Life sav­ing de­signs

Middle East Business (English) - - CONTENTS -

Abeer Seikaly is a young fe­male de­signer. She de­scribes her work as be­ing rooted in the process of mem­ory - jour­nal­ing, doc­u­ment­ing, ar­chiv­ing, and col­lect­ing - to create ob­jects, spa­ces, and ex­pe­ri­ences. She has been work­ing on cre­at­ing tech­no­log­i­cally in­no­va­tive tents for refugees that, if cre­ated and dis­trib­uted, will change the look and feel of refugee camps of the fu­ture. Abeer spoke with us about her plans to de­sign the refugee camps of the fu­ture.

What is your cur­rent job now?

I've di­rected Am­man De­sign Week on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions, an an­nual event that pro­vides learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to a wide au­di­ence with the un­der­ly­ing mis­sion to fos­ter a cul­ture of de­sign­think­ing- col­lab­o­ra­tion in Jor­dan. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, I am lead­ing the de­vel­op­ment of my project, Weav­ing a Home, a tent that is rein­vented with a struc­tural fab­ric for the pur­pose of be­com­ing a proud home for the dis­placed that em­pow­ers them to weave com­mu­ni­ties - and go be­yond mere sur­vival.

Why did you de­cide to make tents for refugees?

While the un­pre­dictabil­ity of dis­as­ters has be­come in re­cent years quite pre­dictable, mainly due to the ef­fects of cli­mate change and global po­lit­i­cal un­rest, the re­sponse to the masses of peo­ple forced out of their homes and some­times their coun­tries is based on an­ti­quated de­sign sys­tems that are non-func­tional as well as unin­spired. Refugee shel­ters are of­ten too com­pli­cated to be built quickly enough, too rigid to ac­com­mo­date dif­fer­ent sizes of fam­i­lies or scales of func­tion (for ex­am­ple, ex­pand­ing from be­ing houses to med­i­cal clin­ics to schools to com­mu­nity cen­tres), and they lack the ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties of con­tem­po­rary life such as heat, run­ning wa­ter and plumb­ing, elec­tric­ity, and in­ter­net con­nec­tions. Refugee camps are of­ten drab, de­fi­cient in nat­u­ral light, and re­flect the dis­mal sit­u­a­tion that its in­hab­i­tants find them­selves in out of no fault of their own. Be­yond the phys­i­cal fail­ures of cur­rent refugee camps, there is a fail­ure at the so­cial level as well. Be­cause dis­as­ters cause com­mu­ni­ties to break down, shel­ters must be­gin to re­build so­cial in­ter­ac­tion. Be­cause dis­as­ters de­stroy ex­ist­ing en­vi­ron­ments, shel­ters must trans­form what re­mains into some­thing new yet fa­mil­iar.

I be­lieve that it is my duty as an ar­chi­tect to solve the func­tional and con­struc­tional prob­lems of the build­ings I de­sign and also un­der­stand that my role is to serve so­ci­ety. Many changes are un­fold­ing on our planet and my role is to try to af­fect those changes through insert­ing tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion into so­cial and cul­tural en­vi­ron­ments.

How did the idea first come to you?

I have been work­ing for many years on de­vel­op­ing ideas re­lated to fab­ric ar­chi­tec­ture and in re­defin­ing the role that fab­ric can play in our liv­ing spa­ces. These ideas col­lided with the big­gest refugee cri­sis that the mod­ern world has seen and so the need for it arose through a com­pe­ti­tion that I par­tic­i­pated in - The Lexus De­sign Award of 2013 - which called for “de­sign” that re­sponds to var­i­ous is­sues in daily life in re­la­tion to “mo­tion”, and pro­vides so­lu­tions. To me the idea of move­ment is very much rooted in the idea of mi­gra­tion of com­mu­ni­ties and the dis­place­ment of peo­ple all over the world and through­out his­tory. The ba­sic lack of avail­abil­ity of proper hous­ing re­ally touched me and my in­ter­est in de­vel­op­ing it be­came more rooted within a hu­man­i­tar­ian con­text.

How did you create a pro­to­type? Did you get any help?

I am cur­rently col­lab­o­rat­ing with var­i­ous en­ti­ties who are help­ing me de­velop the work. It is still a work in progress and I hope to test it out in April 2018.

Do you think that you can get any in­vestors to start your busi­ness in pro­duc­ing the tents?

Many en­ti­ties and in­di­vid­u­als have ex­pressed in­ter­est in fund­ing or as­sist­ing in fund­ing the work. I think that once you have a vi­able prod­uct that is needed, then fund­ing should not be an is­sue.

Have you had of­fers to pur­chase the tent?

Many of­fers; how­ever, at this stage, I am fo­cus­ing on get­ting the first func­tional pro­to­type tested af­ter which we can be­gin think­ing of man­u­fac­tur­ing.

Who en­cour­aged you to push for­ward with this project?

My fam­ily and close friends en­cour­aged me, as they be­lieve in my ca­pac­ity to come up with a so­lu­tion to such prob­lems through de­sign.

How have peo­ple re­acted when you first tell them about your idea?

Peo­ple are very pos­i­tive and they were able to iden­tify with the work closely as it holds var­i­ous val­ues and ideas that al­low us to re­think how we are liv­ing in the 21st cen­tury.

Do you con­sider your­self as an en­tre­pre­neur?

I don’t re­ally think about busi­ness and only con­sider that it is my duty to serve so­ci­ety through my work and ex­pe­ri­ence.

Can you give our read­ers a few words of wis­dom - es­pe­cially young women like your­self - who might be think­ing of pre­sent­ing their ideas to the world?

Women are nat­u­ral cre­ators. I would en­cour­age all women to nur­ture their ideas and be­lieve in them­selves. Most im­por­tantly, al­ways work with good in­ten­tions. To read more about Abeer Seikaly, visit: www.abeer­seikaly.com

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