What defines the home in the context of the Arab world is at the heart of a new exhibition in London. ‘Home: Contemporary Architectural Interpretations of the Home in the Arab World’ presents a diverse collection of ideas that together form an intriguing discussion around the role and identity of the domestic architectural space in modern day Middle East and North Africa.
The varied installations, cleverly juxtaposed around the intimate space of the Mosaic Rooms gallery space reveal just how very different these interpretations are. These diverse and considered proposals, from architects representing Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar and Yemen, highlight the individual typologies of each nation as well as the very different cultural needs and requirements within the region.
Rebuilding communities in Iraq, for instance, is at the heart of AMBS Architects proposal. The project looks at a low-cost and sustainable housing scheme – the configuration of maisonettes creating natural courtyards designed to encourage the formation of neighbourhoods.
‘In high-density living areas people identify with courtyards, children can play and it gives a sense of ownership and a way of creating communities,’ explains AMBS architect Marcos de Andres. The brightly coloured houses form clusters where there would be schools, shops and other facilities as a way of looking at rebuilding cities.
‘Bearing in mind this is cheap housing you can still make it cheerful, reliable, dynamic rather than boring or repetitive. It is a step forward to rebuilding the country,’ he notes.
In complete contrast, Kilo Architecture has focused on the objects that inhabit the home rather than the structure itself. Here the installation is a collage of ten objects that the architect believes define a sense of place and national identity for the Moroccan diaspora.
‘With the Arab world everyone starts talking about the courtyard, contradictions of tradition and modernity – we are tired of this conversation,’ fires off Kilo partner Tarik Oualalou. To explore what defines the identity of the home, his firm focused on the diaspora who tend to recreate a mini Morocco made of these seemingly cliché objects wherever they go.
‘What makes the home is the objects, the rituals, the software not the hardware,’ he continues. ‘Recreating this sense of place is interesting from a political sense too. Moroccans always integrate but at the same time feel deeply Moroccan and keep a strong tie, and that tie is rooted in the home.’
Egyptian architect Shahira Fahmy challenges the traditional boundaries of the interior and exterior of the home. The labyrinth space takes us on a little journey to explore a new type of Egyptian home that no longer reflects on the duality of inside and outside, of private and public. Instead it cuts across it to merge the two spaces.
Home is the brainchild of London based Museum of Architecture who worked with architects from the Ministry of Culture (Bahrain), Shahira Fahmy Architects (Egypt), AMBS Architects (Iraq), LEFT Architects (Lebanon), Kilo Architecture (Morocco), Virginia Commonwealth University and Independent Architects (Qatar) and The Daw‘an Mud Brick Architecture Foundation, led by Salma Samar Damluji (Yemen).
Home is part of London Festival of Architecture and will be on exhibit at the Mosaic Rooms until 7 July 2012.
Photography: Dick Batka