Interview: Fahed + Architects on sustainable architecture and sourcing local materials
Launched by Indian architect Fahed Majeed in 2005, Fahed + Architects now has offices in the UAE, India and Indonesia. While the Bali office primarily deals with product design and landscape, the other two focus on architecture, masterplanning and interior design.
“We have various scales of work and awards; in fact, I’ve just won the National Architect of the Year Award in India,” said Majeed. “As a practice, we’re conscious of two main things: sustainability and specifying local products. It doesn’t only add a specific character to the project, but it also grounds the project in that region and contributes to its location positively.”
Sourcing local materials for architecture and interiors projects is a priority at Fahed + Architects. According to the founder, it allows you to make positive local impacts. “We’re very conscious of that,” he said.
“The other agenda we have, which is really tailored for the Middle East in general and the UAE in particular, is moving towards food security,” Majeed added. “Across the Middle East, there are massive spaces where certain areas could be, and should be, dedicated to food production. There should be regulations for this because we don’t need to be dependent on other nations and regions for our
requirements. There’s a certain amount of sustenance that we need to be self-reliant for.”
Fahed + Architects aims at promoting food security by educating clients and incorporating it into their projects via architectural solutions. One example is the company’s Sky Pa Sand project, designed for an airline and intended for Dubai’s Al Barsha area.
The custom designed building measures at 27,000 ft2 and primarily constitutes a series of multifaceted fabrics. The architects’ use of visual lightness, thermal efficiency and light provides an ethereal experience, as the light scape of the building is well orchestrated, with lots of natural light during the day. This helps reduce the light pollution.
“Sky Pa Sand is like a chunk of cloud on earth, and it contrasts against the materiality of the desert,” said Majeed. “It’s made of a fabric that can change colour and it contains some gallery spaces and vertical gardens that can actually produce food.”
Another project by Fahed + Architects is Art Box, which was planned for d3 as an affordable warehouse space that can be rented by artists. According to Majeed, Art Box would offer a nice alternative from the increasingly expensive workshop spaces currently populating the design district.
“The d3 area has become a high-value area, so the agenda is to have a temporary structure that lasts only a few years and make it minimal. It’s primarily a warehouse structure with containers that are individual dwelling units, with rent around 100 to 150 dirhams a day,” said Majeed.
In addition to its more conceptual and temporary work, Fahed + Architects also delivers residential and commercial projects. The firm has recently been shortlisted for an airport project in the UAE, for which it would be working in collaboration with Foster + Partners.
The team is serious about its commitment to sustainability, though, and is currently conducting research on hydroponic technology. “It’s high-time for the region to really focus on food security,” Majeed said. “And as an architect, my work is about creating built environments so the inclusion of these architectural solutions isn’t so difficult. We can do it.”
This year’s ‘Abwab’ pavilion is built by Fahed + Architects, who’ve joined forces with waste management company Bee’ah to source recycled material for the design, including bed springs and concrete. The space, which will exhibit projects by designers across the region as well as highlight values like recycling, conservation and technology, will be set in the centre of Dubai Design District (d3).
“We met with Dubai Design Week and they asked us to create a pavilion,” said Fahed Majeed, founder of Fahed + Architects. “One of the mandates was that we use recycled material from the Bee’ah yard in Sharjah. So we visited the facilities a couple of times and they have the most sophisticated recycling facilities in the entire Middle East region. They have state-of-the-art recycling facilities for recycling rubber, metal, plastic and even mattresses.”
During one of his visits, Majeed came across bedspring coils. Taken by the surprising versatility of the material, the architect pitched it to the client, who readily accepted the idea.
“The bedspring coils looked very energetic and dynamic, so I was directed towards that material,” he said. “I had a lot of confidence in working with it. I thought, just by using it we can do something interesting.”
Also designed by Fahed + Architects’ Githa Vijo and Victoria Parker, the pavilion evokes a honeycomb as it was colour treated to take on a copper, orange appearance. Surrounding the pavilion is a one metre concrete barrier that prevents people from approaching the sides of the structure.
“You can see from one of the sketches that there are a bunch of columns that stand upward, and the springs float around them like cotton candy,” said Majeed. “It’s a real challenge for multiple reasons. Firstly, the material has never been used before, and secondly, we don’t have a foundation because it’s a temporary structure that needs to be built and dismantled easily. The barrier that surrounds it is there to prevent children from trying to climb the structure – the entry and exit points are very clearly defined.”
The flooring of the pavilion consists of recycled concrete, and the space is not air conditioned. The temperature and air flow will be regulated by interior fans and shading is offered by the nearby buildings.
“The architecture of Dubai Design District is a little sober and mellow, so we wanted to add some life to the space, that’s why we’ve coloured the structure. The rest of the design was informed by the core values of recycling and sustainability,” said Majeed.
Meaning ‘doors’ in Arabic, the ‘Abwab’ pavilion will be completed in time for Dubai Design Week, to be held from 13 to 18 November, 2017.