Su­maya Dab­bagh on im­por­tance of good ar­chi­tec­ture and sen­si­ble de­signs

Su­maya Dab­bagh, prin­ci­pal at Dab­bagh Ar­chi­tects and Chair of RIBA Gulf Chap­ter, de­scribes on what qual­i­fies to be a good ar­chi­tec­ture and an ef­fec­tive de­sign

Design Middle East - - Contents -

Good ar­chi­tec­ture im­proves our lives. It cre­ates bet­ter build­ings and stronger com­mu­ni­ties and makes bet­ter use of the earth’s lim­ited re­sources. Ar­chi­tec­ture has a re­spon­si­bil­ity not only to cre­ate good build­ings but also to cre­ate the spa­ces be­tween the build­ings that make up our cities.

Our cities, which had de­vel­oped dur­ing the '60s, '70s, and '80s were mod­est cities, pre­dom­i­nantly low-rise and of­ten fol­lowed the his­toric fab­ric as in Bur Dubai area, which was part of the JR Har­ris’s mas­ter­plan. Then in the 1990s, they started to grow ex­po­nen­tially as well as in­dis­crim­i­nately. But by the late '90s a shift be­came ap­par­ent, where well-de­signed and ex­e­cuted build­ings started to ap­pear in our cities. Build­ings such as the King­dom Tower and Faisaliah Tower in Riyadh, Saudi Ara­bia and Emi­rates Tow­ers and Burj Al Arab in the UAE cre­ated a ref­er­ence and es­tab­lished a bench­mark. They demon­strated how a wellde­signed build­ing could add value to the en­dusers and the de­vel­op­ers, as well as the city.

To­day, high-qual­ity build­ings have be­come more com­mon in our cities but they still rep­re­sent a small pro­por­tion of our built en­vi­ron­ment. The large ma­jor­ity re­flects de­sign and con­struc­tion

stan­dards that are pri­mar­ily com­mer­cially driven, where the em­pha­sis is on the re­turn on in­vest­ment rather than qual­ity, sus­tain­abil­ity or the im­pact on the city that is gen­er­ated by these build­ings.

Fur­ther, the fast pace of de­vel­op­ment of the last 15 years has at­tracted more ar­chi­tects and pro­fes­sion­als from var­i­ous cor­ners of the globe, cre­at­ing dis­par­ity in stan­dards in the pro­fes­sion as well as cul­tural rel­e­vance to the de­sign.

As a re­sult, of­fer­ings of ar­chi­tec­tural ser­vices can vary tremen­dously from one prac­tice to an­other de­pend­ing on its back­ground, em­ployed­tal­ent, and in­ten­tion.

In or­der for us to pro­duce bet­ter ar­chi­tec­ture and im­prove our built en­vi­ron­ment and cities, it is im­per­a­tive that we es­tab­lish a set of core val­ues for the pro­fes­sion that cre­ates con­sis­tency in stan­dards and qual­ity of de­sign and con­struc­tion. We must also nur­ture our lo­cal tal­ent to build cities that re­flect our iden­tity, cul­ture, and val­ues.

As ar­chi­tects and de­vel­op­ers, we must recog­nise and em­brace the re­spon­si­bil­ity in­her­ent in the task of cre­at­ing our built en­vi­ron­ment. The Royal In­sti­tute of British Ar­chi­tects ac­knowl­edges this re­spon­si­bil­ity. It pro­vides a tightly-reg­u­lated pro­fes­sion with high stan­dards of ed­u­ca­tion and through its strict code of con­duct pro­motes and cham­pi­ons in­tegrity, pro­fes­sion­al­ism, ex­cel­lence, cre­ativ­ity, and in­no­va­tion.

In recog­ni­tion of the need to help im­prove stan­dards in the Gulf, the RIBA with the sup­port of its Gulf mem­bers es­tab­lished the RIBA Gulf Chap­ter in 2009.

The Gulf Chap­ter’s ob­jec­tives are to bring aware­ness to these val­ues and help im­prove the stan­dards of prac­tice in the Gulf. It has set out to ful­fill its ob­jec­tives from the top down through its di­verse mem­bers, and from the bot­tom up through ed­u­ca­tion.

In 2016, in recog­ni­tion of the con­tri­bu­tion of In­ter­na­tional mem­bers, the RIBA In­ter­na­tional Prize was launched. The prize awards projects, which demon­strate vi­sion­ary, in­no­va­tive think­ing, and de­sign ex­cel­lence and make a dis­tinct con­tri­bu­tion to the com­mu­ni­ties they serve within its lo­cal con­text. Now in its sec­ond cy­cle, we hope that more and more projects from this re­gion be­come awarded this pres­ti­gious prize. Through ed­u­ca­tion, the RIBA is work­ing with lo­cal uni­ver­si­ties to bring them up to RIBA stan­dards through its val­i­da­tion process.

As a re­sult, ear­lier this year Abu Dhabi Univer­sity be­came the first val­i­dated School of Ar­chi­tec­ture in the Gulf re­gion. Oth­ers are mov­ing closer to this.

Ul­ti­mately, with the men­tor­ing of RIBA, we can cre­ate well-planned, sen­si­tively de­signed, and sus­tain­able devel­op­ments.

As ar­chi­tects and de­vel­op­ers, we must recog­nise and em­brace the re­spon­si­bil­ity in­her­ent in the task of cre­at­ing our built en­vi­ron­ment.

Su­maya Dab­bagh

Faisaliah Tower in Riyadh

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