Architect on a mission

FariborzHatam

Fariborz Hatam is a man with a real passion for excellence in architectural design.

And when he looks around his adopted home city of Dubai he is not always sure he likes what it is that meets his eyes.

“Dubai is a chaos city, where the new, the large, the artificial and the natural are mixed together without any discernible order,” says Hatam.

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“Such compactness needs more attention to green space provision and environmental well-being which is usually overlooked or sacrificed.” The former design director at international practice Aedas now runs his own business – FHSI Architects – from a highly individually-furnished office in Jumeirah Lakes Towers.

A very unusual slot in the door which can be opened and used to view visitors is a tribute to the medieval knight-style helmet worn by one of his heroes – Australian outlaw Ned Kelly.

“Our projects are not only aesthetically innovative but also focus on user performance,” said Hatam, who is the recipients of three Middle East Architect Awards in the areas of Master Planning, Sustainability and Residential Project of the Year.

“We believe the difference between good design and great design is intelligence.

“Great designs require a greater knowledge about the real human condition and a range of cultural, urban, political and ecological knowledge in order to stimulate relevance and creativity.

“Design offers one of the most powerful ways of exploring ideas.

“Of course, design often starts with a perceived need by a person or groups who want more – more space, more product, more profit –  and so it seems paradoxical to want less while dealing with more.

“Design begins with irreverence to the established order and standards, questioning traditions as well using personal experience to observe, listen, think and take action and vice versa.”

But Hatam feels this is something which is being lost as demand for cost-cutting and construction speed increases – especially in the competitive marketplace of Dubai.

“Design is now a new capitalism where creativity is separated from production,” he says.

Hatam feels that architecture is currently missing “curiosity and attitude”- whereas in the past it was about connections between consumers and producers, which he says has been forgotten nowadays with increasing emphais on financial factors.

“Unfortunately due to the growth of industrialised practices in developing cities, we now have a largely unskilled workforce that is not trained to read and understand drawings but mainly trained to assemble buildings on site – which has resulted in the bad detailing and workmanship of architecture that we see today.

“Excellence in design should consider all aspects of the built environment and bring together the arts, environmental awareness, sciences and technology.

“The challenge of designing in this region is that the industry has not really learned what is beautiful in its simplicity.

“Rather it is focused on an optimised footprint which does not follow either form or function.

“The unfortunate fact is that these architectural designs are effective as far as the market is concerned but they are detached from the real efficiency of the city.” Hatam likens Dubai to a young person – possibly a teenager – who is making mistakes but learning from them.

But architectural errors are set in stone, concrete, bricks, mortar, steel and glass so are not as easy to rectify as the occasional tantrum associated with youth.

“Rapid urbanisation in places such as Dubai, and other developing cities could comprise not only the quality of design standards but also environmental planning,” he says.

“We need to design a rhythm that will include places we can enjoy, this rhythm will be about moving – and stopping. This will help us return to cities designed for people, rather than for cars.

“We need to start adjusting our way of living and thinking where the myopic path of developing first and making amends later leads.”

Hatam said the profession of architecture, design and engineering has a collective responsibility to address these issues and show a commitment to ensuring future generations have an urban environment they can flourish in and their opinions must not be drowned by development-related demands.

He calls on developers to fulfill civic responsibilities to preserve green spaces and provide alternatives or substitutes.

“As architects we have a responsibility to combine our creative design with technical knowledge, to create a physical environment in which people can live and influence the quality of life,’ Hatam says.

“Design should not just be about pushing boundaries and style; it should make invaluable contributions to the quality of life, public health and sustainability of any given region. This contribution will then have a significant role to play in improving social inclusion and, in turn, healthy outcomes in cities.”

He says the public and private sector must work in partnership with government and planning authorities to ensure that developments will conform to a green plan and to a very high standard of design and management.

“By adopting a dynamic approach to the planning, design and maintenance of the built environment, architecture can contribute to lifting productivity and helping us prepare for – and mitigate – projected future impacts arising from population growth, demographic change and climate change,” Hatam says.

“By raising design standards in our cities, urban areas, commercial and residential buildings, the profession as a whole can play a major role in shaping our cities – whether it is Dubai or any other place.

“Unfortunately what is missing in this region – compared to mature developed cities – is a collective voice for architects that should be working together to enhance and promote a profession to face significant challenges, high quality design standards and influence government policies that impact not just on the profession itself but also the future of design standards all across the world.”

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