Architecture in the GCC “lost its direction” due to recent hyper-development

Architecture in the GCC “lost its direction” due to recent hyper-development

Rima Alsammarae wrote in Middle East Architect of 17 April 2019 that:

According to Jordanian architect and founder of award-winning London-based practice OAOA, Omar Al Omari, architecture in the GCC has “lost its direction” due to recent hyper-development across the region.

‘Architecture lost its direction’ in GCC, says Jordanian architect Omar Al Omari

“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.

Omar Al Omari, founder and director of OAOA

“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.

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Global Award for Sustainable Architecture

Global Award for Sustainable Architecture

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.” 

Jordanian architect Ammar Khammash wins Global Award for Sustainable Architecture

Jordanian architects, Ammar Khammash, Sustainable architecture, Architecture awards, Architects from the Middle East, Architects from Jordan

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. 

Royal Academy for Nature Conservation in Jabal Ajloun, Jordan by Khammash Architects

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. 

The Middle East Modern Art Space in New Badr, Amman by Khammash Architects

“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.

Heedan Visitors Center by Khammash Architects

“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.

Ammar Khammash talks on CNN’s program “Inside the Middle East” about Feynan Eco-Lodge, designed by Khammash Architects, and which is one of the first Eco-Lodges in Jordan and the Middle East.
Watch the interview: Inside the Middle East
The Construction of Tall Buildings Industry in the GCC

The Construction of Tall Buildings Industry in the GCC

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

The Sustainable City of Ksar of Tafilelt of Beni-Isguen story

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.

ksar-tafileft

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-palm-grove-and-the-mzab-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.

ksar-tafileft-interior-1

SONY DSC

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.

ksar-view

For more information, click here .

Translation from French by Microsoft / FaroL  faro@farolco.onmicrosoft.com .

Zaha Hadid to design Forest Greens Rovers new Grounds

Zaha Hadid to design Forest Greens Rovers new Grounds

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.

zaha-hadid-architects-forest-green-rovers-eco-park-stadium

ZAHA HADID TO DESIGN NEW GROUND FOR FOREST GREEN ROVERS

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.

Further reading is in New lawn, new dawn: Zaha Hadid Architects designs all-wood stadium for UK soccer minnows Forest Green Rovers

 

How to build a £10,000 House?

How to build a £10,000 House?

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.

 

Are Micro-Apartments Innovative Solutions for Cities or Future Slums?

 

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.

Micro-living Failures

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.”

micro-aparts-tower

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.