Now that I have completed 50 years of work, I would like to draw conclusions on what architecture design means from my perspective. During these five decades, I was lucky to travel all around the world and meet people who lived in Africa, North and South America, in the Far East, the Middle East and in Europe.
Although humans are similar, their taste is different. In some countries, you need to show off, in others you need to be discreet, and overall the role of an architect consists in observing their clients, identifying their ideals, understanding their complexes, reading their real budgets, and providing solutions, without explaining the reasons, whilst developing buildings, which will positively influence their future.
This applies to small dwellings, luxury villas, palaces, social housing and also to public buildings, such as museums, hotels, airports, hospitals, ministries, recreation and sports facilities. All these types of buildings I had the lucky opportunity to work on. An architect needs to study the country’s history, the untold stories and the hidden messages, which one can find in fabric designs in Africa for example, in the table dressings in China, in the poetry in Iran, in the legends, etc, before starting to design any building.
Young designers today follow international trends or copy and paste, and as a result the buildings have no soul. Respecting the past and providing modern solutions to today’s needs is the real challenge. When I started, it was said that the lifespan of a building was around 30 years, now it is over 50, when the design is professionally done.
In the Middle East for example, Islamic architecture does not necessarily mean arches and domes, but it means showing the limits of public and domestic life, by organising both parts with the same attention. Geometry plays an important role in this type of architecture, not forms without relation to its function, just for aesthetic reason, but because of its location, and interference with other volumes, etc.
In the Western world, things are very different. Usually, architects have to design a public building as real statements and landmarks, to prove their real existence, whilst in the Far East, it aims at expressing their culture.
No matter where a building has to be built, it is important for an architect to be generous in his space planning. Often clients will want the best and tell you a budget well below their requests. One should not compromise with space, because in the future, nobody will remember that the client had limited your budget.
Another aspect of an architect’s role is to provide a new image of his client, which people will associate with his building. Unfortunately, I witnessed several times clients who really believed that the image created, was their own genuine one, and forget that the image was created for them.
The biggest satisfaction and reward for an architect is to see the people using the building, satisfied with what has been built. Witnessing the satisfaction of people using the designed spaces, having contributed to their improved life cannot be matched by anything else. Innovation in buildings should be based on long-term observation of what exists and how it can be improved. It is not by copying what has been in other countries, without looking at how it can be cleaned and properly utilised. An architect is at the service of his client and the building he designs cannot serve as an expression of his personal ego.
To remain humble is one of the most important aspects of the work of an architect and the generosity of his designs is expressing the level of his talent. If I had the choice again to select a profession, I would not hesitate one second and select the same. There is no joy more than adding value to people’s lives, by creating volumes in which they live.