Ba'alawi Design and Architecture in Egypt
From the very beginning, Ba'alawi Design has pioneered a sustainable approach to design, through work that spans the spectrum from masterplans to furniture. The company’s approach is sensitive to location and culture, often combining the latest advances in building technology with techniques drawn from vernacular tradition; harnessing the skills, enthusiasm and knowledge of integrated design teams, clients and communities to create inspirational environments. By working together creatively from the start of a project, architects and engineers combine their knowledge to devise integrated, sustainable design solutions.
From appointment to completion, the Ba'alawi Design teams are supported by numerous in-house disciplines, including project management and a construction review panel. And to ensure consistency and personal service, the same core team sees a project through, from beginning to end. To hear more about the processes within the organisation and the company’s biggest challenges and achievements, Finance Monthly spoke to the founder of Ba'alawi Design – Architect Mohammed Al-Alawi.
What made you fall in love with architecture?
What I find fascinating about architecture is the fact that it’s all about creating something that lasts for hundreds of years. Architects are not just concerned with the exterior and interior design of a building, but the environment as a whole. Architects get to design and create the character of a city and impact the way people live – that’s what made me fall in love with architecture as a whole.
What were your goals for the company when you founded it?
At the start, my key objectives for the organization was to create a space where different ideas and perspectives are welcome and to create a culture of shared ownership around future product vision. I wanted to create a space for open and honest discussions, while encouraging employees to defend their points of view and analyse them with other team members
The most challenging part of running our own design studio is our constant desire to launch new side projects, which sometimes makes it hard to focus on being a design studio. While our side projects generate revenue on their own, they all detract from a singular focus.
What are the typical challenges that you face in the process of master planning?
A quote from illustrator and typographer Gemma O'Brien answers this questions perfectly:
"I think that increasingly, the lines will be blurred between technology, human experience and creativity. As technology advances, certain skills will no longer be needed as computers and automation make aspects of 'designing' accessible to all. The creative industries need to cultivate the 'human' by finding new ways to embed experiences, memories, stories and culture into creative output."
What are some of the key issues that you frequently face in relation to rules and regulations affecting architecture projects in Egypt?
According to Build's Michael C. Place, "The biggest challenge designers face is the problem of finding good clients who actually value good design for itself – clients who don't perceive design as just another expense, but a worthwhile investment."
I’d say a challenge that we face frequently is the fact that legislation in relation to architecture projects and waiting for document approvals frequently slows us down. However, I believe that due to a new system in place, the processes in Egypt will improve soon.
In your opinion, what’s the impact technology will have on the architecture profession in the future?
In recent years it’s a common belief that technology will soon replace architects. However, I don’t believe that this will happen any time soon - the sensitivity of a human is too important in designing a building. Furthermore, good design in architecture is not definable, let alone replicable in computable terms.
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