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AD (Architectural Design) John Wiley & Sons, London
AD online
UAE and the Gulf: Architecture and Urbanism Now
Issue edited by Kevin Mitchell and George Katodrytis

At the end of the 20th century, Dubai attracted international media attention as the world sought to make sense of the city’s extraordinary growth. Exuberant projects such as the Burj Arab, the Burj Khalifa and the Palm Islands attracted investment in dreams to transform the region. While the global financial crisis kept dreams from becoming reality, this issue of AD seeks to present a view of architecture and urbanism in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other states in the wider Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at a time when greater economic stability promises new beginnings. The issue presents examples of architecture that transcends preoccupation with fabricating images, and traces the process of making contemporary Gulf cities, from material tectonics to large-scale masterplans. By presenting the architecture of UAE and the Gulf within the context of broader regional developments and global trends, it highlights how projects in the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have contributed to unprecedented urban growth, while emphasising the continuing environmental challenges of building in the region. In addition to highlighting various sustainable initiatives intended to counteract these challenges, the issue also explores how computational design and new technologies are being innovatively employed to mitigate the impact of arid climates.

Sections
Museums
Education
Urban and Architectural Typologies
The High Rise
Urban Plans
Sustainable Initiatives
Emerging Practices

Contributors
Sarina Wakefield
Mona El Mousfi
Sharmeen Syed
Ameena Ahmadi
Terri Boake
Ahmad Abdelrazaq
Steven Velegrinis
Rami Samahy
Kelly Hutzell
Adam Himes
Varkki Pallathucheril
Todd Reisz
Malcolm Smith
Robert Cooke
Jeffrey Willis
Kevin Mitchell
George Katodrytis

AD
above: AD cover

AD
above: Collage by Manar done in George’s class

AD
above: Gerber Architekten’s King Fahad, National Library, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

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My Favorite Book Lists on Architecture and the Built Environment as published online by the Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE ) in Amman

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, 1972
This novel makes you see cities differently. This book is like space; every time you revisit it has a different meaning. You should read it at the beginning of your architectural career. It will open a new world of spatial possibilities that will make sense every time you visit a new city. You should also read this book before you visit Venice.

Anthony Vidler, The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely, 1992
This book is a series of essays on contemporary architecture using the uncanny and alienation as a way to understand why architecture can be fragmented. The complexity of space is related to the “unhomely” modern condition.

Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, 1967
All architects should be urbanists. This book is a manifesto about the city, the street, its media, its anarchy, and the visual interpretation of complex urban systems. It elevates the collective and participatory condition of culture into a mainstream popular approach.

Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, Learning From Las Vegas, 1972
Moving beyond looking at cities as romantic places made of historic squares and pedestrians, this book – through the analysis of Las Vegas – celebrates the system and dynamics of speed, of signs, of surfaces, and of artificiality. Read this book and then drive through the city.

Bernard Tschumi, Manhattan Transcripts, 1981
Architectural space, like a film script, can only be experienced through time. This book is a visual essay of photographs, notations, and tectonics, constructing narratives of experience and events to geometric spaces. I bought this book in Paris when I worked with Bernard Tschumi. The next day in the office, I understood better the Parc de la Villette project. Read this book before you visit New York.

Paul Virilio, War and Cinema, 1989
The technology of optics and war machines was in effect a simulation of space as image and representation. This book will open possibilities of looking at architectural space as illusion with edited sequence of scenes as though looking through a viewfinder. Read this book before you go to a film.

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Growing and weaving strands and trails from particles in dynamic forces and gravity environments.

Strands
Strands
Strands
above images: references of strand generation and weaving

Strands
Strands
above images: Untitled Yellow by Electric Umbrella Studio

Strands
Strands
Strands
Strands
above images: dynamic participles and strands scripting by George

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Interview – George Katodrytis, Architectural Speculation & Education
Hers Khazeen online

Interviewed by Heba Najada

During Amman Lab’s X-Talk, HKZ had the chance to meet George Katodrytis, one of the most recognized architectural educators regionally. Katodrytis’ students projects are among the recipients of Omrania | CSBE Student Awards.

George Katodrytis is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the American University of Sharjah who has studied and taught at the Architectural Association in London and he has been a visiting professor at various schools around the world. He has built a number of projects as well as published widely on contemporary architecture, urbanism, cultural theory and digital media. The work addresses the “city,” especially as it is evolving in the 21st century. He has adopted digital technology and scripting as tools for establishing new formal and performative models in architecture.

1- Your studio is an archive of material adaptability. Can you explain how issues of typology, program, user and site came into play for your project?

All the studio projects are initiated by students. The starting point is concepts, collages and physical models on selected themes. These are developed within the overall framework and theme of the semester defined by the studio. Material and fabrication studies (which generate structure) and spatial iterations (programmatic possibilities and user experience) are then transformed into systems (typological variations) that subsequently are scaled, adapted and applied to individual sites and context. Issues of program and the site are components to define a project than to generate it.

Unless an important or historical site is given as part of a brief there is no point using the site to make a project. It is more meaningful to make an architectural space of high quality, open and pure, (referring here to the modernist dogma) that can resist time and urban transformations than a quick solution to a site problem. Abstraction here supersedes figuration. We design prototypes and systems.

2- How is your studio speculative? And, how does it run between design components (program, site), digital formulation, and material investigations?

All architectural design is speculative, until it is built. This is what distinguishes architecture from other crafts and arts. This allows for the testing of concepts and the development of narratives prior to construction. Design is an autonomous process and an incubator of ideas.

The sequence of operations in the process follows a logical structure: concept, collages, machine, physical modeling, digital modeling and scripting (program and variations), systems and iteration (scale and adaptation to a site), test fabrication, representation (architectural drawings such as plans and sections extracted from complex 3d digital models) detail and ultimately construction. It is a sequence of continuous and rigorous transformation. The studio progresses in a series of stages, with each stage corresponding to an increase in complexity, scope and scale. The quality of both the process and the outcome are equally important.

By adopting contemporary practices, such as modeling in physical and digital form, the work of the studio attempts to go beyond some of the preconceived limitations of architecture, notably that of the traditional sequence of site, program and solution. We like the incomplete, raw, crude, unpolished and endless potentialities of architecture; atmospheric than glossy. The studio is interested in questioning as to what architecture might be – not what architecture is already understood to be, or how it is already created and practiced.

3- Let’s talk more specifically about the form-making and its process.

Architecture is, ultimately, about form. All architects, whether designing or building, are formalists even if they never admit it. During the process of design, an architectural language becomes gradually embedded, first in the early explorations, and then it is manifested in drawings, models and animations. This is ultimately brought together with the necessary demands for use, functionality and occupation. At the end of the process all architecture and its formal expression has to be beautiful. The studio employs techniques, logical and intuitive, analog and digital to represent the project. This generates a system of tectonics and structures, which are spatial and formal. We are not interested in the oversimplification of architecture, the production of generalized space and banal poetics.

In recent years the studio projects developed an architecture that is built up by many different strata of applied scientific knowledge, software based morphologies, micro-worlds and intelligent environments such a physical forces, gravity, fluid dynamics, particles and temperature. This is a type of performative application than aesthetic composition. Dynamics, topology and systems then become tools that pertain in large degree to the control and manipulations of formal strategies.

4- In the discussion of contextualism, your studio is contextual in an avant-garde manner, as something other than responding to the existing site but rather a response to the add-on (material).

Context should not be reduced only to the facades and heights of surrounding buildings or to random nearby urban activities. Good architects have the ability to exclude than include and focus on a singular and significant idea. Contextualizing a project is a complex process of discovering and balancing visible and invisible forces and parameters; it not only about fitting into a surrounding. A project should give something significant back to the site and the city and in most case it can ‘make’ the site, if the site has nothing to offer. We can contribute more to the city than just replicate it.

5- Which architects in your own personal collection are crucial to this typology of architecture?

I respect architects who have consistency in their work and have produced a ‘body of work’, which makes an impact. There are number of these examples, notably modernist architects. Historically Piranesi and Russian Constructivists and more recently Lebbeus Woods are few examples. Their work has a unique identity, it is consistent and representation becomes an integral part and powerful tool to define and specify their ideas. The work also challenged mediocrity and the norm. Poetics alone is not enough without polemics.

6- A common theme we have seen in your studio is progressive experimentation. Is this inherent in AUS’s pedagogy and teaching method?

Final year architecture studios in most schools are thematic in nature and research oriented. This is also the nature of the program in architecture at AUS. The early years are more structured in terms of pedagogical goals and outcomes addressing fundamental aspects of architecture. This way we prepare students when they graduate to be equipped to decide for their future and professional careers. The majority will go in practice and some will continue with graduate studies.

The studio is organized like an experimental-research effort in a field of architectural than a typical academic studio. Within this framework each student has the opportunity for independent research. Each proposal is identified by the singularity of the idea and intention.

7- Architecture education is key in order to form the new generation of professionals that will face the critical issues of contemporary Arab World. How do you see your role as an educator in this preparation?

Students and young graduates of architecture in the Arab World have tremendous potentials. No need to look at the western model alone. The environmental, cultural and material culture of the Middle East is so rich that it can be reinterpreted and stand-alone.

Studios should work within the context of the post Middle Eastern city at the beginning of the 21st century as a metabolic instrument and develop proposals that trace a subliminal and imaginary condition both at urban and landscape or desert areas. The idea of ‘newness’ in architecture should be used at various levels to achieve innovative architectural propositions. As such the role of educators of architecture in the Arab World is complex: teach the basics, understand the city and engage with it, not only historically, deal with hybrid and contradictory models, discover unique material processes as well as use digital media in the process. But the emerging young generation of architects in the region is capable to make an impact.

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A group of student projects completed at AUS by 8 young architects during their undergraduate education are shown below. Each of the 8 projects focuses on architectural experimentation, loosely defined by program, type and context. Despite the initial appearance of diversity within the set, each architect sought to address a common set of ideas emerging at George Katodrytis’s studio at AUS and perhaps within the discourse of architecture at large.

Studio
above: Danilel Dias – Mountain Retreat in Oman – view – fractal kinematics

Studio
above: Danilel Dias – Mountain Retreat in Oman – section – fractal kinematics

Studio
above: Faiqa Akram – Structure for a Mosque 1 – model 1 casting with gravity

Studio
above: Faiqa Akram – Structure for a Mosque 2 – model 1 casting with gravity

Studio
above: Farah Mudhefer – Melanoma and Skin Clinic and Retreat – sections – animate model with light

Studio
above: Parastoo Najafi – Gallery space generated from growing crystals – sections

Studio
above: Parastoo Najafi – Gallery space generated from growing crystals – interior of concrete cast model

Studio
above: Sema Orouk: Mosque space generated from frozen fabric – view

Studio
above: Talin Hazber – Desert Machine – model

Studio
above: Talin Hazber: Casting Domes in Sand using a Robot – experiment

Studio
above: Talin Hazber: Cast Domes in Sand – model

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George gave a presentation Perfomative Urbanism: Mapping Urban Systems at the Failed Architecture workshop: Revising the Heart of Sharjah, Maraya Art Center, Sharjah
Failed Architecture link:
‘…We ended the day with a presentation by George Katodrytis, architect and Associate Professor of Architecture at the American University Sharjah. He showed examples of cultural mapping and and other visualisations of the hidden features of an urban areas. Distinguishing formal modernist grid-cities from more informal traditional Islamic urbanism, he emphasised the importance of invisible systems in the city. He argued that understanding hidden patterns, and reading cities ‘between the lines’, allows us to find new possibilities and open up space for new ideas to materialise.
Building on the legacy of the Situationists and their notion of ‘dérive’, which could be described as an unplanned journey through an urban landscape, Katodrytis showed mapping tools and tracking devices that scan the city beyond its surface and reveal the intangible aspects of cities: the flow of people, historic layers, sensory stimuli, emotional boundaries and virtual enclosures. Among the examples he showed were NB’s typographic map of London and an incredible project by Dubai based X-Architects, showing the virtual layers in Dubai based on fluctuations in the Wifi-signal along the main thoroughfares.
Talking about Madinat Jumeirah, a luxury resort in Dubai designed to mimic a traditional Arabian town, he stressed that it is largely staged and scripted urban environment. The behaviour and movement of visitors is conditioned and patterns can almost be predicted. When asked, he argued that the development of the Heart of Sharjah resembles that of Madinat Jumeirah and would therefore allow for ‘prospective mapping’.
Whereas the current social and economical dynamics of the area are mostly informal and unpredictable, necessitating the use of non-traditional mapping techniques to understand their inner logic, the future use by tourists and other visitors will likely follow a pre-defined (and profit-oriented) pattern. In the narrow alleyways of the Heart of Sharjah the idea of ‘dérive’ will gain a new meaning: unplanned wandering as a way to prevent visitors from leaving the shopping district, instead of a way to get lost and find space for self-expression…’

George Katodrytis
Failed Architecture Workshop
above images: Workshop lecture

modernity
modernity
above images: Exhibition of Modernity – “Futurama’, New York World Fair, 1938

systems
above: Urban systems

pattern
above: Urban patterns

bank street Sharjah
bank street Sharjah
bank street Sharjah
above images: Bank Street, Sharjah

bank street Sharjah
above: ‘Heart of Sharjah’ proposal

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