Ali Jaffar Al-Lawati
Ali Jaffar Al-Lawati

Omani architect uses Arabic-language radio programme to discuss sustainable architecture

Muscat-based, Omani architect Ali Jaffar Al-Lawati uses his Arabic-language radio programme to discuss sustainable architecture from the Middle East. 

Launched in January 2016, the hour-long weekly radio show, aptly named 'Sustainable Architecture', was originally intended to discuss architecture from Al-Lawati's home country; however, since 2017, his show's coverage has extended to the rest of the Middle East, with high-profile interviews with architects including Rasem BadranSuad Amiry and Maath Alousi, among many others.

According to Al-Lawati, his programme fills a void -- while there are many radio shows and podcasts that address issues and topics in construction, there are few, he said, that address architecture, especially with a focus on the Middle East.

"I am passionate about Oman's vernacular architecture," he said. "There are very interesting buildings that characterise the identity of the country and that need to be highlighted. That's why the show started out about Oman, although it's expanded since.

"We need media to introduce architecture to the public in simple ways. There is a common misconception that architecture is only a sketch on a piece of paper, but the truth is that it affects all ways of life."

Al-Lawati added that this misconception has had serious consequences on the dynamic between architects and clients, with many decision-makers in the region reducing the role of the architect. According to him, this has been particularly evident in recent urban-scale projects in the Middle East. 

"I try, through the show, to spread awareness of the importance of architecture," he said. "The episodes that have broadcasted over the last three years have transferred many of the discussions between architects in meetings, conferences and so on, to the public."

Since 2016, Al-Lawati's programme has explored topics such as traditional architecture, the impact of fluctuating oil prices in the GCC on sustainable architecture, religious architecture of Oman, Islamic architecture, as well as topics related to arts and culture. 

"I am very satisfied with the show, and I plan to convert the episodes into written material and publish them as books that contain all aired interviews," said Al-Lawati. "I also hope to start a new show in English and host architects from Europe and America." 

Each episode of Sustainable Architecture is repeated three times a week: first on Mondays at 2pm, then on Thursdays at 10pm and finally, on Saturdays at 2:30pm. Those in Oman can tune into 94.4FM, while those outside of Oman can use the smart-phone app 'PART' and download Oman Radio.

Al-Lawati also uploads all episodes of Sustainable Architecture onto SoundCloud, which can be found by searching the hashtag #sustainable_architecture in Arabic, or from Oman Radio's account.