by our table. For anyone unfamiliar with Brazilian steakhouses, you are given what amounts to a coaster – one side RED and the other GREEN. When you’re ready to gorge on whatever tasty hunk of meat the waiters are strolling by with, you flip your coaster over to the green side, prompting the servers to cut you a fresh slice off the slab they are toting.
I swore I was not going to give into every delicious smell that wafted passed me, but alas, I was defenseless against the succulent fare, acquiescing to my cravings. I felt like I gained 30 pounds when we waddled out of there. Totally worth it, and I slept like a baby. Another note… I discovered grilled pineapple. The delectable fruit was blanketed in cinnamon. I was incapable of dismissing the servers when they came by with it.
Random side note… Arby’s in Arabic present in the busy food court in one of the many malls. Along with the longest, flattest escalator, I have ever ridden.
Alas, it is time to depart the warmth of Qatar and return to the cold, snowy climate of Virginia in November.
وداعا … Apparently, that is “goodbye” in Arabic. Back to reality (and winter).
According to an expert in sustainable design, how to keep buildings cool without air conditioning, is by no mean as impossible as it may sound.
The warmer it gets, the more people crank up the air conditioning (AC). In fact, AC is booming in nations across the world: it’s predicted that around two-thirds of the world’s households could have an air conditioner by 2050, and the demand for energy to cool buildings will triple.
But unless the energy comes from renewable sources, all that added demand will generate more greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming – and of course, to hotter summers. It’s a vicious cycle – but buildings can be designed to keep the heat out, without contributing to climate change.
1. Windows and shading
Opening windows is a common way people try to cool buildings – but air inside will be just as hot as outside. In fact, the simplest way to keep the heat out is with good insulation and well-positioned windows. Since the sun is high in summer, external horizontal shading such as overhangs and louvres are really effective.
East and west-facing windows are more difficult to shade. Blinds and curtains are not great as they block the view and daylight, and if they are positioned inside the window, the heat actually enters the building. For this reason, external shutters – like those often seen on old buildings in France and Italy – are preferable.
2. Paints and glazes
It’s now common for roofs to be painted with special pigments that are designed to reflect solar radiation – not just in the visible range of light, but also the infrared spectrum. These can reduce surface temperatures by more than 10°C, compared to conventional paint. High-performance solar glazing on windows also help, with coatings that are “spectrally selective”, which means they keep the sun’s heat outside but let daylight in.
There’s also photochromic glazing, that changes transparency depending on the intensity of the light (like some sunglasses) and thermochromic glazing, that becomes darker when it is hot, which can also help. Even thermochromic paints, which absorb light and heat when it’s cold, and reflect it when it’s hot, are being developed.
3. Building materials
Buildings which are made of stone, bricks or concrete, or embedded into the ground, can feel cooler thanks to the high “thermal mass” of these materials – that is, their ability to absorb and release heat slowly, thereby smoothing temperatures over time, making daytime cooler and night time warmer. If you have ever visited a stone church in the middle of the Italian summer, you will probably have felt this cooling effect in action.
Unfortunately, modern buildings often have little thermal mass, or materials with high thermal mass are covered with plasterboard and carpets. Timber is also increasingly used in construction, and while making buildings out of timber generally has lower environmental impacts, its thermal mass is horrendous.
4. Hybrid and phase change materials
While concrete has a high thermal mass, it’s extremely energy intensive to produce: 8% to 10% of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions come from cement. Alternatives such as hybrid systems, composed of timber together with concrete, are increasingly being used in construction, and can help reduce environmental impacts, while also providing the desired thermal mass.
Another, more exciting solution is phase change materials (PCMs). These remarkable materials are able to store or release energy in the form of latent heat, as the material changes phase. So when it’s cold, the substance changes to solid phase (it freezes) and releases heat. When it becomes liquid again, the material absorbs heat, providing a cooling effect.
PCMs can have even greater thermal mass than stones or concrete – research has found that these materials can reduce the internal temperatures by up to 5°C. If added to a building with AC, they can reduce electricity consumption from cooling by 30%.
PCMs have been hailed as a very promising technology by researchers, and are available commercially – often in ceiling tiles and wall panels. Alas, the manufacture of PCMs is still energy intensive. But some PCMs can cause a quarter of the CO₂ emissions that others do, so choosing the correct product is key. And manufacturing processes should become more efficient over time, making PCMs increasingly worthwhile.
5. Water evaporation
Water absorbs heat and evaporates, and as it rises, it pushes cooler air downwards. This simple phenomenon has led to the development of cooling systems, which make use of water and natural ventilation to reduce the temperature indoors. Techniques used to evaporate water include using sprayers, atomizing nozzles (to create a mist), wet pads or porous materials, such as ceramic evaporators filled with water.
The water can be evaporated in towers, wind catchers or double skin walls – any feature which creates a channel where hot air and water vapour can rise, while cool air sinks. Such systems can be really effective, as long as the weather is relatively dry and the system is controlled carefully – temperatures as low as 14°C to 16°C have been reported in several buildings.
But before we get too enthusiastic about all these new technologies, let’s go back to basics. A simple way to ensure AC doesn’t contribute to global warming is to power it with renewables – in the hot weather, solar energy seems the obvious choice, but it takes money and space. The fact remains, buildings can no longer be designed without considering how they respond to heat – glass skyscrapers, for example, should become obsolete. Instead, well insulated roofs and walls are crucial in very hot weather.
Everything that uses electricity in buildings should be as energy efficient as possible. Lighting, computers, dishwashers and televisions all use electricity, and inevitably produce some heat – these should be switched off when not in use. That way, we can all keep as cool as possible, all summer long.
“If I can generalise and group the buildings into three categories, the overwhelming majority aim to maximise area with very low construction cost and no allowance for design,” he added. “So the buildings end up bulky, repetitive and lacking character.
“Some attempt to give a local flavour and the successful ones are commendable. However, if the traditional elements are applied incorrectly, such as outside of their intended scale, function and context, then they tend to appear pastiche and ‘decorative’. Other buildings are contemporary, with a few good and forward-thinking examples, such as the Four Seasons in Bahrain Bay and the Bahrain National Theatre.”
Omari added that, particularly in Bahrain, traditional buildings demonstrate the country’s strong cultural routes and its rich history as a pearling harbour. Built from mud and coral and featuring distinct vernacular architecture, many of these examples are preserved in Muharraq, the country’s old capital, he said.
OAOA’s design for Big Box, a new office project to be constructed in Bahrain by 2021
The comments came as part of a larger conversation regarding OAOA’s new office project in Bahrain, Big Box, which is located within a wider masterplan designed for high density high-rises, while still underdeveloped and exposed to a busy main highway intersection. His client’s commercial desire to have a building that “stood out” from other buildings in the area presented a creative challenge for OAOA.
Big Box consists of four stacked cubes with similar proportions. While retail spaces and a lobby activate the pedestrian level, parking is placed in the aluminium louver-cladded podium box. Office spaces are designated to the three upper boxes, which are visually separated by the lower box, as they are cladded with a ceramic fritted curtain wall.
“It all depends on the context,” Omari said. “Here, there were no existing buildings of historical importance that we would overshadow, and we weren’t disrespectful to any neighbours, so it felt suitable and, if the architecture is well thought-out and serves a purpose, good design adds value.”
Big Box is expected to be completed by 2021, and an in-depth review of the project will be featured in Middle East Architect’s May issue.
Rima Alsammarae report on Middle East Architect of 9 April 2019 that “Jordanian architect and artist Ammar Khammash is a 2019 laureate of the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, along with four other architects including Dr Werner Sobek, Ersen Gursel, Rozana Montiel and Jorge Lobos.”
Created by architect and scholar Jana Revedin in 2006, the international award recognises five architects each year who have contributed to sustainable development and created innovative and participatory approaches to meet societal needs.
According to the award’s website, Khammash was recognised for his dedication to interdisciplinary scientific research, as well as his artisanal and artistic approaches to architecture.
Khammash’s projects include the Wild Jordan Center, the Royal Academy for Nature Conservation, the Darat Al Funun workspace and the Columbia University Middle East Research Center in Amman, as well as the Church of the Apostles in Madaba. His approach involves the use of locally-sourced, natural materials to achieve context-relevant designs.
“It appears that there is a growing international trend to put architecture back on the track of social and environmental responsibilities, and away from being a hostage of powerful visual output that publishes well in the media,” he said. “Our philosophy and methodology of approach is entirely based on the role of architecture in solving problems, finding creative ways to co-exist with the larger context, which includes society and nature.”
Currently finalising two ecolodges in Jordan (one in Yarmouk Reserve and the other on the hot spring of Al Himmeh in Mukhaibeh), Khammash and his team are also working on a number of competitions in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. He noted that the award will help him further his approach and convince clients who see things differently.
“The recognition from this prestigious award will help me change the mentality of clients, politicians and students,” he said, “ensuring that architecture retains some degree of modesty and symbiotic relationship to people and nature, instead of overwhelming, overpowering and outsmarting the very reason we need to build for.”
Khammash will be speaking at the award’s symposium, to be held in Paris in May.
In our previous article on Architecture of Tall Buildings published on April 13, 2015, we elaborated on this segment of the construction of tall buildings industry in the GCC and its evolution. Far from questioning the ‘raison d’etre’ or the real need for such structures, we would like to make here as close to reality a statement of what has been achieved on the ground last year.
Abraj Quartier-Commercial Towers picture (Credit to UDC) is featured above.
Indeed, in 2016, a record of 128 buildings were completed worldwide, according to the the Chicago-based council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH)’s Year in Review: Tall Trends of 2016.
It says :
Dubai’s twisting Cayan Tower named among world’s best new skyscrapers
While Africa has yet to see a 200-meter-plus completion since 1973, the Middle East ended the year, for the second time, with nine such completions. This continues a steady trend of completions in the region, but pales in comparison to its all-time high of 23 in 2011, a spike that was attributed to a global post-recession recovery in tall building construction. 2016 was the first year since 2006 that the Middle East has not seen the completion of a supertall (300-plus-meter) building, but one should be wary of assuming that this is indicative of a regional swing away from the supertall height threshold. Optimistic projections show as many as nine supertall buildings completing in the Middle East in 2017.
In an unusual turn, the United Arab Emirates did not have the greatest number of completions in the region for the year. That accomplishment belongs to Qatar, which saw four towers completed in 2016. The UAE followed with just two completions, and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain tied with one completion each. The tallest building to complete in 2016 in the Middle East is Regent Emirates Pearl, a 255-meter tower in Abu Dhabi that twists along its height at a rate of approximately 0.481 degrees per floor. The tower was featured in the online version of the CTBUH Tall Buildings in Numbers study.
Consequent to the reduction in petro-Dollars revenues, a certain slowdown has been noticeable in the region’s construction industry dynamics. Qatar nevertheless led last year the region in building tall towers. The report states that in 2016 that country has managed and for the first time to lead the region by completing four tall buildings.
This report however mentioned that in a decade no “super tall” buildings (300m+) did come to be built anywhere in the region.
Worldwide, China led with 84 projects of tall buildings completed closely followed by the USA follows with seven and South Korea with six. Indonesia is fourth with five buildings and the Philippines and Qatar coming up with four towers each are fifth.
This slowdown in the MENA where last year no ‘super-tall’ towers as per the local media were produced, was commented by the CTBUH as this doesn’t mean the era of tall towers is over for the Middle East.
Abu Dhabi’s Burj Mohammed bin Rashid named best tall building in Middle East and Africa
Speaking to the National, a UAE daily, earlier this month, one financial expert explained this state of affairs.
“Previously, this region hadn’t been quite so sensitive as to whether numbers stacked up. It’s been a case of build it and they will come, but as liquidity tightened the numbers needed to work.”
And that :
“One should be wary of assuming that this is indicative of a regional swing away from the super-tall height threshold. Optimistic projections show as many as nine super-tall buildings completing in the Middle East in 2017.”
Santiago Calatrava’s Dubai Creek Harbour World’s tallest observation tower project
The Sustainable City of Ksar of Tafilelt of Beni-Isguen story was known to the local people since its inception. It has been rewarded last Monday in Marrakech, Morocco, by the 1st Sustainable City Prize, following an online vote called “Internet’s users Favourite City”, the Algerian Press Service (APS) reported on Wednesday citing officials of the Amidoul Foundation, initiator of the Ksar.
Amidoul Association A very special human experience, by its social, urban and ecological approaches . . .
The Ksar of Tafilelt, which was regarded as a very human experience in the northern edge of the Sahara and an eco-city in the desert, had more than 600 votes of the built environment professionals of the world, for having combined architecture, sustainable development, preservation of the environment and local lifestyle, said Moussa Amara, the Project Manager of the Ksar of Tafilelt.
This consecration was obtained as a result of the first edition of the Green City Solutions Awards competition, organized by the network Construction 21 that campaigns for the promotion of building and development of innovative and sustainable urban districts, at the COP 22 of Marrakech, as informed by Dr. Ahmed Nouh, president of the Amidoul Foundation.
The Ksar of Tafilelt has also been ranked second for the Grand Prize of the Sustainable City by an international jury, which considered it an example to follow and replicate in Algeria and elsewhere, said Dr. Nouh.
The ceremony of trophy handing over to the representatives of the Amidoul Foundation took place in Marrakech in presence of official delegations of the sector of water resources and the environment.
The Ksar of Tafilelt had already obtained, the first Arab League Prize for the environment in 2014 in the same city of Marrakech, Morocco.
Launched in 1997, this new Ksar, laid on a rocky 22 hectares site, provides 1,050 houses. It was designed for a better quality of life as based on the ancestral interpretation of the architectural heritage and the preservation of the local environment. It nestles on the top of a plateau that overlooks Beni Isguen palm grove and the M’Zab Valley.
Ksar Tafilelt nestles on the top of a plateau that overlooks Beni Isguen palmgrove and the M’Zab Valley
The initiators of the project made use of local materials (stone, lime and Palm trees wood) for the construction of the city buildings and amenities all as inspired by the surrounding Ksars’ old construction of the M’zab but combined with modernity in the houses interior.
New Ksar of Tafilelt is part of an ecological and social program as inspired by ancestral heritage contained in traditional Ksour of M’zab Valley classified in 1982 as universal heritage by UNESCO.
The experience of the Ksar of Tafilelt is considered by many specialists in the building industry as a reference in the preservation of architectural heritage combined with modernity, comfort and the bioclimatic and ecology.
Its initiators are working to implement the unique strategies for management of household waste, intensification and conservation of green areas, purification organic wastewater of the city as well as the agrementation of the daily life of the people by creating a park animal and plant of desert areas and natural. The vision that prevailed in the construction of this city whose special feature is the community spirit that motivated it, stems from the will to build integrated urban projects, sustainable, based on precise needs knowledge and the choice of solutions to outdoor areas to strengthen social cohesion.
They committed themselves to carry out all the work of household waste management by establishing a system of fixed collection and a system of recovery and recycling of waste, the creation of a system of biological treatment wastewater by macrophytes herbal plants and a solar public lighting system.
Zaha Hadid to design Forest Greens Rovers new Grounds. In the Touching story about an all-girl school and published on April 6th, 2016 in this site, the whole life of Zaha was summarily but brilliantly described by our colleague Lee Light. She elaborated on the life and achievements of “the first woman and the first Muslim to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, winning it in 2004. She received the Stirling Prize in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, she was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire and in 2015 she became the first woman to be awarded the RIBA Gold Medal. A partial list of her life-time projects and awards are listed on Wikipedia. No doubt she had more on the drafting board in her London office of 400 employees. As these projects come to completion, her list will continue to grow post posthumously, one of which is proposed here.
We reproduce this article of ecobuild which is the UK’s largest and number one event for specifiers across the built environment. No other UK event attracts 33,319 high calibre, senior level decision makers and influencers from architects and developers to local government and major infrastructure clients.
Non-league side Forest Green Rovers has picked a design by Zaha Hadid Architects for the team’s new 5,000-seat stadium.
The practice’s winning proposal for the structure is “almost entirely made of wood” to meet a zero-carbon/carbon-negative brief from green energy firm Ecotricity, the National League club’s majority shareholder.
Its design trumped a rival bid from Glenn Howells Architects after an international competition whittled a shortlist of nine down to the two finalists.
Earlier this year, Howells won the RIBA South West Award for the Gloucester Services “eco service station” a few miles north of the proposed stadium site, which is adjacent to the M5 motorway west of Stroud.
The stadium is earmarked as the centrepiece of a proposed 40ha Eco Park, to be split 50:50 between sports and sports-science use and green technology. Zaha Hadid Architects director Jim Heverin said the stadium’s “continuous spectator bowl” would maximise matchday atmosphere and provide all seats with clear sightlines to the pitch.
“Forest Green Rovers’ new stadium and Eco Park aims to be carbon neutral or carbon negative, including measures such as the provision of on-site renewable energy generation,” he said.
“The buildings on the site, and their embodied energy, play a substantial role in achieving this ambitious target and demonstrate sustainable architecture can be dynamic and beautiful.”
Ecotricity founder and Forest Green Rovers chairman Dale Vince said the standout feature of the winning stadium was that it was “going to be almost entirely made of wood” which he said would be a world-first.
“We’re thrilled with the concept and the amount of thought Zaha Hadid put into their design – their experience of stadia design and their ability to put environmental issues at the heart of what they do really stood out,” he said.
“They took a really challenging brief, ran with it, and have given us an iconic and original new stadium.
“The importance of using wood is not only that it’s a naturally occurring material, it has very low carbon content – about as low as it gets for a building material. It’s why our new stadium will have the lowest carbon content of any stadium in the world.”
Vince also praised the Glenn Howells runner-up design as “exceptional” and pledged to work with the practice on future projects.
Forest Green was founded in 1889 and is the longest serving member of the National League – the fifth highest of the English football league.
How to build a £10,000 House? Prefabricated house, self-build, surface reduced… the solutions exist. The vision, in this article, is certainly not the perception that most owners of what must be a decent and respectable house, i.e.: large, spacious, stone and on a large plot of land have. However for more than 90% of the world’s population, the reality is quite different; buildable green fields becoming rarer near workplaces if inexistent altogether, for instance in the UK and if ever there were any, they would be so expensive.
But for this new trend of micro and / or mini dwellings, the buildable surface is reduced to a minimum, for the obvious lowering of all costs and therefore that of allowing the first time buyers to purchase and enter the market. The micro-apartment as elaborated on by most designers can also be combined into apartment blocks as brought to under the spotlight by Newsweek’s Jonathan Glancey on October 16th, 2016.
Soon enough, short of some last-minute appeal on behalf of protesters, Brill Place Tower will be shooting up from a site in Somers Town, a slightly neglected district just north of St. Pancras station in central London. The 25-story building is actually a pencil-thin pair of what dRMM, its inventive young architects, call micro-towers, built on a footprint of just 3,767 square feet. It was granted planning permission this summer, as part of a £1 billion ($1.22 billion) regeneration plan backed by Sadiq Khan, London’s populist new mayor.
Historic England, a largely government-funded heritage group, is opposed to the tower, perhaps because, like a skinny catwalk model stamping on a wedding cake, it will pierce the neoclassical skyline of white stucco terraces that encircle Regent’s Park. But whatever your architectural taste, Brill Place is very much a sign of the times. It will hold 54 of what planners call “units,” a mixture of cunningly laid out one- and two-bedroom apartments. It’s a wholly commercial development, so you can bet none of them will be cheap, although, according to dRMM, the smallest of its one-bedroom units will cover just 590 square feet. (It’s not clear if the architects include the apartment’s balcony in that calculation.) These micro-towers will hold some microhomes.
Compared with some, though, they’re palatial. In Kips Bay in Manhattan, residents paying at least $2,650 a month recently moved into New York City’s first micro-apartment building—Carmel Place, nine stories of prefabricated steel and concrete studio units, sheathed in a facade of gray bricks. Designed by nArchitects, the project is the first fruit of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan—a scheme launched in 2004 and intended to create 165,000 affordable homes for low- and middle-income New Yorkers. Carmel Place features 55 rental units, most of them just 260 square feet in size.
The building’s floor plans are fairly ingenious, managing to squeeze in enough room for a sofa bed, a tiny table and a narrow area of storage above the shower room and kitchen. But, like shrunken versions of the old downtown railroad apartments, they’re more corridor than home. Carmel Place does feature a gym, a shared roof terrace, a lounge and a garden, storage for bicycles and a “butler service” to replenish empty fridges. But this communal, city-center style of living is really suitable only for the young and single: Few families, however close-knit, would attempt to squeeze into such limited space.
Why Carmel Place is important has less to do with its detailed design and prefabricated factory construction than the fact that it has revolutionized planning in Manhattan: Until now, local legislation prevailed against such tiny homes. In Seattle, meanwhile, developers have been building micro-apartments as small as 199 square feet.
The philosophy, or sales pitch, behind this extreme degree of minimal living is that the city itself, with its bars, cafés and youthful culture, serves as all the other spaces a young person might need or want. It’s an inescapable truth that, as cities across the world grow exponentially, huge numbers of new homes are needed, for the young, for service-industry workers who otherwise would be forced to live ever farther afield, for downsizing retirees and for professionals seeking city-center pieds-à-terre. No wonder, then, that towers of micro-apartments are catching on with planners, developers, architects and the property-hungry public.
We have been here before. Although very much back in vogue, experiments in micro-living have been made several times over the past 90 years, and the results, while fascinating, are not exactly encouraging. In the late 1960s, Tokyo boomed, and as it did, young people and modest “salary men” and their families sought affordable homes in sprawling new suburbs, commuting to the city center in the famously jam-packed Metro trains.
The late Kisho Kurokawa, then a radically minded 30-something architect, had an answer to the problem of this mass exodus of the young from Tokyo. This was his Nakagin Capsule Tower—although it was, like Brill Place, a pair of towers—completed in 1972 in the Shimbashi neighborhood. Prefabricated steel capsules, 140 of them, were bolted onto the two central concrete shafts. Each capsule provided a 94-square-foot space, into which was squeezed a bed, a kitchen surface, an aircraft-sized bathroom and the very latest in Japanese audio technology.
Nurtured in an era of minicars, miniskirts and the widespread belief that technological progress was wholly benevolent, Nakagin Capsule Tower was a much-feted, much-photographed revelation. Today, while the rest of Shimbashi is filled with expensive offices, the tower is in a sorry state. There has been no hot water here for some years. Rather than chic and futuristic micro-apartments, most of the capsules are boarded up or used for storage or as makeshift offices; a few capsules are available to rent through Airbnb. Residents wanted more space than Kurokawa could possibly offer, and although the plan had been for the capsules to be unbolted and replaced every 25 years, it failed: It was always going to be cheaper to demolish the towers and build anew, than go through all the palaver of replacing its intricate nest of high-tech capsules. This Japanese model of mass-produced city housing remains a custom-made novelty loved by architects, but shunned by the residential property market.
Even sorrier than the Nakagin Capsule Tower is the state of Moscow’s compelling Narkomfin apartment block, completed in 1932 to designs by Moisei Ginzburg and Ignaty Milinis. Here were tiny modern movement apartments served by communal kitchens, a laundry, a library, a gym and a roof terrace. This was to be a model of socialist living. Feminist living too. “Petty housework crushes, strangles and degrades,” wrote Vladimir Lenin in his essay “A Great Beginning,” saying it “chains her [the housewife of the capitalist era] to the kitchen. The real emancipation of women, real communism, will begin only where and when an all-out struggle begins…against this petty housekeeping.”
A rendering of the Brill Place Tower. DRMM
Stalin, however, put a sudden end to what he called such “Trotskyite” aberrations. Almost as soon as the first residents—some of whom installed their own tiny kitchens—moved in, the Narkomfin experiment of communal living was condemned, with rooms becoming individual, disconnected family units. Now a tarnished ragbag of empty apartments, artists’ studios and various oddball enterprises, the Narkomfin Building stands in the shadow of shiny new apartments. When, in 2004, Yuri Luzhkov, the former mayor of Moscow, opened the grotesque, 100,000-square-foot Novinsky Passage Mall, he is reputed to have said, while pointing to Ginzburg and Milinis’s yellowing masterpiece, “What a joy that in our city such wonderful new shopping centers are appearing—not such junk.”
From Junk to Trash
In spite of these failed monuments to capsule living, idealistic urban planners and architects press ahead. There’s a distinct echo of the Tokyo project in a new proposal from Jeff Wilson, a former associate professor of environmental studies at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas. Wilson is perhaps best known for living for parts of 2014 and 2015 in a 33-square-foot dumpster converted into the tiniest and most unlikely home of all, but his latest project is more mobile. Called Kasita—from casita, Spanish for “little house”—it’s a proposal for prefabricated, 322-square-foot steel studios that can be slotted into a steel frame like bottles into a wine rack. The idea is that, should a resident want to move, it will be easy to lift these thoroughly equipped microapartments out from the rack and, with the help of cranes and a flatbed truck, transport them to a new location equipped with an identical steel rack.
This notion of moving home—your physical home—is certainly intriguing, although you might choose, as many American retirees have done, to invest in a motor home instead. It does highlight, however, one of the major criticisms of microliving, whether in Somers Town, Manhattan, Seattle or Texas. While tiny spaces might appeal to the young and single, what happens if a young single person meets another single young person and they produce a family?
Odds are, many will leave their micro-apartments, resulting in ever-shifting urban populations. Transience is one of the enemies of enduring communities. The more micro-apartments and towers there are, the more unsettled our city centers might become.
Will the latest wave of micro-apartments get the Luzhkov treatment and become the city slums of the future? Micro-towers may well be signs of the times, yet times change, and for most people, 260 square feet will never be quite enough.
Al Jazeera produced this programme titled “Amman celebrates first Design Week” and published it on September 9th, 2016
Design Week was a festival of juxtapositions, with different disciplines, backgrounds and styles joining together to create new possibilities in a place where design is still finding its feet. It was held in the Jordanian capital across three major locations, and was a celebration of the city’s blossoming arts and design scene.
100+ exhibitors took part in this show, with renowned artists and architects from across the Arab world. Organisers explored the links between contemporary and traditional Jordanian crafts, while revitalising disused spaces as creative hubs. Ordinary people who create art in their spare time were exhibited alongside international designers.
As per the UN HABITAT Jordan is growing quickly. With high rates of population growth and a unique geography, Jordan is faced with both unprecedented challenges in managing the country’s lands and development and also offered exceptional opportunities in revitalizing the Kingdom. Jordan is one of the smallest and poorest economies in the Middle East, with 14 percent of Jordanians living below the poverty line. The country suffers from structural unemployment, as the economy fails to absorb the annual inflow of new job seekers. Moreover, Jordan’s active-to-total population ratio is one of the lowest in the world, with an average of four non-active individuals depending on a single worker. Unless this situation is reversed, significant economic growth and wealth will be difficult to achieve. With the current population growth rate and the economic status-quo, unemployment rates could well exceed 20 percent and could account for over half a million unemployed in the coming ten to fifteen years.
Added to the above is the recent influx of Syrians refugees of whom a certain percent managed to reach Amman to live in conditions that are far from any known standards.
The following article of Bethan Staton was posted on September 23rd, 2016. It dwells on matter of urban design whilst looking at the Design Festival of Amman. In fact, all participating artists hoped that Design Week, held in venues have long been neglected, would revive those empty spaces that AMMAN, the capital would need.
When Rana Beiruti first visited the Raghadan Tourist Terminal in downtown Amman, she was intrigued by its story. A huge shopping center and transport hub, established in 2006 with spacious walkways and courtyards and a stone’s throw from the city’s ancient Roman amphitheater, it seemed the kind of space that Amman needed. But the venue had remained empty for years, a problem locals blame on poor planning.
“It’s an incredible area, and it’s got to be used,” Beiruti told Al-Monitor. “I always had it in my mind.”
In the first two weeks of September, the young curator’s hopes for the neglected space were realized. The Raghadan area was transformed into a crafts district filled with local pop-up stores, boutique eateries and art installations. During Sept. 1-9, the once empty space was thronged with visitors and decked out with color and sound.
The Raghadan Tourist Terminal, curated by Jordanian artist Dina Haddadin, was one of three main venues for Amman Design Week, which featured more than 100 artists in three main sites and dozens of smaller venues. The event gave a platform for the kingdom’s creativity. But it also revitalized places that were once forgotten, reactivating public space and turning Amman’s downtown into a cultural hub.
Imagined by organizers as “nodes” in a citywide network, the week’s major venues were all spaces that, historically, had been underused or neglected. Some 2 kilometers (roughly 1 mile) away from the Raghadan, is the Jordan Museum, an ambitious development of exhibitions showcasing the nation’s history — but that few in the country have visited. Nearby is a warehouse. Built in the 1930s to house Amman’s electricity generators, it was recently converted into a cavernous exhibition hall. The Hangar, as it’s affectionately called, has been a regeneration success, hosting conferences and concerts. During Design Week it was filled with the work of designers and artists from the region.
“They put a twist on the sites, which is really nice to see,” Nicole Shaheen, a 34-year-old local, told Al-Monitor as she explored exhibits. “Without certain attractions like this, you don’t have people coming to the places. But it shows how well they could be used for different things.”
For creatives and planners in Jordan, there is a special reason to be conscious of how events interact with the urban landscape. Amman is a city with a population that, according to 2016 government figures, has doubled in a decade, with a sizable number — some 174,000 Syrians by United Nations estimates — of refugees. There is a much-spoken-of divide between the wealthier west and poorer east of the city — areas roughly divided by a downtown area in a valley surrounded with steep slopes of vertiginous, crowded houses. Most of these neighborhoods are on the poorer side of the city’s economic divide, far from the luxury developments and diplomatic quarters in the west of Amman.
Though the center of downtown is packed, other areas — like the Raghadan — haven’t become the urban hubs some hoped for. The zone between the Hangar and the Jordan Museum is an area with untapped potential: a pleasant stretch of paved walkways, planted with flower gardens, surrounding a cultural center and a mosque. Yet at Design Week, many attendees and organizers told Al-Monitor they were surprised to learn that the area, known as Ras al-Ayn, had been developed at all.
The team behind Design Week wanted to address that knowledge gap. “We are reactivating these spaces that had been neglected before,” Beiruti said. “We wanted it to be a celebration of the city and for people to feel reconnected to their city.”
The way to do that, the team believed, was through programming. For the entire week, the Raghadan and Ras al-Ayn — along with other venues like art galleries, stores and cafes around the city — hosted workshops, talks and activities. In addition to exhibitions of local and international work, interactive installations invited Ammanis to learn 3-D printing or local crafts, and music performances were scheduled during evenings. On the walkway between spaces, rotating pop-up restaurants showcased food and became a space to linger. Suddenly, people had reason to visit the spaces, and a reason to stay.
“One of the most successful things about Amman Design Week has been to bring people down here, to make it accessible and free,” Ahmed Humeid, the head of a local design firm who delivered a talk at the Jordan Museum, told Al-Monitor. “It’s a statement: It should be a city for pedestrians. They created something in the city that was really refreshing.”
Humeid is especially invested in the relationship between design and the cityscape. He is one of the creators of Amman’s unofficial transport map, a graphic rendering of the city’s formidably tangled system of buses and shared taxis. In a notoriously car-centric city, this map is a crucial tool for those using public transport. But for Humeid, the map is also about using design as direct action. It showed the local municipality that some of the perennial problems of Amman’s cityscape could be tackled. It compelled them to take action themselves.
Design Week might just do the same. Amman’s local government cooperated in executing the festival, and a team of researchers committed to surveying the community about the changes they wanted to see. Those developments were often small: a free bus trundled through the festival’s downtown venues, and pedestrian crossings were painted on roads. But organizers hope those small tweaks will make a difference.
As the festival closed up, however, the challenge was just beginning. Urban design in Amman has a tendency to falter, a fact borne out by the landscape of underused buildings like the Raghadan. Now the life created by the festival has to keep going if venues aren’t to fall back into disuse.
“It is positive that this event did the prototyping, but what is scary about it is sustainability,” Humeid said. What is needed, he believes, is for programming to keep running throughout the year and for design to become important at the national level, supported by state institutions. At the event itself, visitors agreed. “It would be great to see cultural events like this happening all year-round,” Shaheen said.
Beiruti, meanwhile, knows that it will take work to make the Raghadan terminal a permanent fixture in Amman’s cultural life. But she hopes Design Week will set a precedent that can’t be ignored. “If you demonstrate the potential, even if it goes away afterward, you feel a void,” she said.
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