Thursday, 30 December 2010

Garbage Dreams

Garbage dreams: a beautiful documentary on an ugly subject: three teenagers work form morning to night collecting garbage in Cairo, Egypt, and recycling it at the Zabaleen city. Documentary's reviews are praising the broadness of the approach from the teenagers' dream to the condition of these workers, to the globalization effect on the industry to a society that turns away from some sour issues.
It has won many awards and should be a good documentary to watch.
web site link

Wednesday, 29 December 2010


Interactive, reactive, responsive: kisskissbankbank is a web stage for those with projects and no funds, and those willing to donate small amounts to support a project.  

Projects that have reached their total goals in fund raising were: 
Music: first album by the group twenty one cigarettes
Travel: and sketch a travel dairy to be published
Video clip: for the never ending song by Faustine Seilman
and many more

New talent can find a way to make their dream come true.
It looks promising.

do we have anything like that in the arab world?

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Kuwait donates to the Institut du Monde Arabe - Paris

The Kuwaiti Ambassador to France and Dominique Baudis, director of IMA
photo by the institut du monde arabe
A generous act: 3 million euros from the state of Kuwait to the Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA) in Paris given in october 2010. There is no doubt that Kuwait can achieve a lot in promoting art and culture from the Arab world. The IMA has a simple function: show the French and the Western world what the Arab world stands for in creativity, history, music, arts, archeology, cinema, and many more. Their other function is interactivity and understanding.
Kuwait participates actively in that sector with their benevolent gesture.
But how can one reconcile that act with the fact that the Architectural school at Kuwait University does not have a budget for their library?
What is considered more important: public image for the outside world or nourishing creativity within?

Sunday, 26 December 2010

a library in kuwait is looking for books

A cry form the heart: They need books.
What better donation in the spirit of giving during the year end holidays:
books for the architecture library at the university of Kuwait!
as Cicero said:
"A room without books is like a body without soul"

But it might actually be easier to make a wish list on amazon and an another account for transport (aramex or dhl), where we could donate according to needs on a web click basis.
Or maybe push some architectural firms in Kuwait to get involved in some CSR work and donate books for the library rather than focusing only on building skyscrapers and pushing the skyline just a bit higher on the horizon.
There should be ways to spread books for those who want them!!!
Give your old books away, you will gain space for new ones...

"Our little library is despaired at the fact that it wasn’t able to provide any new books this semester for our eager students so we need all the help that we can get. 

I know how much you all love reading so if you’re anything like us then I’m assuming there must be some uneaten, unwanted or worn out book here or there collecting dust on a shelf, under your bed or hidden in a cupboard.

Help us by donating the books you don’t wanna read anymore which we will be recycling to get new books. 
If you’re interested please send us an email at Alternatively you can call us at 2-498-5261. Our working hours are from 8:00am to 2:15pm. Please note you might not get an answer during the following days and times (our little librarian runs around doing other missions): Sunday, Tuesday & Wednesday from 10 to 11 am
Hope to hear from you soon 
Architectural Learning Resource Center (ALRC) 
Office: 2-498-5261 "

Friday, 24 December 2010

Agha Khan Awards for Architecture - Chandgoan mosque - Bangladesh

This shortlisted project in bangladesh did not make it to the best five; however the concept of such a clean cut mosque gives an edge to what is usually built in the islamic world.
The tendency for mosques today follows often a trend to emphasize devotion through opulent ornementations and blown out of proportion perspectives to show grandeur.
Examples of such architecture are the Sheikh Zayed mosque in AbuDhabi, the unfinished mosque of Saddam in Baghdad or the Blue mosque of Hariri in Beirut
The Chandgaon mosque is an innovation in the third world to consider simplicity as a measure of beauty yet an aspiration for spiritual connection.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Agha Khan Awards for Architecture - the Green School

photos by the Agha Khan awards for Architecture
The Green School in Bali, Indonesia was shortlisted for the Agha Khan Awards for Architecture but did not make it to the top five. It must be difficult to choose among many great projects, but this one is worth the interest.
The school takes a holistic angle of what teachings can be. Based on sustainability, first the building material uses a locally grown bamboo that fits the climate and helps the local farmers. Energy is produced by alternatie sources including a bamboo sawdust hot water and cooking system, a hydro-powered vortex generator and solar panels. In an effort to give students a hands on experience, each student has a small part of the garden to grow vegetables and send it to the kitchen for their lunch. Their curriculum caters for today's need to be at par but brings also a valuable understanding of what needs to be done in the future.
In their website they posted a quote of the week:
"Tell me and I'll forget, Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." Native American saying

Link to their website
Link to the Agha Khan Awards for Architecture

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Agha khan Architecture Award - Revitalisation of the Recent Heritage of Tunis

The last of the five projects awarded by the Agha Khan was for the revitalisation of the Recent Heritage of Tunis, spearheaded by the Association de Sauvegarde de la Medina de Tunis (ASM).
It chose to look at recent buildings form the 19th and 20th century and consider it as valuable although it has a diversity of styles, form art deco, to art nouveau to pastiches of classic.
There is a fundamental questioning on what is old, how old is old and why do we need to value it, to restore it, to preserve it, to revive it.
What does history gives us?

In Kuwait, there is another type of relation with old buildings. The general trend forgoes the past: New is better as old is a reminder of difficult times. A committee is trying to work on preserving old buildings, some individuals choose to live in old houses. But it might be too late!

photos by the Agha Khan Awards for Architecture

Friday, 17 December 2010

Sunny Art Fair in Amman - Jordan

Until the 18th of December, Amman is hosting the first contemporary art fair in Jordan. Great initiative, specially that efforts in the art world of Middle east are usually focused on locations where the buyers are more than where the artists produce.

Selection of artists and local gallery show a depth in works and maturity in the productions.

The lectures and the debates have interesting titles and could be of value.
It must have been a magnet to attract art lovers and connoisseurs away from the other event concurrently in the region "the opening of the Mathaf", the New Art Museum in Qatar. Sure, the Qatar event made the headlines of CNN about nudity and controversy. However the Amman show is a real live interactive production!

link to the Sunny Art fair Web site

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Agha khan Architecture Award - Ikepoyl textile factory in Turkey

The next Agha Khan Award for architecture was given to the Ipekyol textile factory in Turkey, Erdine, west of Istambul at the edge of the European frontier. The corporate group chose to invest in good, well thought of architecture with design by Emre Arolat and build a pleasant environment for workers and staff to produce better.
Space, light, recreation, cafeteria, all the elements needed for the employees are provide. The staff is not even in the creative realm, they are behind their machines, producing women's cloths on a production line. Now that is an interesting thought for the underdeveloped world, filled with sweatshops and dirty dark factories.
The whole atmosphere might be overboard for what a textile factory should or need to be. Did anyone look at profits, margins, returns on investment? They must have: Ipekoyl is brand with a vision and targets to be on the top of their market. If you ever find an Ipekoyl store during your travels: remember: they value details down to the architecture of their factory so their cloths must be worth looking at!

(photos by the Agha Khan Awards for Architecture)

Monday, 13 December 2010

Agha khan Architecture Award - Madinat al Zahra Museum Spain

The next Agha Khan award for architecture was given to the Museum in Madinat al Zahra, Cordoba, Spain. It was completed in 2008 and designed by Sobejano Architects, Fuensanta Nieto and Enrique Sobejano. As they have said: “ We took the foot print of three ancient city and incorporated a new building around it. It is a relationship between contemporary architecture and the historic city, more of dialogue.”
A clean cut feel, with white cement walls. Simple but vast in its volume and space. Patio and courtyards intergrate all the light possible.
It is always a bet and a challenge to be so contemporary. The real judge will be the surviving effect of time.

photos by the Agha Khan Awards for Architecture

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Aga Khan Architecture awards - Wadi Hanifa in Saudi Arabia

The next Agha Khan award for architecture was given to the wetlands of Wadi Hanifa on the largest river next to Riyadh
Over 120 km, the Wadi was a dump, neglected for decades. The authorities decided to implement a change. With the help of  Moriyama & Teshina planners from Canada and Buro Happold, the Wadi since 2001 is on a rebirth mode. Alive.
The wetlands were designed to become a recreational area, it allowed the enhancement of agricultural land, and it has biological treatment plant to purify the water.
If all dumps were turned into gardens, would that make planet earth happier?

Photos provided by the Agha Khan Architecture awards
Link to the website

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Agha khan Architecture Award - Bridge school in China

An Agha Khan award was given to a chinese Architect, Li Xiaodang for his "Bridge school" in Fujian province in Xiashi, a village crossed by a river.
A bridge school is simple steel structure over a river. As Xiaodang says: "minimum intervention for maximum impact". The aim was to rejuvenate the village, give a new breath to the tiny primary school. On a 200 sq meters, the school can be totally opened up or sealed up. Wood is the material used for the surface, a sustainable and easily replaced medium. The school of two classrooms has become a playground for the kids.
That looks like a creative solution for low cost and effective architecture for the future.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Dance Africa Dance - festival in Bamako Mali

LINK TO a France 24 report (8min 39')

Dance Arabs Dance,
Enough of talking, arguing, attacking, revolting, justifying, victimizing, repressing, censoring, suicide bombing, destructing...
Take a look, Arabs, at our brothers in Africa during the dance festival in Bamako.
And get down to business:
Dance Arabs Dance

Monday, 29 November 2010

Sophie Budden, Conservateur at Dar al athar al Islamiyah

During a lecture at Dar Al Athar al Islamiyah, Sophie Budden talked about her job at the al Sabah Collection, covering more than 22 000 objects. With a wide range of pieces from fabric, to carpets, to metal, to stones, to manuscripts; and from different eras, to different provenance, Sophie was talking about her aim: general care, cleaning, storing, finding,  packing, exhibiting.
It all sounded quite thrilling.

She showed pictures of before and after, she showed how meticulous the work had to be done, how precise scalpels under microscope took 4 to 6 weeks to clean a metal object to restore and give it a shine. She had a higher pitch of voice when she tried to convey her excitement on how it was "terribly neat to look and find what you want" through the custom made data base for the collection or through the endless storage shelfs. She mentioned "vigilance" as a time consuming effort for keeping the objects safe from humidity, from moths...
She shared her amazement after cleaning a silver enamelled sword, the exuberance of true minuscule carving showed and how the movement of luminosity is reflected and refracted

It seems that Sophie Budden has an incredible mission: Civilisations disappear, people die, and she fights the time machine to protect the precious objects from going back into dust.

more on the lecture at the DIA blog link

Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Chandayana by Dr Naman P. Ahuja

Dr Naman Ahuja, from the Jawaharal Nehru University, in New Delhi,  loves to tell a good story and the "Chandayana" is a good story. During his lecture at Dar Al Athar al Islamiyah he tried to push for a scholarly presentation of styles of painting miniatures on paper (the Mandu style, the Jain style, the unique style, the Chaurapanchasika style...). He tried to explain how a folk tale was hijacked by the sufis to turn into a religious message of seeking and looking for divine intervention. He tried to explain the shift from an oral tale to a written script, and to underline the importance of epic indian codes of symbolism.

But when he stood there and said: "She swoons, their eyes met!" with a pause. It became vibrant, alive. As if he was Mullah Daoud in the 14th century, keeping his public alert, gasping for more. And the story of Chanda goes on with love, beauty, honor, loyalty, tourment, separation, exile, husbands, wife, mothers in law, battle, armies, fakirs, yogis, deities, and supreme love yet unbearable to many.

Dr Ahuja gave a pulsating lecture and it remained informative and enriching on all levels.

For more on the story of Chanda DAI blog link

photo :The Heroine Chanda fanning her beloved, Laurak, under a tree, from a manuscript of the Chandayana (The Story of Chanda), 1540
Pigments on paper
(SanFransisco Asian Museum)

Friday, 26 November 2010

Aga Khan Architecture awards in Qatar

Every two years, since 1977, the Aga Khan Awards for islamic architecture selects projects as recipient of the famous awards and gathers all the attention on the subject. On the 24th of November this year's ceremony was held in Qatar.
Please find a few extracts from his Highness the Agha Khan's speech:

"Many of you will remember my personal concern, back in the mid-1970’s, that this conversation was scarcely even taking place.
Discussion and debate about the built environment in the Islamic world was then a very thin proposition. The continuity of Islamic architecture had sadly lapsed - weakened by the heavy hand of colonialization, by modernization and globalization, by the lack of architectural training in Islamic contexts, and even by the development of new construction materials in the industrialized world. The result was a paucity both of indigenous architects and of foreign architects working with distinction in Islamic settings and idioms.
Historically, the arts, including architecture, have taken their principal inspiration from religious faith. But when art is separated from faith-based roots, other influences can dominate - including soulless technology and empty secularization.
At that time I used the term “vacuum” to describe the Islamic architectural scene. The initial goal of our Awards programme was to replace that vacuum with an energized debate.
Why should we emphasize an Islamic approach to architecture? Our Master Jury, in responding to this question, has described how global forces now threaten the values of “memory, heritage and belonging,” and how the built environment can help meet that challenge.
At the same time, in looking at the places we have met and the projects we have honoured, we also see enormous diversity. Diversity, in fact, is part of the essence of Islam. 
Nor does respecting the past mean copying the past. Indeed, if we hold too fast to what is past, we run the risk of crushing that inheritance.
The best way to honour the past is to seize the future.
These, then, are four of the major concerns that I would submit for further discussion. What does architectural excellence mean in the context of Islamic traditions and aspirations? How do we reach a wider array of constituents? Can we expand our social and economic relevance? And how do we best employ innovative technologies?
These concerns, of course, will lead us to further questions. How and where do we teach about architecture? How can we anticipate and occasionally help steer the processes of change? How do we best reward and learn from those who are most successful? How can we share our lessons with others outside the Ummah?"

In the next few posts, the 5 recipients awarded will be presented in this blog
If you are impatient, visit the Aga Khan Website for more on all these wonders:

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Resuming blogging

After a long freeze in the desert, nearly 4 month,  blogging is ready to resurface.
Ready or not, here it comes!

(Thanks Abdallah for the comic strip!)

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Eric Schmidt: "Privacy? too dangerous"

At the Techonomy conference in the US, Eric Schmidt, Google's boss, was saying that privacy will soon disappear and will become dangerous. "In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you." he says, " If I look at enough of your messaging and your location and use Artificial Intelligence, we can predict where you are going to go. Show us 14 photos of yourself and we can identify who you are. You think you don't have 14 photos of yourself on the internet? You've got Facebook photos! People will find it's useful to have devices that remember what you want, because you forgot... But society isn't ready for questions that will be raised as a result of user-generated content."

Food for thought, and those who threaten security are surely finding their ways to locate privacy through a diligent process...

link to a blog

Friday, 6 August 2010

Blackberry Ban In the Arab World

Blackberry phone users are edgy, will the ban in Saudi Arabia, UAE, and now Lebanon, Jordan be effective soon? The ban is about the instant messaging that goes encrypted to RIM (research in motion) the company that makes the handset devices and is located in Canada without any visibility from governments.
We all have seen the big issue of "Security" waived at us as an "encore" for limiting personal arena of freedom. Security this, security that... and what are we left with.
Blackberry was a handy tool.
But fortunately RIM was in negotiation with the UAE to collaborate with the local authority and allow encrypted messages to be unencrypted locally. There might be some hope.
link to BBC article

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Bernard Berenson "The Passionate Sightseer"

Found in a second hand bookstore, "The Passionate Sightseer" written by Bernard Berenson and published in 1960. He was an american jewish connoisseur of art and renaissance period.
In his published diaries from 1947 - 56, he recounts on a trip to Libya, Tripoli, in May 1955. He shows photos of the Theatre at Sabratha with its great mosaic floor, he wrote about Leptis Magna and his awe at the roman ruins.
He says: "Leptis is, all considered, one of the most impressive fields of ruins on the shores of the Mediterranean and can stand the comparison even with Palmyra, the desert port, and with Baalbeck, its gigantic columns and its over-blown floreated decoration."
On the conservation in Libya, he says :" One cannot help wondering what will happen once the Allied control comes to an end. Will the Libyans want to carry on and preserve what may seem to them an intrusion from a hostile world? (...) But I hear too little of what goes on politically in this haven of peace and tranquility and cannot presume to form any judgement."

But our modern times art experts in the Arab World have enough tools to continue exploration and preservation with all western standards. It just needs the will to cherish History and stones

Monday, 2 August 2010

Big Bambu - Installation at the Metropolitan Museum of New York

photo by the Metropolitan Museum of NY

The Metropolitan Museum of New York invited the twin brothers, Doug and Mike Starn for a sculptural colossal installation on the garden roof top.
In an audio interview, they talk about their work:
" We wanted to make a living organism, not really finished, on what it means to be alive, not only on the animal level, but as a city, as a culture, it is always complete but not finished. There are lines and flow of directions while we set it up. But there is no symmetry. We created pathways within just as cities get energy from roads and pathways, we wanted our pathways to feed the installation. It is a lot of fun to walk on the bambu installation, you feel like a kid again. it is incredible with the view of the central park."
An interesting experience, and elevating on many levels: the city, the ground and the interconnections of humans and their surroundings.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Bidoun Magazine at the New Museum - New York

Bidoun magazine is having an exhibition at the New Museum in New York showing books, literature and what is published in the Arab world for the public to see, read and discover. It could another installation where one has to scratch one's brains to understand the profound sense or the meaning of it. Or it could just be an attempt to promote culture from within. But will it be in Arabic, or English books? will the English books be a reflection of the inside, or just another view of the neo-Orientalists?
It will run from August 4th to Sept 26, 2010. If you have a chance to be in the neighborhood, let us know what it is really about!

link to the New Museum
Link to Bidoun Magazine

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Rivane Neuenschwander - I wish a wish

At the New Museum in New York, Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenshwander had an installation: I wish a wish.
Colored ribbons are hanging on holes in the walls, with wishes. From: I wish to be loved, to I wish to graduate, to I wish we could give back to earth what earth has given us etc... You can write your wish on a piece of paper and put it in a hole, or participate online. You can take a ribbon with a wish that pleases you and hang on your wrist with the hope that the wish will be fulfilled when the ribbon detaches.
There were two wish that were of some concern , "I wish for peace in Middle East" and "I wish for peace in Iraq and Afganistan". Wishing for peace is beautiful wish. But how the Middle East and Afganistan is the ultimate portrait of war, discrimination and abuse. Could we all wish for peace across the board, around the world? Could we wish for the end of fear to promote peace?

Link to the New Museum exhibition

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Forensic Artist in the New Museum- New York

Cary Lane is a forensic artist and an art teacher in New York. His performance at the New Museum is part of an installation by Rivane Neuenschwander, "A day like any other". The title of his act is called "My first love". The process and the works of a forensic artist is unravelled at a desk in the museum. Someone talks about his first love, how he remembers the face, the emotion of that memory, the precision of traits. With an extensive interview, the artist will draw the first love and will ask eventually to have the photo of that first love emailed to him to see the accuracy of his drawings. Forensic artists are put in the highlight, with the importance of their jobs at police stations around the US.
Have you ever heard of a forensic artist in the Arab world?

link to NYtimes article

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The New Museum - New York

The New Museum is a recent addition to New York skyline. Opened in dec 2007, it has a an intriguing sense of blocks ready to fall off, blocks with a sense of play time. White, airy and full of light architecture is at its best in innovation and adapting to the current environment.
Architects (Sanaa) from japan designed it,  in mind the inside before the outside, the works and needs inside the building before the outer looks.
Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (the Sanaa team) are the 2010 laureate of the Pritzker architecture award, the most notorious award in architecture that gave Zaha Hadid, an award in 2004.
In the Arab world we are expecting all the new museums to start mushrooming in the UAE (from the Louvre to the Guggenheim etc) , the chosen architects were well established award winners. The next step would be to pick architects with talent and creativity and bet on their capacity to innovate, build a museum or anything and wait for the awards to be given...

The New Museum link
The Pritzker Award link

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Paige M. Gutenborg (print a book on demand)

Paige M. Gutenborg: a machine to print in minutes any given book. It is in the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge Massachusetts. It is a heavy investment for an independent bookstore, more than 100 000 usd, but as the owner of the bookstore, Mr Jeff Mayersohn, says :"We measure our business in awesomeness rather than in dollars." The opportunity to create with this machine is endless and it is a combination of the physical books with the new technology. Bookstores cannot keep a large inventory of all, they compete with giants like Amazon but with this service of books' database from Google and others, Harvard Bookstore can be ahead in the market. Mr Mayersohn said that in the Middle East, this machine is available and he mentioned the one at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt. It would be commendable to see such inventions at every independent bookstore in every capital of the Arab world, where anyone could come up with his pdf file and print out copies of his creation, or download any book and circumvent any official decision that books should be censored and they might be a threat to the minds.
link to Harvard bookstore
link to books on demand
Link to Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Friday, 23 July 2010

Sufi Music festival In New York

The New York times wrote about the Sufi Music festival that took place last tuesday in Union Square. It talks about how music and sufi songs praise islamic saints, poets and philosophers revered by Sufism; all performed in the heart of New York, a place wounded  by radicalism and violent islamic manifestations.
Abida Parveen, the star of the festival,  has a voice in the tradition of the qawwalis  rated as one of the finest voices with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. This festival was organized by Pakistani Peace builders who promote peace and tolerance through cultural actions. Hopefully we'll see intercultural events with the intention of peace and tolerance in the Arab world, and find ways to work along those lines.

NYtimes link

Monday, 12 July 2010

"We love words"

 "We love words" is a web platform and a social networks for authors to show texts in French as a alternative to flicker for photographers, and myspace for musicians.
With a legal frame to protect authors and their rights, with a possibility of archiving, editing, creating and promoting events, the "we love words" is an interesting approach to writing and publishing. 
It would be of a very high value to have such a platform in the Arab world where our main concern is censorship and political (un) correctness. Although the web is closely scrutinized by minders, but it still has a sense of virtuality far far away from reality...

link to welovewords

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Routes d'Arabie: roads of Arabia - Louvre Museum

The Louvre Museum hosts a large exhibition on Saudi Arabia, with the title : Roads of Arabia, from the 14th of july to 27th of Septembre.
With a historical backgrounds of Saudi Arabia as a crossroads to many civilizations pre-islamic and after the emergence of Islam, the exhibition will show what was left as evidence of these passages. From the Antique period to the incense caravans to the development of different parts of Saudi Arabia and several oasis's until the Islamic era to the pelgrimage roads and sacred locations.

For the small story behind the important exhibition, the newspaper "Le Monde" titled today: "King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia sulks France" (le Roi d'Arabie boude la France) and the paper gives a geopolitical explanation of why the King will not attend the opening of the "Routes d'Arabies" as a way to express his unease with the French president.
If "le Monde" is correct in its assessment, art and culture can be used as tool for nations' interest or disinterest!

Louvre Museum link
Le Monde link

Friday, 9 July 2010

Jérôme's sound system

Jérôme, in Paris, an engineer turned into a pilot for commercial planes, has a hobby: to build his own sound system from bits and pieces, wires, lamps, into an elaborate amplifier + speakers. He talks about it with the interest to track the right sound, the perfect note. He says it is all about the presence in the music and how to feel that moment. 
The effect is rewarding and music becomes a pleasure.