Have you always had a passion for designing?
When I was growing up in Lebanon, I was interested in the arts in general: music, painting, theatre, choreography, art and movies. I did not design anything until I was 18 when I was at the Ecole des Beaux-Art in Beirut. I was there studying civil engineering, but I had friends who were studying architecture, so I started attending their classes as well. That is when I discovered my love of architecture and interior design. I even used to do my friends’ projects for them as I was so fascinated by the subject! So in the second year I switched majors. From my second year onwards I used to work for the Dean. I was the youngest architect in his office and he used to give me the biggest projects. I graduated with First Class Honors in 2000 and received my Master’s Degree with honors in 2002.
What are the origins of your architectural style, in particular the passion and inspiration behind your work?
I am inspired by the opportunity to make a real difference in my field. My initial idea was to incorporate the idea of Suprematism into my architectural style. Space, energy and instinct are all key elements in my design process. Any plan I am involved in develops from a composite of my early sketches, guided by a spontaneous sense related to the project’s location and the architectural program.
What is the concept of Suprematism?
Suprematism was an art movement which originated in Russia in 1915. It focused on
geometric forms - circles, squares, rectangles. I like geometric shapes and use them
frequently in my designs as well as many other architects have been inspired in the same way.
What do you think is the most interesting part of the design process?
My personal opinion is that design fundamentally stems from what surrounds us, both physically and emotionally – human experience, social behavior, global, economic and political issues. The combination of these two human elements, when seen through attention to form, design and a clear understanding for contemporary culture are important too.
There are five words which I like to use: The sky is the limit. I see opportunities all around me. I find the whole design process fascinating. But, if I had to choose, I would have to say that the concept phase is my favorite part. This is where I am involved with the realization of imagination. Where lines meet shapes and colours, where you start modelling your ideas ...it is my space; I really feel most alive when I am involved in this phase.
Is there any architectural environment in particular that made a big impression on you as you were growing up?
It’s all about the environment where each one of us grew up; each individual’s personality has its foundation there. The architecture of the city in Beirut, and the whole urban landscape there had a great influence on me. Places where I lived, played, walked, went to school, and so on… These places shaped my childhood personality and senses… Buildings, architectural style and urban planning are the key of any city and these are personalized by the cultural background and traditions of the country. In other words, I have been influenced by the luxury of English culture, the finesse of the French, the rich history of the Arabic world and the relation between architecture and nature demonstrated in Asian cultures. City planning in the Middle East has shifted towards the commercial and business side, with the financial world defining the shape of our urban landscape. I am not against development - it’s the core of our business - but our world is based on balance, proportion and cultural themes; major elements of my designs and overall philosophy. In Kuwait, it is an honor for me to be involved with development and I look forward to being a part of the intended expansion currently taking place.
When you start work on a project, what do you hope to achieve?
When looking at the impact of a project, there are many elements to consider. Whatever it is I am designing - be it a private property or a luxury yacht – you have a responsibility to create something that exists in harmony with its surroundings; it has the ability (when done correctly) to improve the quality of the environment it is a part of. That responsibility has increased in the current world climate of conservation and, as an architect I strongly believe that I have a duty to not only create, but to also consider the environmental implications and impact of my work, through innovations such as intelligent buildings which help to conserve already dwindling resources...
At MNA, our goal is to improve people’s quality of life and to do this you have to do more than design or build something – what needs to happen is a collaboration which encompasses concept, design, planning, engineering, art and sustainable urban and industrial design.
MNA’s mission is to help define people’s way of life – how do you do this?
I feel that, at present, we are not taking full advantage of the shaping of our world.
To make the environs we live and work in more inspirational and harmonious, we have the ability to do this and it is my aim to make this a reality. Design has been a hugely influential element in the shaping of our world both physically and psychologically. Every
aspect of life has been designed and there are so many considerations which have to
be made which people rarely realize – that is our role and we pride ourselves in doing this well. Design is not about solving problems, but about a way in which to improve the aesthetics of our built environments.
Which architects and/or pieces of their work do you most admire?
There are so many innovative works from international architects like Peter Mies, Oscar
Niemeyer, and Le Corbusier that I really adore; their genius led me to where I am today.
Their creativity inspired me to become involved in the world of design and architecture
in the first place. An example of how our vision is being realized is the unique concept of the Vertical City, a design concept for the Middle East.
This was planned to be the centerpiece of the region’s most prestigious urban development to date - a project named Arab Icon. It was designed to demonstrate how form and function can be combined to incorporate and accentuate both. That the latest technology can be united with an environment designed to compliment modern living.
This “vertical city” is made up of all the elements found in communities today, from shopping in the Arab mall, education and entertainment at the Arab museum, corporate facilities and the residences themselves. All qualities intended to lead the way for the world class lifestyles in the 22nd century.
For more information please contact MNA:
First published in Men's Passion issue #6 September 2008