Rasem Badran


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This study introduces an eminent acting architect in the Arab World, working with a deep understanding of his rich heritage and culture, and full awareness of his moral duty in producing architecture that respects and reflects this special culture besides satisfying functional needs of the end-users.

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Rasem Badran

  1. 1. THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY ARCH 9050 FACULTY OF ARCHITECTURE RASEM BADRAN Globalisation and Architecture Dr. Anna Rubbo Semester 2, 2003 This study will introduce an eminent acting architect in the Islamic World, working with a deep understanding of his rich heritage and culture, and full awareness of his moral duty in producing an architecture that respect and reflect this special culture as well as functional needs of the end-users, to create a culturally appropriate architecture without neglecting the contemporary technologies and methodologies. He reinterprets the traditional building techniques and elements to develop a contemporary architecture, inseparable from its social environment and location. One of his projects will be introduced, discussing its importance in restoring a nearly lost identity and heritage of its location. Yousef Taibeh SID: 033980
  2. 2. TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. INTRODUCTION .................................................................. 3 2. RASEM BADRAN................................................................. 4 3. RIYADH: A HISTORICAL BACKGROUND ...................... 7 4. REDEVELOPMENT OF QASR AL-HUKM ...................... 10 5. CONCLUSION..................................................................... 14 REFERENCES ......................................................................... 15 1 Number of words: 2, 664 word (excluding the summary and the conclusion) Cover image source: Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE), http://csbe.org/, INTERNET [October 28, 2003]. 2
  3. 3. 1. INTRODUCTION The Middle East region has a well established built tradition and rich culture, diverging from one country to another or within the different provinces of the same country, a common core line of shared believes, history and language, historically combined these different communities and building idioms in one major category under the Arab Islamic umbrella. This local architecture of the area faced hard times with the second half of the twentieth century, the time of the blind fascinating with the imported styles and building idioms, this ignorant of the local heritage was most evident in the Gulf States, as these countries were able to import what ever new and fashionable in the West or the East, after the oil discovery the Gulf area and the attendant economic boom in the region. This attitude has resulted in nearly loosing the special character and the identity of these countries, and made the Muslim Arabs strangers in there own cities. Fortunately, and by early 80, a new awareness was forming with the emergence of professional local architects, who tried to deal with the different geographical, cultural and social aspects of the region, and its special and distinctive condition, one these architects is the Jordanian Architect Rasem Badran. Another important acting factor in forming this awareness was a number of Agencies and Authorities, such as The Aga Khan Foundation, The Organization of Arab Cities and Ar-Riyadh Development Authority. These agencies participated in retaining the appreciation of the local architecture and insuring its superiority over imported foreign types. 3
  4. 4. 2. RASEM BADRAN The Jordanian Architect Rasem Badran is one of the most important contemporary Architects in the Middle East region, his ideas have great influence on the architectural realm, and on the newly graduated architects there, his projects are appreciated internationally as examples of excellence and importance for the development of the area, these projects are firmly rooted in the context of the Islamic and Arab world heritage, without loosing the close touch with international contemporary architectural (Institut Für Figure 1 Auslandsbeziehungen), many of these projects have received international and regional awards, such as Palestine Award for Architecture in 1997, Arabic Architects prize Award from Arab Housing Ministers in 1997, Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1995, and Arab Architecture award from the Arab City Organization in 1990. Badran himself also has been awarded with an honorary Ph.D. from the Jordan University for science and Technology to honour his contributions to the field of architecture. In addition to that, Badran has served on a number of international architectural juries, including the International Jury of the Jamaican General Governor’s Award for Architecture in 1992, the Master Jury of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1989, and the Master Jury for the Organization of Arab Cities in 1985 (Dar al-Omran). Rasem Badran was born in Jerusalem-West Bank in 1945, he received his first artistic training from his father Jamal, an Islamic calligraphy and ornamentation artist, who worked on the restoration of the AI-Aqsa Mosque. His school education was in the nearby town of Ramallah, and then he continued his further education in Darmstadt Germany where he graduated with a degree in Architecture in 1970. Following his graduation he worked in Germany for two years and there he had the opportunity to be involved in the design of the visitor service facilities for the Olympic Stadium in Munich, and to participate in the first prize winning project among 250 entries for an international competition of designing a low cost housing, sponsored by the German Ministry of Housing (Abu Hamdan, 1987; Dar al-Omran). 4
  5. 5. He returned to Jordan in 1973 and began his work with a realization of series of impressive private houses, displaying the residual effect of his modernist training in the West through a functionalist approach to form, with experimentations on the physical potentials of the local white limestone. Consequently, he created a partnership with other two Jordanian engineers and started to concentrate on local and international competitions, and on projects of considerable scale. From here, Badran pursued farther commissions in other countries of the Figure 2 region, like Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, and the Gulf states, expanding his vocabulary and frame of reference to include new typologies and elements (Steele, 1991). In these different countries Badran tried to study and analyze the local traditional architecture and the embedded spatial relations in it, then to interpret these idioms without direct copying to it, creating a dialogue between present and past to introduce a contemporary architecture undetected from its location, cultural heritage and society (Badran, 1988). With an emerging awareness of the special identity in these countries and the growing appreciation of local heritage, Badran's approach seemed to be the quest of the different authorities in these countries, and consequently his projects were chosen over other international projects participating in the major architectural competitions held in the area like Qatar Islamic Arts Museum (1997), the Sidon Sea front Development (1996), Darat al-Malik Abdula’ziz Complex in Riyadh (1994), Qasr al- Hukm Mosque and Palace Complex in Riyadh (1985), and the Baghdad State Mosque (1982). , in these huge projects issues of urban design and regional development were most essential (CSBE). 5
  6. 6. The following text will introduce Badran’s work in Riyadh-Saudi Arabia, especially the Great Mosque project; discussing its important position in the city and the surrounding political and social circumstances of this location over time, and the impact the project had on the revitalization of that essential part within the structure of the city. A historical brief will be introduced first putting this project within its context, in the heart of Riyadh, the fast growing city, with disappearing traditional architecture. Figure 3 6
  7. 7. 3. RIYADH: A HISTORICAL BACKGROUND Riyadh, the capital of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is located in the center of Arabian Peninsula in Najd area, an area traditionally isolated from any external influence. It first emerged as an urban center in 1824 when the founder of the second Saudi state (1824191) Turki bin Sa'ud made it his capital. In 1902 Riyadh was restored by king Abdula’ziz Al Sa'ud, the founder of the third Saudi state, which evolved into the present day Figure 4 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Since 1902 Riyadh has grown in area from 1 square kilometer to more than 1,500 km², and in population from 15,000 people to nearly 4.5 millions (Musa, and al-Asad, 2003). An eight-meter high defensive mud and bricks wall circled the 1 square kilometer old city, in the center of the city three main buildings existed: al- Masmak Fortress, Qasr al- Hukm (the Justice palace), and al-Masjid al-Jami' (the Congregational Mosque), a bridge was linking the Figure 5 palace with the mosque to provide a direct path for the governor from the palace, to the mosque, where he performed prayers, particularly the Eid Prayers. This building arrangement was common in many traditional Islamic settlements, to show that the mosque was the source of legislation and the ruler's inspiration. The commercial and communal activities used to take place in the adjacent Sahat aI' Adle (the Justice Square) (ibid.). 7
  8. 8. In mid 1930s, Riyadh extended for the first time outside its walls, this was marked by the construction of the walled palatial complex Qasar al- Murabba' (the Square Palace 400x400m) located 2 km to the north of the old city. The construction of al-Murabba' had a strong impact on Figure 6 the growth of the city by initiating building expansion beyond the city walls and marking the primary direction of this expansion to the north of the old city. New technologies were introduced for first time in Riyadh with this building, as the use of the automobile as a mean of transportation. Never the less, this complex retained much of the general features of the urban patterns of the Najd region, characterized by solid masses, covered streets, with the sun-dried mud bricks and TamaIi-sk tree trunks as the main building materials, appropriate for the dry and very hot climate of the area. Al-Murabba' palace was a positive example of the adaptation of traditional building technologies to large scale projects (ibid.). In 1950 the first reinforced concrete rural palace was constructed in al-Nasariyah Farm 6.5 km west of Riyadh center, this building marked the departure from the build tradition of the region, and open the doors for importing other foreign building idioms, like the dominant orthogonal grid planning pattern of Riyadh, which was first used here. The fifties witnessed a huge program of modem development, when Abdula’ziz's successor, King Sa'ud transferred the government offices from Mecca to Riyadh to ensure its place as the capital of the kingdom. Subsequently, new buildings were constructed to house the different ministries, all in the modem-style of that era, changing the traditional provincial character of the city (Musa, and al-Asad, 2003; Shuaibi, and al-Hathloul. 1984). 8
  9. 9. At that time there was a huge ignorant of local heritage and building traditions, it was regarded disgraceful to have an official building made of mud, most of the mud structures were easily demolished to create new straight lines and provide better access to city center. Figure 7 Riyadh city expanded horizontally to fill quickly its gridiron master plan especially during the construction boom after the rise in oil prices in the 70s, many international Architects and Companies participated in this early example of globalized competition, architects and firms from the weight of the well known American architect Minoru Yamasaki, and the leading Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, the two American firms The Architects Collaborative (TAC), and Hellmuth, Obata +Kassabaum (HOK) (ibid.). By the mid of the 1980s an emerging Arab and Saudi architects started to play a major role in Riyadh a new awareness started to be formed regarding architecture and building construction. Those architects responded in different ways to the climatic constrains and the local architectural heritage the area, another important factor in forming this awareness was Ar-Riyadh Development Authority, the independent governmental entity responsible for the planning and development of Riyadh city, this Authority undertook many important development projects in the city, one of these projects is the redevelopment of Qasr al-Hukm District and King Abdula’ziz Historical Center, Rasem Badran had a major role in actualizing this ambitious scheme together with other pioneering Arab architects like Adel-Halem Ibrahim from Egypt, and Ali Shuaibi from Saudi Arabia,. The next section shed more light on this project and its impact on the city and the community (ibid.). 9
  10. 10. 4. REDEVELOPMENT OF QASR AL-HUKM The redevelopment and revitalization of Qasr al-Hukm District first started in the mid of the 1970s, when the Italian architect Marco Albini was commissioned to carry out a conceptual urban design for the district, he also was in charge of designing a number of buildings situated in this central area. Towards the end of the 1970s, the Saudi firm Beeah Group Consultants conducted some modifications to the internal spaces of the buildings and incorporated the vocabularies of Najdi architecture into the facades. In 1981, the Beeah Group Consultants also were commissioned to carry out the urban design of the whole Qasr al-Hukm District (Musa, and al-Asad, 2003). During the mid 1980s, the second phase of started, Ar- Riyadh Development Authority conditioned that the designer must be a believer in the Islamic faith and a practitioner of Islamic culture, a competition was conducted and architect Figure 8 Rasem Badran of Shubeilat Badran Associates (later renamed Dar al-Omran) was chosen to design the buildings of the Great Mosque of Riyadh, and Qasr al-Hukm, on the same location of the no longer extant al-Masjid al-Jami' and old Qasr al-Hukm, the scope of work also included the urban development of the adjacent public squares, particularly al-'Adl Square, and streets as well as parts of the walls of the old city and its gates and towers in addition to some offices and commercial facilities (ibid.). Badran analyzed the environmental, climatic and cultural factors, as well as the local traditions and social patterns of behaviour, in order to re-create the spatial character of the Najdi architecture idiom. The mosque is set within public areas, recreating the 10
  11. 11. traditional place of worship as the part of the urban fabric. Traditional component, such as courtyards, arcades and the prayer hall, are emphasized. and two square minarets acting as a landmarks identifying the city center and marking the Qipla direction (the direction of the Muslim prayer, which faces the city of Mecca), obviously different from the direction of the surrounding streets, Badran solved this problem by reviving the Riwaq a common element in the region, providing a roofless screen which articulates the various components of the complex and provide a smooth transition between the different directions of the mosque and surrounding streets. The Riwaq also housed a number of small shops in some places. Another gesture was the recreating of the traditional linking bridge between the mosque and the Justice Palace. There are no domes over the prayer hall, which reflects a deep understanding of the social aspects of the regions, as in this area the domes are mainly associated with tombs, columns on a nine by nine meter grid evoke earlier palm trunk construction, the columnar structures and beams contains the ventilation ducts of the air conditioning units on the roof, each unit can be controlled individually to adjust cooling needs according to the occupancy of the mosque, resulting in reduced operating costs (Davidson, 1995). Figure 9 11
  12. 12. The exterior walls of the mosque are clad in local limestone, and the restrained use of small triangular openings organized in patterns both resembles traditional building practice and helps to diminish the harsh glare of the sun in the interior spaces. Courtyards and open squares are aligned towards the Qibla so that they can be used as additional prayer area during feasts days and Fridays. Granite seats and benches, as well as drinking water fountains, have been provided for the general public, and the area is landscaped with palm trees to provide shade. The massing of the buildings and the articulation of spaces and court-yards evoke a traditional character, even though the construction materials and the design of the buildings are completely modern (ibid.). Figure 10 This project addresses the problems of urban space in the centre of a modern metropolis meeting complex demands new program for a site of a historical importance. The architectural solutions responded to the local lifestyle, climate and physical surroundings. The spatial character and iconography of the project provide a sense of continuity with the historical context, through the reinterpretation of the language of traditional Najdi architecture and through retaining the position of the mosque in the heart of the Islamic city as a place of worship as well as the center of 12
  13. 13. commercial and communal activities, Badran demonstrated in this project mastery of building techniques and a deep understanding of the culture of the area. The use of modern materials and technologies, such as air conditioning, is unobtrusive and does not detract from the quite sense of spirituality inside the mosque. The sequence of open courtyards is skilful and sensitive, the architect succeeded in creating a modern urban complex while still retaining the essence of its traditional frame, demonstrating the advantage of the local architecture heritage over foreign imports (ibid.). 13
  14. 14. 5. CONCLUSION Many lessons can be learned from Qasr al-Hukm project, one important lesson is that architecture is for people, it is the embodiment of their history, life and ambitions, architecture should not be dealt with as an sculpture or piece of art, reflecting the intellectuality of the designer, away from the needs and demands of the users. In this aspect Rasem Badran describes Qasr al-Hukm project as: “a master plan for a way of life, rather than just a visual exercise or personal expression of man’s desires and cultural background. Architecture has to be an embodiment of human and moral concepts … We should seek those special characteristics within the social environment that can offer the society an identity” (Abu Hamdan, 1987). Qasr al- Hukm project reside in heart of the city and the community, the memory of the place was stimulated as the public feast and ceremonies are held here again after more then fifty years of amnesia. Figure 11 14
  15. 15. REFERENCES Abu Hamdan, Akram. 1987. Rasem Badran of Jordan. In MIMAR 25: Architecture in Development. Singapore: Concept Media Ltd, pp. 50-70 Badran, Rasem. 1988. Historical References and Contemporary Design. In Theories and Principles of Design in the Architecture of Islamic Societies. Margaret Bentley Sevcenko (ed). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, pp. 149-59 Davidson, Cynthia C. 1995. Great Mosque of Riyadh and Old City Centre Redevelopment. In Architecture Beyond Architecture. Cynthia C. Davidson, and Ismail Serageldin, eds. London: Academy Editions, pp.84-93 Musa, Majd and Mohamed al-Asad. 2003. Riyadh Architecture in One Hundred Years. An essay on a public lecture presented by Saleh al-Hathloul at Darat al-Funun, Amman on April 21, 2002. available from: http://csbe.org/, INTERNET [October 28, 2003]. Shuaibi, Ali and Saleh al-Hathloul. 1984. The Justice Palace District, Riyadh. In Continuity and Change: Design Strategies for Large-Scale Urban Development. Margaret Bentley Sevcenko (ed). Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, pp. 37-48 Steele, James. 1991. Recent Work by Rasem Badran. In MIMAR 41: Architecture in Development. London: Concept Media Ltd, pp. 42-49 Agencies and Authorities: Aga Khan Award for Architecture, web site: http://www.akdn.org/ Ar-Riyadh Development Authority, web site: http://arriyadh.com/ Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE), web site: http://csbe.org/ Dar al-Omran Company, web site: http://www.daralomran.com/ Institut Für Auslandsbeziehungen, web site: http://www.ifa.de/ 15