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Sudhakar Windows and Doors

The Exterior Façade of a Building is Not Just a Shell, but a Mirror Reflecting the Essence and Character Within

By: Bassel Omara, Omara Design Studio

Could you please tell us about your journey in the field of architecture? How did you think of becoming an architect? What do you enjoy most about your profession?

My journey in the field of architecture has been deeply rooted in my passion for both art and science since childhood. From a young age, I found joy in creating ideas and expressing myself through artistic work, consistently earning awards in art throughout my school years. It was during this time that I began to contemplate how I could leverage my talents to positively impact people’s lives. The idea of becoming an architect emerged as the perfect amalgamation of my creative abilities and my desire to contribute to the betterment of society.

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Throughout my journey, I have come to realise that architecture is not merely a discipline or a profession – it is a powerful science with the potential to enhance humanity and shape the world around us for the better. In the words of Audrey Hepburn, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” This sentiment resonates deeply with my ethos as an architect, as I strive to use my skills and knowledge to create spaces that improve both individual lives and communities as a whole. What I find most fulfilling in my profession is witnessing the reactions and feedback of the users who inhabit the spaces I’ve helped bring to life. It’s immensely gratifying to see how my designs positively impact people’s daily experiences and contribute to their overall well-being.

How do you approach the initial stages of a new architectural project, including concept development and understanding client requirements?

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In approaching the initial stages of a new architectural project, I am dedicated to leveraging cutting-edge digital technology to push the boundaries of design while ensuring optimal efficiency and value for our clients. Central to my philosophy is active collaboration with clients and the development of customised design solutions. I start by actively listening to my clients, carefully understanding their strategies, aspirations, and unique vision. By engaging all stakeholders, I gain valuable insights into their needs and resources, laying a collaborative foundation for merging their dreams with my expertise.

This approach enables me to craft designs that not only meet but surpass client expectations, considering factors such as goals, timelines, and budgets throughout the process. With over a decade of experience, my leadership ensures that every project benefits from astute guidance and creative prowess, resulting in designs that exceed anticipations. I believe in the importance of detail, evident in the sharp, aesthetically pleasing yet practical and cost-effective designs my team and I produce. Whether it’s new construction, renovation, or remodelling, our intimate understanding of each project’s requirements enables us to approach each project with innovation, creativity, and prioritising sustainability.

Please name some of your architectural projects and their façade & fenestration details.

Several architectural projects I’ve been involved in showcase intricate façade and fenestration details, each designed with a unique blend of creativity and functionality. One notable project is the ASAS Marina Towers in Doha, Qatar, where the façade presented a significant challenge. Inspired by coral, the building’s skin was crafted for both privacy and sustainability. Its secondary outer skin was algorithmically designed, with the sun’s path dictating the size and count of openings. To mitigate heat gain, the number and size of openings varied based on the orientation: increasing on the south side to reduce direct sunlight and decreasing on the north side to allow more natural light penetration. This innovative approach not only enhanced energy efficiency but also promoted airflow and noise reduction through the space between the primary and secondary skins.

Another project close to my heart is the LLFPM school, where the external façade serves as a dynamic canvas reflecting the cultural diversity of its community. Designed with a sustainable perspective, the façade features symbols and messages celebrating various cultures. Its adaptable design allows for the customisation of messages, creating a vibrant and engaging experience for the passerby. With a focus on flexibility and sustainability, the façade underwent multiple tests to determine the most optimal materials and fixation methods. Options such as electro-magnetic dots or screws were considered, along with perforations for indirect lighting and reduced weight. Through precise design and collaboration with façade specialists, the LLFPM school’s façade emerged as a testament to cultural celebration and innovative architectural solutions.

How do you go about choosing materials for the façade and cladding?

ASAS Marina TowersSelecting materials for the façade and cladding involves a multifaceted approach that prioritises staying informed about market trends and collaborating with specialists from the project’s inception. Beyond aesthetics, material selection encompasses considerations of physical properties and sustainability. It’s essential to evaluate factors such as durability, maintenance requirements, adaptability, and certifications alongside aesthetic appeal. Additionally, understanding fire ratings is crucial for ensuring safety compliance. I view the façade as a canvas for public display, emphasising the importance of selecting materials that not only enhance the building’s appearance but also contribute positively to its performance and environmental impact. By taking a holistic approach to material selection, considering both functional and decorative aspects, we can ensure that the façade meets the project’s requirements and aligns with our design goals.

With experience in various countries such as Egypt, UAE, KSA, Qatar, and others, how do you adapt your designs to different cultural contexts while maintaining your vision of creativity and sustainability?

My experience working in diverse countries has provided invaluable insights into adapting designs to different cultural contexts while upholding my vision. Each location’s unique cultural heritage and climate present both challenges and opportunities for design. To effectively adapt, thorough research and study of the historical background and local habits are essential. Understanding how people interact with their built environment enables me to tailor designs that resonate with cultural sensitivities and meet client needs. This may involve integrating traditional architectural elements or incorporating sustainable practices relevant to the region’s climate and resources.

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Creativity flourishes when it is rooted in context, and I strive to infuse each design with innovative solutions that respond to cultural nuances while pushing boundaries. Sustainability, too, is intrinsic to my design ethos. By leveraging renewable materials, optimising energy efficiency, and embracing passive design strategies, I aim to create buildings that not only harmonise with their surroundings but also minimise environmental impact. Sustainability is not merely a checkbox but a guiding principle that informs every aspect of the design process, from concept development to material selection and construction techniques.

Ultimately, the success of a design lies in its ability to seamlessly blend creativity, sustainability, & functionality within the cultural fabric of its context. By marrying these elements, I aim to create architecture that not only stands the test of time but also enriches the communities it serves and provides humanity with a better life.

Sustainability is a key aspect of your work. What are some innovative sustainable practices or technologies that you integrate into your projects, and how do they contribute to long-term environmental health?

Sweihan emirati housingSustainability is a very important pillar in any design. Following the first-rate regulatory requirements is a respectable benchmark, though we need to perceive different approaches beyond the required. One such approach is the incorporation of passive design strategies, which optimise natural lighting, ventilation, and thermal comfort to reduce reliance on mechanical systems. Features, like strategically orienting the building and placing opening and shading devices, maximise daylighting while minimising heat gain, leading to reduced energy consumption and improved indoor comfort.

Additionally, I prioritise the use of sustainable materials that minimise environmental impact throughout their lifecycle, from sourcing to disposal. This includes materials with high-recycled content, low embodied energy, and certifications for responsible sourcing and production. By selecting eco-friendly materials, I not only minimise carbon footprint but also promote market demand for sustainable alternatives.

Another innovative practice I integrate is the maximum incorporation of renewable energy systems such as solar panels and photovoltaic systems. These technologies harness clean, renewable energy sources to power buildings, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

Moreover, energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems further enhance energy performance, contributing to overall sustainability and operational cost savings. Water conservation is also a priority in my designs, achieved through the implementation of water-efficient fixtures, rainwater harvesting systems, and greywater recycling. By minimising water consumption and maximising reuse, these strategies reduce strain on local water resources and promote resilience in the face of water scarcity.

Earth School-Community Yard

Overall, there are many sustainable practices and technologies that not only minimise environmental impact but also enhance occupant comfort, improve building performance, and generate long-term cost savings. By embracing innovation and prioritising sustainability, I strive to create buildings that not only meet the needs of today but also safeguard the health and well-being of future generations.

How do you balance the aesthetic and functional aspects of your designs to ensure they not only look impressive but also serve the needs of the people who inhabit them?

In my design philosophy, achieving a balance between aesthetic appeal and functional efficiency is paramount to creating spaces that truly resonate with their occupants. Central to this approach is a thorough understanding of the needs and desires of the people who will inhabit the spaces. This goes beyond mere aesthetics; it involves engaging with clients, end users, and even neighbouring communities to gather insights into their lifestyles, preferences, and aspirations.

By conducting comprehensive meetings and consultations, I ensure that the design process is inclusive and responsive to the diverse needs of all stakeholders. This collaborative approach allows me to tailor designs that not only look impressive but also serve beyond the practical needs and functional requirements of the users.

 

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Moreover, I believe that functionality should never compromise aesthetics, nor vice versa. Instead, I strive to integrate both seamlessly, leveraging design principles and innovative solutions to enhance both form and function. This may involve incorporating elements of biophilic design to promote well-being, integrating sustainable features to enhance environmental performance, or employing adaptable design strategies to accommodate changing needs over time.

By prioritising human-centric design principles and embracing a collaborative, iterative design process, I ensure that my designs not only meet but exceed the expectations of those who inhabit them.

What is your vision for Humanitarian Architecture? How do you apply the principles and practices of human-centred design and architecture?

Humanitarian architecture embodies a vision of problem-solving that prioritises the welfare and happiness of individuals and communities, both on a local and global scale. Central to this vision is the application of human-centred design principles, which place the needs and experiences of people at the forefront of the architectural process. I believe that architecture should not only provide physical shelter but also offer security, well-being, and sustainable living solutions that uphold the dignity of all occupants, regardless of their social status.

In my practice, I actively apply these principles by engaging in projects and competitions focused on addressing humanitarian challenges, such as natural disasters or supporting underserved communities. Through my designs, I strive to create spaces that are not only flexible and adaptable but also resilient and sustainable. This often involves utilising locally sourced materials and innovative construction techniques to minimise environmental impact and maximise resource efficiency.

LLFPM School

Furthermore, I envision humanitarian architecture as a catalyst for positive change, inspiring communities to build for a healthier and more equitable future. By collaborating with stakeholders and leveraging the power of design, we can create solutions that address pressing social and environmental issues while promoting inclusivity and empowerment.

What do you think is the role of a Façade in the Sustainability Enhancement of a building?

The façade plays a pivotal role in enhancing the sustainability of a building by serving as the interface between the interior environment and the external elements. Its design and materials directly impact energy efficiency, thermal comfort, and overall environmental performance. Firstly, the façade contributes to passive design strategies by controlling heat gain and loss, thus reducing the building’s reliance on mechanical heating and cooling systems. Features such as shading devices, insulation, and high-performance glazing can significantly decrease energy consumption and building heat gain.

What are some recent trends in exterior architecture that you find particularly interesting or innovative?

Two recent trends in exterior architecture that I find particularly interesting and innovative are 3D printing and digital façades. 3D printing technology has revolutionised the way we design and construct buildings, offering unprecedented flexibility and freedom in form-making. This technology enables architects to create complex, customised geometries that would be difficult to achieve using traditional construction methods. From intricate façades to entire building components, 3D printing allows for greater design expression and efficiency, while also reducing material waste and construction time.

Digital façades represent another exciting trend in exterior architecture, leveraging advancements in digital technology to create dynamic and interactive building envelopes. These façades can incorporate LED screens, projection mapping, and responsive lighting systems to transform the building’s appearance in real time. By integrating sensors and programming, digital façades can also adapt to environmental conditions, user interactions, or even data inputs, creating immersive and engaging experiences for occupants and passers-by alike.

What is your vision for 2030?

My vision for 2030 revolves around the continued growth and evolution of Omara Design Studio (ODS) to be a leading architectural firm. At ODS, our mission is to craft buildings that seamlessly integrate with their environments, benefit humanity, and symbolise timeless values. We prioritise client satisfaction, offer personalised services, and foster a collaborative team environment.

Looking ahead, I envision ODS becoming a premier global design studio known for pushing boundaries and delivering cutting-edge, contextually harmonised design solutions. Our business goals center on tackling intricate project types, surpassing conventional boundaries, and leading in pioneering design solutions. By redefining the boundaries of architectural practice, we aim to position ODS as the go-to expert for innovative, context-driven designs.

As we navigate the challenges and opportunities of the future, ODS will remain committed to excellence, sustainability, and innovation. By staying true to our values and embracing creativity and collaboration, we will continue to shape the built environment in ways that inspire, enrich, and endure for generations to come.

One piece of advice you would like to give to aspiring architects?

One piece of advice I would like to offer to aspiring architects is to embrace a holistic approach to architecture that extends beyond design to encompass social responsibility, sustainability, and community engagement. While design skills are undoubtedly crucial, it is equally important to recognise the broader impact that architecture can have on society and the environment.

My journey in architecture has been shaped by a commitment to enhancing urban communities and addressing fundamental human needs. Through collaborations with organisations like UNICITI and involvement in initiatives such as the “Third Way of Building Asian Cities,” I have witnessed first-hand the transformative power of architecture in creating more affordable, liveable, and sustainable urban environments.

Furthermore, I encourage aspiring architects to prioritise lifelong learning and knowledge-sharing. Engaging in professional development opportunities, participating in conferences, and seeking mentorship can provide invaluable insights and support personal and professional growth. Being a member of the Advisory Board at Abu Dhabi University is one of my dearest commitments, focusing on opening the minds of young future architects.

Bassel Omara, Omara Design Studio

Founder & Managing Director

Bassel Omara is a multi-award-winning Egyptian architect, designer, and artist with a humanitarian vision who won numerous accolades and honours both regionally and globally. Top-ranked on the Creative 30 & 30 Influential Architects Powerlists since 2021 by Design Middle East among the region’s top Pioneers. With over 15 years of experience and a successful record in both the public and private sectors spanning from Egypt to UAE, KSA, Qatar, Oman, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, France, Mali, Iceland, Italy, Senegal, Nigeria and Germany on a wide range of projects such as cultural, civic, commercial, educational, experimental, health, hospitality & leisure, industrial & research, military, mixed-use, office, religious, residential, security, sports & recreation, transportation & public services, and urban planning.

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