Architecture Trend #3 Focus on the Middle East

Prompted by rebuilding in Syria and global events of magnitude, there has been increasing interest in architecture from the Middle East. Dubai will host the World Expo in 2020 and Qatar will host the next World Soccer Cup. Then there is a fascination with Hashim Sarkis, the Lebanese architect who was appointed creator of the Architecture Exhibiton at the next Venice Biennale in 2020. 

In a city known for superlatives, there is eye-popping architecture on every corner of Dubai, from the world’s tallest tower and most luxurious hotel to space-age structures that defy gravity. Inaugurated  by the UAE’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on January 31st, 2019, the new Burj Jumeira tower designed by Skidmore Owings and Merrill will be built as part of a vast development known as Downtown Jumeira, “a city of the future distinguished by its intelligent design and cohesive infrastructure and network.”

The Burj Jumeira will soar 550m in the air ““inspired by the harmonious ripples of the UAE’s desert sand dunes and its flowing oases.”

In Dubai’s modern new tourist district of ‘al seef’ this new 85,000m2 project occupies 670m of waterfront. 10 design’s Gordon Affleck and Paul Rogers have created retail and dining features split into several separate pavilions facing the shores of Arabian sea. The open structures blur the boundaries between the inside and outside.

The Dubai NHabitat is designed by using an algorithmic software programme and all modules can be produced by being enlarged or shrunk by an 8m x 8m grid layout.

RGG Architects proposes its first mixed-use skyscraper in Dubai,  at the centre of the marina district’s business hub and high-rise office towers. The ‘dubai nhabitat’ tower, which reaches 310m above ground level, directs its facade to the Sheikh Ziyad Road in front of the project site, while providing control of the pedestrian and vehicle network with connections to the subway station at ground level.

The Maidan Tent

More than a million people have fled the Syrian conflict to take refuge in Europe, strenuously testing the continent’s ability to respond to a large-scale humanitarian crisis. As temporary refugee camps are now firmly established on the frontiers of Europe, architects and designers  are devoting energy to improving the living conditions of those in camps fleeing war and persecution. One example of humanitarian architecture is the Maidan Tent, a proposed social hub to be erected in Ritsona, Greece.

In 2014, Syrian architect Marwa al-Sabouni won the Syria category of the UN Habitat Mass Housing Competition for a housing scheme she developed for the city of Homs.

In her effort to create an architecture that “gives back” to the public Al-Sabouni, along with Team Render, formulated an urban design inspired by trees which is capable of growing and spreading organically, echoing the traditional bridge hanging over the old alleys, and incorporating apartments, private courtyards, shops, workshops, places for parking and playing and leisure, trees and shaded areas. While Al-Sabouni’s proposal gained international recognition, the sitting government in Homs rejected her plan for Baba Amr.

Beirut Terraces by Herzog & De Meuron in Beirut, Lebanon.

In the rapidly burgeoning city of Beirut, the post-war building boom is far from over. Much like its middle-eastern neighbors, it boasts an impressive share of designer architecture. It is here that the Beirut Terraces, a residential complex designed by Herzog & De Meuron, rises up to 119m, occupying a prominent place in the city’s skyline.

The Board of la Biennale di Venezia appointed Hashim Sarkis as the Curator of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition to be held in the capital city of Italy’s Veneto region in 2020 edition.

Sarkis is the director of his practice Hashim Sarkis Studios (HSS), with offices in Boston and Beirut, and currently the Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at the MIT. Sarkis was a member of the international jury of the Biennale Architettura 2016 curated by Alejandro Aravena, and participated with his firm in the Pavilion of the United States (Biennale Architettura 2014) and Albania (Biennale Architettura 2010). the following are his projects:

Completed in 2017, this project consists of four single-family houses on the coast of Aamchit, Lebanon as well as the rehabilitation of the existing landscape and old houses. ‘The site slopes west towards the mediterranean, its angle allowing for embedding the houses in the landscape in such a way that the front is open to the view and breeze whereas the other sides of the house are protected by earth,’ explain the architects.
The edge of this residential project for local fishermen by Hashim Sarkis wraps in on itself creating an internal road and an open space. The road continues the side street, providing access to the units, and connecting the two main access points. The open space provides a common public garden and a playground. To avoid a closed, urban-block effect, the linear mass is broken down into a series of buildings separated by gaps that are used for public circulation.