Podcasts

32. The Future of Work and the evolution of workspaces | Fouad Samara, Award-Winning Architect

Podcast

Fouad Samara | Award-Winning Architect

PODCAST DESCRIPTION

In this episode we meet Fouad Samara, an award winning architect now living in Beirut with vast experience in the United Kingdom and Canada.

GUEST BIO

Fouad Samara with a beard smiling

Having studied at the University of Bath, UK, and worked in Montreal and London, Fouad set up his award-winning practice in 1997 with the aim of contributing to the cultural renaissance the vibrant city of Beirut was witnessing after the end of the civil war.

FSA aims to produce an indigenous architecture derived from and relevant to its cultural, social, physical, and economic context; and applies a stringent design process to develop an architecture of integrity that seeks a unique solution, void of any stylistic or branding preoccupation.

 

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

[00:00:00] – Fouad Samara
An architect is like a reverse archaeologist, that the project is actually there and our role is to bring it out.

[00:00:17] – Doug Foulkes
Hello and welcome to The Future of Work, the podcast that looks at, yes, you’ve guessed it, the future of work. It’s brought to you by WNDYR for their blog. Chaos and Rocketfuel. WNDYR are productivity and human behaviour specialists who use technology to help us humans on our digital journey from disruption to transformation. Check them out at WNDYR dot com.

[00:00:40]
That’s WNDYR dot com. I’m Doug Foulkes and along with WNDYR CEO Claire Haidar, we regularly meet up with industry experts and mavericks to get their take on work in the future. In this episode, we meet Fouad Samara, an award winning architect now living in Beirut with vast experience in the United Kingdom and Canada. Fouad set up his business FSA in 1997 with the aim of contributing to the cultural renaissance the vibrant city of Beirut was witnessing after the end of the Civil War.

[00:01:15]
FSA produces architecture derived from and relevant to its cultural, social, physical, and economic context. It applies a stringent design process to develop an architecture of integrity that seeks a unique solution, void of any stylistic or branding preoccupation. Today, we learn how Fouad has developed this process driven architecture that, when applied, delivers guaranteed originality. We’ll delve into how the pandemic has changed fundamentally how we think of work and personal spaces and what that means for the future.

[00:01:51]
And we’ll get Fouad’s take on relevant and original architecture. But first, to set the scene, let’s get a real feel for how Fouad’s background has shaped his ethos and ethics.

[00:02:03]
Fouad very nice to meet you and welcome to the podcast. My first question is really a personal question about yourself. You’ve been described as a rebel architect by your contemporaries. Why is this?

[00:02:14] – Fouad Samara
Well, I think it’s rooted in my upbringing, to be honest. We were brought up to be free thinkers and not to take anything for granted or as given.

[00:02:24]
And I’ve sort of grown up believing that people are sort of either sheep or shepherds. And I would like to think that I’m not sheep, you know, so we don’t necessarily follow what the mass, you know, people expect. And this kind of thinking developed during my studies in architecture, when my personal convictions and my position within the profession align, this position allowed me even from day one as a student and every day basically to try and search for the essence of things, you know, to find what is the basic thing that makes things tick.

[00:03:04]
And I believe that in any profession, one is always after the truth. The truth is absolute. And when you find the truth or you’re looking for the truth in any profession, really, the principles or the philosophies allign. And when you arrive at the truth and design, for example, in architecture and in philosophy, in a way you achieve timelessness, something that is larger than you and something that endures beyond you, you know, something that is not fashionable, something that is not time related.

[00:03:37]
And my personality informed the way I design, I believe. But during my searching for a continuously relevant and original architecture, it also reinforced my views on modernity and what that means for me, something that is continuously evolving with the times technology and needs something that remains relevant and fresh.

[00:04:01]
So coming up with a unique solution each and every time for a project has been the sort of drive behind the way I work and the way my practice has worked since I set it up in 1997.

[00:04:14]
I mean, for me, very early on, I was able to differentiate in my mind between what classical thought and modern thought was. So classical thought for me is about form language in architecture.

[00:04:29]
So, you know, to simplify it, the Greek pediment, the Greek, you know, first it was on a temple.

[00:04:37]
It was a sign of power then, then it became during the eighteen hundreds, it became something that was slapped onto banks, that became the power and ultimately the kind of architecture of White House architecture ended up with the White House itself.

[00:04:52]
So it’s an architecture that is based on form. And we actually have a bit of that even today where a lot of architecture is form driven. I believe that modernity is about creating something which is truly original and fresh each and every time, and that has the power to reinvent itself each and every time. So I would always ask myself, how am I able to achieve that? You know, and what I came up with was that with the ever changing world, even at a very increasingly first rate, the one thing that can endure that change has to be something which is ephemeral, which is something not physical.

[00:05:38]
And therefore, I think that process is something that can be the backbone. Of design rather than form, and the truth is something that can transcend cultures and transcend needs, it can transcend even building material and material itself, because at the end of the day, there are new materials coming up that there are new technologies coming up and the classical way of thinking cannot keep up with that. So something needs to liberate us from the physical being of architecture.

[00:06:13]
And in my opinion, that thing is process. So I’ve ended up sort of developing a process driven architecture, a research driven architecture, which, when applied to a specific moment at a specific time for a specific site, for a specific client with their own specific needs, you end up with something truly original.

[00:06:36]
And this is actually more difficult than having a brand that you slap on every project and a preconceived kind of way, which is what the sort of Louis Vuitton of architecture is all about.

[00:06:49]
You know, you have a brand and you flog it. So whether designing old folks home or a museum or a private house, you have a brand that you pass on from one project to the other. I’m totally against that. And I think that’s a real problem with architecture today. An architect is like a reverse archaeologist, that the project is actually there and our role is to bring it out.

[00:07:16]
A very important architectural teacher was Colin St. John Wilson who was the chair for architecture at Cambridge. And he describes the architect as not being the father or the mother, nor the child.

[00:07:30]
The architect for him was the midwife that your job was to actually bring the project to fruition in a proper way. I remember we had a very good professor of architecture at the university where I studied Patrick Hodgkinson, and he came up to me in the second year. I didn’t really understand what he was on about in the beginning, and he told me Fouad you have an uncanny ability to see the obvious. And later on, I sort of cherished that description, because I would take my time, I would research things.

[00:08:03]
And as they led me to somewhere new, somewhere, you know, fresh somewhere that has not been tested.

[00:08:10]
But it made sense. And I tested that in my mind and it still made sense.

[00:08:15]
Then I would go ahead with it, even if it were sort of different, you know, and it kind of made me a bit of a black sheep at university. And since but I’m ok with that.

[00:08:27]
I don’t mind that, you know.

[00:08:29] – Doug Foulkes
Fouad I’m going to jump in and stop you because Claire did say you like to talk a bit. So and now we’ve got a whole bunch of questions here. But thank you very much for that because we are definitely going to be looking more at your uniqueness. Authenticity also is another word that comes up when you start reading and looking at your your works.

[00:08:49]
But before we get into all of that, I just want to ask you, obviously, you’re from the Lebanon, but you’ve worked all over the world.

[00:08:55]
How does your geography and this landscape, your local landscape, influence and impact your work?

[00:09:02] – Fouad Samara
As you know, Lebanon is an ancient land. It’s an ancient country, and it’s a very intense country. So even geographically, we have the mountains and the coast and the sea, are all crammed together in a very thin sliver of land which runs parallel to the Mediterranean. So it’s a very intense setting. And our history, which is still in the making, is also very intense. You know, so we have local, regional and international power struggles playing themselves out on a daily basis here.

[00:09:36]
And I grew up during the Civil War, in Beirut, you know, you develop a thick skin, but at the same time, there’s an opportunity to act to all of that in a good way, I believe.

[00:09:50]
And you develop resilience in the way you think and in the way you don’t necessarily take things for granted. You know you develop an appreciation for everything. And I think this has informed the way we research projects and we analyse projects all over the world, not only in Lebanon, but it sort of allows you to sort of see the wood for the trees, you know, and another issue with Lebanon is that our context really is chaos.

[00:10:23]
You know, it’s a very chaotic country. Everything about it is chaotic. And that includes, obviously, the building regulations and the lack of planning in the country. And this chaos, although it produces mostly banal and nondescript buildings and environments, it still offers you. Opportunity to create something which might not necessarily be allowed or permitted in more constrained environments, you know, like in England or in Canada or the States, for example, which is where I’ve also worked.

[00:10:58]
So one of the projects that we’ve done which has been published intensely over the last few years, is Modulofts, which is where I am now where my office is located. And it’s a unique building. It’s got walls that slide out of the facade that allow the spaces to transform themselves in 16 different ways in every loft. And it’s quite a crazy building. We didn’t start off wanting to create a building, but we ended up with that because it made sense to actually create flexible live work spaces in the 21st century.

[00:11:33]
And the sliding walls are a bit of an engineering feat and they wouldn’t have been allowed had it been more constraints in terms of building regulations.

[00:11:46] – Claire Haidar
Fouad, so much of what you shared in your opening answer to us is so relevant to this podcast and exactly why we invited you onto it is as you know, we’re a company that is all about the future of work. And we deal with predominantly large organisations really grappling with how to do everything from virtualise to modernise, to optimise work for the people, but also for the business itself to ensure that they are meeting their targets, their KPIs and their long term objectives for shareholders.

[00:12:25]
And one of the biggest things that’s happening right now is if you look at how the pandemic has shifted the world, it has gone from emergency mode, where everybody was just like, do my people have the relevant equipment to actually just be able to work remotely? And that was kind of like the primary focus. And then it was very definitely like a period of waiting last year where companies were sure that thing was things were just going to go back to normal.

[00:12:52]
And this was just like a holding period. And I think as the pandemic played out, this is something that we predicted and knew was going to happen. But we definitely saw it playing out almost in a delayed way where people realised it’s not going back. And we’re facing a completely new reality in terms of how people are going to mesh work and life. And so the core of this conversation that we want to have with you because of the way you approach architecture from a process perspective and not a brand perspective is, talk to us about how our customers and the listeners of this podcast should really be thinking about what they’re returning to.

[00:13:35]
How should their spaces be redesigned and what are these primary considerations that they should be working from?

[00:13:42] – Fouad Samara
I mean, this is as you say, this is a new reality that we have to sort of face up to whether we like it or not. And I think there could be a silver lining in all of this. This has given us an opportunity to slow down and reassess who we are, how we live our lives, how we spend our time, how we might possibly waste a lot of time commuting and going unnecessarily to places where we don’t really need to be.

[00:14:10]
And I think there’s a fantastic opportunity to assess this new normal, as it were, and find a way to really be more in tune with nature and the environment. We need to remember that the pandemic, or one of the reasons of the pandemic that we’re in at the moment is the fact that our environment is changing and we are changing that.

[00:14:32]
So it’s a symptom of us not being in sync with nature and with our environment and of over-cramping, our cities and offices, and transportation systems and all that. And I think, you know, there’s something interesting about stepping back from all of this and reassessing really who needs to come to work, how we can work, how we can capitalise on the infrastructure that we have, which is the Internet really, and this connectivity, this global connectivity.

[00:15:04]
And I have to discuss a notion that first got developed after the Industrial Revolution in 1898, which was the notion of the Garden City by Ebenezer Howard. What Ebenezer Howard was suggesting then was that because of the locomotive, people were able to work outside of the city, which at the time were dirty and filled with smog and all that and unhygienic.

[00:15:34]
And the idea that was in his mind, the locomotive would actually give the flexibility to actually live and work outside the city and commute and send goods back and forth. Of course, that didn’t work. I mean, that was not connected enough. Neither the railway provided that connectivity, nor did the car. And the only time really, when you actually have the connectivity and have the right infrastructure to actually spread out and work remotely and decentralise is now with the presence of the Internet.

[00:16:11]
The gist of the Garden City is that you are able to live and work in tune with nature in a healthy environment and a positive environment close to your loved ones, and not to waste time commuting and basically spend quality time living and working. And I think there’s an opportunity for that. This doesn’t mean that we abandon the cities. On the contrary, it means that even in the cities, we have to be in tune with nature a lot more.

[00:16:40]
So the quality of the living space, the working spaces has to change. And, you know, these sort of glass towers with no natural ventilation, no outdoor space, people crammed into artificially ventilated and cooled and heated spaces, is no longer, in my opinion, viable, you know, and spending sort of huge amounts of time crammed into subways. And, you know, unnecessarily it is really not the way forward. I think there has to be some sort of decentralisation.

[00:17:13]
There has to be a recalibration of our existence and a rebalancing between our personal and professional lives, which has to be addressed.

[00:17:24] – Claire Haidar
While you’ve been talking.

[00:17:25]
I just Google that the Garden City movement. It’s incredible. I can’t wait to read more about that. So thanks for sharing that. Fouad moving onto my next question, which is directly related to this. So if you feel that, you know, the Garden City concept that Ebenezer Howard proposed is all about that very integrated whole being, living where work and life are not separate, but they very much are the way we exist and live. What would you be saying to a CEO of a thousand, you know, all the way up to a twenty thousand person company?

[00:18:04]
I mean, you know, some of the customers that we work with and who are listening to this podcast right now run companies of two hundred thousand people. What would you say to an executive like that that has invested significant amounts of dollars into actual physical space? Because that is how work was done just a mere 18 months ago. How do they now work their way back from that. Like how do you practically start realising the Garden City concept?

[00:18:33] – Fouad Samara
I think there has to be a few critical steps that are taken and that might take a few months and possibly a couple of years to fully implement. You know, we have to remember that the boat that we were on collectively, globally is a massive boat that has been going in a straight line for the last 100 years. And we now need to shift directions and that can’t happen overnight.

[00:18:59]
But I think these CEOs and these, you know, leaders of these big firms need to reassess the entire work culture and to use the past year as a database to see how many of their staff were able to work from home, how many of their staff were able to work remotely. How can we divide the workforce into chunks of people that can come together when need be, if need be?

[00:19:28]
And I think it’s healthy that people meet, but there might be an opportunity to break down the 20’000 or even 200’000 number down to handleable chunks of entities. And really, one has to think of that in terms of a village, you know, and in terms of different components. So there might be an intense community that comes together regularly and does critical work if they need to do that face to face. But there might be a host of other members who can work independently and commute when needed, if needed, but communicate on a daily basis or instantaneously, possibly in the future, over the net.

[00:20:15]
I think there’s an opportunity for that. And that might lead the way to create healthier, better environments where people are spending less time on less critical things like commuting and more quality time in terms of work and in terms of their personal life. And in a way, it’s recalibrating, you know, the relationship of private life and the professional life of individuals and of the whole company, as it were. I would not say that we need to abandon cities.

[00:20:50]
On the contrary, I think cities are very important and need to be nurtured, but by liberating them, we can actually inject a bit more harmony into our cities, you know, and really just decentralise, you know, the whole population, which is only going to create, in my opinion, a better world.

[00:21:11] – Claire Haidar
Fouad what you’ve said there really gives me a lot of hope. There definitely is, as you say, that whiplash effect that happened post the industrial revolution. I mean, if you just look at like London as a city, it was disgusting. It was like sewage was literally running down the roads and it was covered in smog. It’s one of the cities it’s actually very often written about because of its dirt. And there were multiple cities like that around the world where, as you say, that isn’t the case with cities right now.

[00:21:40]
It’s almost like they regenerated to be very lively, active good places where people collected, and culture and identity was being formed in those spaces in new ways, it would be really sad if that was lost, because if you look at a completely decentralised existence, you’re starting to deal with other issues that would need to be addressed, things like isolation, you know, things with particularly your younger generations that are just coming out of high school and college. You know, they need spaces in which they can merge and become part of societies outside of the very strict family structure during those fledgling years of theirs. There is other things that cities were actually addressing.

[00:22:27]
And that doesn’t make them all bad.

[00:22:30] – Doug Foulkes
In many areas, people say, oh the pandemic has brought everything closer five or 10 years. And I think in architecture it must be the same for yourself. So what are these communal spaces going to look like? How do you see it evolving?

[00:22:44] – Fouad Samara
I think the pandemic has forced us to stop and think about communal spaces. And really what is happening. This pandemic, again, is one of the symptoms of our misalignment with our environment as a whole and with nature as a whole.

[00:22:58]
And I think there has to be a proper realignment with that. And communal spaces are very important because the more we decentralise and I think this is not necessarily a bad thing, you know, to decentralise a bit, it will lessen the load on cities. It possibly could create better, more hospitable communal spaces and the built fabric within cities, which has traditionally reinvented itself every 25 or 50 years, you know, cities continuously are in a mode of change.

[00:23:33]
And that change has to take a direction towards a better realignment environmentally. And there are challenges there, definitely. But there are opportunities.

[00:23:43]
And I think the communal spaces are going to become even more interesting, you know, especially if people end up having a bit more control and flexibility over their time.

[00:23:58]
What I mean by that, that maybe the nine to five working day is no longer viable for the majority of people, or are no longer necessary for that matter, you can maintain productivity by giving people a bit of flexibility in the way they run their day, in the way they deal with their private life, with their family, with their friends.

[00:24:20]
And I think in that respect, the communal spaces, whether they are markets, whether they are recreational spaces, parks, you know, pathways, whatever it is, they will have a different and new layer of definition to them, which might be something we haven’t seen, you know, and it might be something that needs to be discovered, you know, and evolved out of this new need and this new reality. Again, I would say this is an opportunity that needs to be discovered.

[00:24:50] – Claire Haidar
I don’t know if you remember, but a few months ago I tagged you in a post on Instagram where I’d taken Ceder for a walk into an area that’s under really significant development here in Dallas at the moment. And I’m so excited about this development because it’s literally, like Dallas is a city and we see this in so many cities around the world, has historically been a very, very segregated city. So there’s literally this Trinity River that runs through the bottom part of the city and divides it into the north and the south of the city and the south has historically always been kind of like the dumping ground of the city.

[00:25:33]
And it was very interesting when I moved here like four years ago, there was a huge regeneration of the south happening. And it was so beautiful to witness it because all of a sudden it became like the ‘IT’ place where people were seriously considering moving to because of all the movement that was happening there. And what this park is essentially going to do is actually going to once it’s completed, it will become like the largest urban park in the entire US.

[00:26:05]
And you can see a lot of cities going through very similar, because that segregation exists in almost every single major city in the world. And what’s going to start happening is that these green spaces, which were previously seriously neglected and almost just seen as these hard barriers that separated classes and things like that are going to become the actual unifying parts of cities, which is so exciting.

[00:26:31]
Give me your thoughts on that.

[00:26:32] – Fouad Samara
We can do to forget that cities are continuously morphing one way or the other, sometimes for the better, sometimes to the worst.

[00:26:41]
But they change and change is something real. And something evident and something actual. And that is a great catalyst for humankind, in my opinion, and therefore cities can change dramatically and sometimes the epicenter of a city will change because something new has happened some way or another. And I know the project that you’re talking about in Dallas, I think it’s very important because it’ll open up a new part of Dallas a New Dallas that people did not really understand or relate to.

[00:27:13]
The same thing happened in London with the south bank. You know, there’s always this you know, there was always a traditional barrier. You know, anything south of the river was worse than things that were north of the river.

[00:27:26]
And the change actually started in the 1950s with the Festival of Britain in 1951 after the Second World War. And that change is still going on today.

[00:27:37]
And I really think that this pandemic has forced us to re-examine our cities. It will force us to re-examine our suburbs. I think our suburbs need to adopt a few of the traits of the cities and the cities need to adopt some of the traits of the countryside, you know, in my opinion, moving forward.

[00:27:58]
And this is the kind of calibrating balance that I’m talking about, that I think cities need to become more environmentally aligned and the outskirts need to develop a bit more to reflect a professional player layer, rather than just a dormitory layer.

[00:28:19] – Claire Haidar
Like listening to you talk, and Doug, this goes to the next question that you actually are going to ask specifically about Fouad’s offices. Is I can almost see, like what’s happened with Mark and I, so like our family almost represents, I feel a microcosm of what’s going to happen at a much larger scale amongst lots of different families is because Mark and I both run companies, it literally became impossible for us to share office space in our home. And so I ended up because Mark moved into what was originally my office.

[00:28:55]
When the pandemic hit, I eventually moved out of the study and just went and moved into the bedroom because the two of us couldn’t be on calls at the same time, you know, and eventually Mark is like, OK, this is not sustainable. You can’t keep sitting on the bedroom floor and I can’t keep you know, just working in the office on my own. And so he literally went walking down the street one day and there’s a building that he bought like just a few houses down from us.

[00:29:24]
And it used to be what was, like the grocery shop, like almost like 50, 60, 70 years ago in this neighbourhood. So there was a little day-care. There was a grocery shop. And I think there may have been a butcher or another type of shop like that. And if you look at what’s happened because of the way cities regenerated themselves, those little communal points inside the suburbs died because people were getting everything that they needed inside the cities.

[00:29:53]
But it’s almost like the pandemic is bringing back the need for those communal touch points within the places that are predominantly living spaces, because this blend of life and work is coming back again and again, there’s just there’s so much hope in that and there’s so much beauty in that, because once you start creating those communal touch points within living areas, people automatically, communities become healthier when they’re connecting over things like bread and milk at the corner grocery shop.

[00:30:26] – Fouad Samara
Very true Claire, I mean, that’s that’s exactly the way I see it moving forward, because this I mean, one of the things I love about London is that historically it used to be a series of villages that eventually grew and, you know, just crashed into one another.

[00:30:44]
And you have the high street here and there, each village has its own high street and I think we’re going back to something like that, which I think is very sensible and is very cost efficient and it’s very time efficient and it’s very sociable.

[00:30:57]
You know, so this idea of the High Street, which, as you rightly say, has become almost extinct all over the world, you know, and you’ve got all these sort of financial centers and sort of business. Dubai for me is the total end game with that, is that you have sort of education and that this is just a disaster because really what you want for a healthy existence is to actually have all these layers on top of each other.

[00:31:26]
And this is the big problem with suburbia where you end up with a dormitory community. And if you want to buy a newspaper, you’ve got to drive for a few miles.

[00:31:38]
And the irony in suburbia is that when each house, which is a cookie cutter house.

[00:31:45]
Ends up with a three metres wide garden around it and they’re all jampacked next to each other. You end up needing a park in suburbia, which is a total nightmare.

[00:31:57]
These villages might develop around cities and might relieve cities of some of the pressure that they have.

[00:32:05]
Therefore, making them even more interesting and more attractive. And these villages would actually enrich our life. They would actually get rid of the inefficiency that we a lot of us would have in commuting and noise pollution and environmental pollution, all that.

[00:32:25]
And we would actually end up with a much more sensible existence. And so the idea of having a cluster of houses, like a small village around a square, a communal space with possibly work areas that are within walking distance from where you live, with a nursery, with the corner store and all of that. I think that’s the way the future can go. And it might be a way to sort of, again, as I say, relieve cities of the pressure they’re under and by doing that, make them more attractive.

[00:32:59] – Doug Foulkes
Fouad tell me about your own office space. We’ve spoken about yourself and your business and your life and how it’s all connected. How did you and your team design your own offices?

[00:33:09] – Fouad Samara
Well, we’re quite fortunate that the offices within are in a building that we design in 2012, and it was finished in 2016. We moved then. So we occupy loft one of module office, which has seven lofts, and these lofts were designed even before I knew that I was actually going to end up in one of them. They were designed to be flexible, live-work spaces, because we felt that, you know, in the 21st century we cannot predict and we cannot shoehorn people into preconceived spaces.

[00:33:44]
So we built into the Modulofts, flexibility. So each loft, which is around 2000 square feet, has five rooms. One of them is a large double height, like a grand old and four cellular rooms with walls in between them that slide out of the façade, which allow you to either open up the whole space into one big double height space or close it off into five cellular rooms. And this was also part of the reinterpretation of the traditional Lebanese house, which was also quite multipurpose.

[00:34:17]
And this fits perfectly into the way we use it. So we are 12 architects at the moment. And depending on how many meetings we have or whether we have clients over whether we’re meeting altogether or if somebody needs some peace and quiet, the spaces open up and close and reflect the immediate need that we have. So, for example, our kitchen, or the kitchen space is also an informal dining area. That’s also the library. And it can also open up to become part of the studio.

[00:34:48]
So we do have a flexible space that has proven to be, you know, just right, to be honest. And even now, when I’m, when there’s only two of us showing up during the lockdown, I open the whole space up and enjoy the whole space, you know, for myself and one or two other people.

[00:35:07] – Doug Foulkes
Interesting, so that’s your work environment, but you say that actually was designed as a residential space, so you’re almost ten years ahead of your time there as far as having to have this flexibility for working at home today.

[00:35:23] – Fouad Samara
The reason why we called it Modulofts is that it’s also inspired by the Lofts in New York and in Soho and in London, you know, in the 60s. And the whole idea was to actually have this flexibility really built-in flexibility, you know, which we felt was necessary.

[00:35:41] – Claire Haidar
So Fouad as, you know, Mark and I are learning to fly and the very very first ground lesson that they teach you as a student pilot is the four forces that impact flight. And why this is such a critical lesson is because it literally impacts every single thing you will do as a pilot from that point forward. And you need to understand, it is like the most basic thing. What I would love to leave our audience with today is a very similar lesson from you as an architect who has very real experience, like we’ve just heard you speak about these Modulofts.

[00:36:20]
You’ve taken a look into the future. You really have conceptualised, engineered, and built these intermingled spaces that, you know, conform to that Garden City concept. What would be the primary forces or the factors that influence work that people who are dealing with this issue in this regeneration that we’re going through should be thinking about?

[00:36:43] – Fouad Samara
For me, architecture is a practical art, and the difference between practical art and fine art is a practical art has to serve a purpose other than itself. So architecture by definition, in my opinion, has to be both relevant and inspiring.

[00:36:59]
It has to elevate a need that we have a functional need that we have into something poetic. And an architect, is you know, in certain ways, similar to a poet, a poet does not invent language. He doesn’t invent words. He doesn’t invent feelings. You know, he doesn’t invent the grammar. But the way he puts them together elevates each and every one of our feelings toward another level and inspires us and inspires our humanity.

[00:37:25]
So in a way, our role as architects and the way I see things moving forward is for us to actually really research what are the needs that we have, what are the challenges that we that we have, and how can we elevate them into something that will inspire future generations and how to inspire us to move forward within a very challenging world. You know, the pandemic that we are experiencing at the moment, there’s no guarantee that we might not experience another one a few years down the line.

[00:37:57]
So how do we deal with that? How do we how do we protect ourselves, protect our loved ones and keep going as a race? You know? So I think it’s very important to actually keep in mind that architecture has to maintain relevance and has to inspire.

[00:38:13] – Doug Foulkes
Fouad for my last question, you’re going to get an idea of me. I’m talking about budget now.

[00:38:17] – Fouad Samara
Yes.

[00:38:19] – Doug Foulkes
If budget really is an issue.

[00:38:20]
It’s a constraint for some of maybe the creativity that you would like to put into a project. What are the main the most important factors that take priority over everything else?

[00:38:30] – Fouad Samara
I would try to find a way where I could reconcile seemingly contradictory forces. So if you tell me I want to design the house but I don’t have a large budget, I would find a way to design an inspiring house made out of very inexpensive, recycled or salvaged bits and pieces. So I think our role as architects, as environment shapers as you will, is to actually not solve the problem, but eliminate it. We have to find a way where we can really use up all our resources to maintain an inspiring environment that meets the needs of humanity.

[00:39:13]
I don’t need expensive materials or hard to find materials to achieve that, you know, so there is material luxury and there spatial luxury. I’m not concerned at all with material luxury. If it’s there, it’s a plus. But for me, spatial luxury is crucial and spatial luxury you can have you have you know, when you find a tree and an arid landscape that provides you with spatial luxury, you know, so you can achieve that with very modest means.

[00:39:44]
So, again, even if something small, something modest, if it’s something temporary, it needs to be inspiring because at the end of the day, this is what makes humanity tick. And again, I go back to a book that’s totally got nothing to do in principle with architecture, but actually the truth it touches on does. And it’s a book called Built to Last by Jim Collins, and he talks about the genius of the ant, you know, and for me, architecture is about that.

[00:40:17]
It’s about finding something that will bring together seemingly contradictory forces and elevating them into something special. So we have to find the genius of the ant in everything that we do.

[00:40:31] – Doug Foulkes
I love that, it’s fantastic.

[00:40:33] – Claire Haidar
Fouad, thank you so much for your time today. This was honestly an incredible conversation.

[00:40:39] – Fouad Samara
Thank you, Claire. I really enjoyed it. And Doug very nice meeting you.

[00:40:44] – Doug Foulkes
Fouad thank you. Yeah, it was very very interesting. Very enlightening from my side. Thank you.

[00:40:48] – Fouad Samara
Thank you. Thank you both.

[00:40:50] – Doug Foulkes
Well, that certainly was an information rich podcast. It seems we have a long road ahead to take our spatial thinking to the next level.

[00:40:58]
We hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If you have, we look forward to inviting you back sometime soon. To finish just a reminder, for more information about WNDYR and the integration services that they supply, you can visit their website. That’s WNDYR dot com. And so, as always, for me, Doug Foulkes and Chaos and Rocketfuel. Stay safe and we’ll see you soon.

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