Designing for food security

This year’s ‘Abwab’ pavilion for Dubai Design Week is designed by Fahed + Architects, who are working in tandem with waste management company Bee’ah to source recycled building materials such as bedsprings and concrete. A first in regional architecture to use such materials, the experiment is an exciting one particularly for Fahed Majeed, founder of his namesake company, who, upon coming across the material, knew immediately it would lend itself to an interesting project.

Throughout our conversation, Majeed brought up the importance of food security particularly for Gulf countries. For him, it’s an added responsibility for architects in the region to educate clients and find ways of integrating environmental concerns into building designs.

“In the Middle East, we have massive spaces where certain areas could be, and should be, dedicated to food security,” he said. “Here in the UAE, we don’t need to be dependent on other regions or other countries. There’s a certain amount of sustenance that we need to be self-reliant for.”

Majeed added that because food security isn’t yet a part of design regulations in the region, his practice is pushing the agenda via client education. “If the client is informed, then there’s a possibility for action,” he said. “For example, one of our projects, Sky Pa Sand, has a vertical garden that can produce vegetables. Even if it’s just lettuce, it’s one step forward.”

Courtyards are often integrated into local architecture

Integrating courtyards into architectural designs has long been an element of traditional and contemporary architecture across the Middle East and North Africa, but what Majeed is proposing takes it a step further. In addition to creating a green space that offers an outdoor social area that’s shaded, a productive garden provides sustenance to immediate end-users.

A few issues back, I spoke with Jordanian architect Hanna Salameh about repurposing abandoned towers in Amman. His firm had proposed turning two buildings into farms, with each floor planted with vegetables and herbs. The ground floor would host a market place, he added, where the farmers would get to sell their produce. It’s an ingenious way of repurposing architecture because it helps create jobs and support the community.

“Forget about relying on other countries,” added Majeed, “just think about the quality of the food that’s coming into the country and the sort of pesticides that get into it. It’s high-time for the region to really focus on food security, 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.”

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