Architecture is a significant characterization of a nation’s civilization. The [play] timeline of the development of Jeddah indicates such a slow motion in innovation and creativity that it is not quite qualified to compete with its past architecture, and consequently, stand out on the map of great cities. [link] For our contemporary movement, the following is a question to form an understanding:
Is [zero] a point of beginning, or a mark of failure?
In a catalogue of reasons and marks of failure of present architecture, there is a simultaneously weak and unrecognized [movement] to shape the city architecture which has not been up to the heights of [magnificence]. A basic observation marks this [so-called] failure. Like the reflection of [Al-Tahliya] street, there is a lack of beauty, a lack of landmarks, a lack of might, and worst of all, a lack of central relationship with its people. The appreciation of architecture as frozen music is lost to the eye. Excitement in the street is lost. The Ugly Building is a verity; it will remain eternally, for all time.
It is dangerous; a city that brought people together once is separating people away from each other.
I believe that the time from the watch of beauty has been broken since the late 80s as evident in [Madina Road], but “even a broken watch is correct twice a day.”* Is it because we couldn’t defeat our past that we decide to escape into chaos?
What’s more, how many houses were designed by architects in Jeddah? Who has the answer for this query? From where did we learn to live this way? Each room is a house on its own, and then there are five small houses within a single house! We cannot afford to live this way anymore. We can no longer ignore the re-emergence of these monsters looming over the horizon: [economic and social factors]
Therefore, one might ask, is architecture about contradiction? Not at all. But then why is this city about contradiction? Between the old 70s – 80s architecture and present time, are the people, designers, architects, politicians. Moreover, the public has its own opinion on architecture; they fall in love with the past. Even the remark “I don’t know” is an opinion on architecture.
Is all of this about the [box] we have contained our minds in?
Why do people want to go back? What is this fear of the future?
This is not an invitation to borrow or to copy from the past. It is an invitation to understand that these old masters produced a tried-and-tested system of architecture that reflects time, needs, materials and environmental compositions that justifies its label as an amazing period of architecture. Let’s learn from the past. That is the invitation.
This box might symbolize history; anything outside of it stands for the future. Withdrawing out of the box from inside the standard architectural institution is a needed journey. We need to stretch ourselves out of this box. Prior to that, we need to live our box, to understand the angels of this box, why we want to leave this box.
It is all about the [need] for something called [change], the nature of [development]. This is a great profession, but with few great professionals. There is a new [eye] and a new [ear] to mark a new [era]. The senses have evolved into another staged level of communication. Not unlike the classic telephone ring tone which was, for years [riiiing riiiing], until it evolved to rapper 50 Cent demanding you to answer your phone.
Changing our life is changing our perceptions: the way we think, the way we live, and ultimately, interacting with the surrounding environment. Architects have lost their way to architecture. They need to get back on track.
The irony is that the opponent and the ally is the same in the battle of architecture. It is the Public. We architects need to seduce and to educate this Public. Let’s not forget that great architects exist because of great clients. There is a need for the comeback of these great clients. We need to receive the expression of strength in architecture to bring back our might. Yet we have to admit that people have lost faith in architects, faith that should have been developed. It’s imperative that we, the new generation, win back this faith.
So who is that so-called [the architect] anyhow?
Let us agree that an architect identical to a theatrical producer with a vision: a mind that experiences foresight, that defines solutions in order to create functional art through the understanding nature of human and environment, that “lives in the distant future” with a set of instructions and moral leadership characteristics that guides one to step into the unknown. The journey with the architect will always be mysterious. It takes one through a path of darkness, yet the destination is enlightenment. It is a journey inside the mind that starts with imagination, and ends with a destination that is reality. Because of this relationship, with notion and manifestation in mind, we no longer want to merely step forward, rather we are eager to [march forward].
This is not a glorification of a profession, nor is it a criticism of professionals. This is a call for a dialogue.
The possibility of real dialogue on the meaning of architecture has once again begun. Jeddah has become a battleground for architects with values leaning towards the future, and public opinion versus architects pressured by the drive of commercial development. We are missing the moment of genius thinking of an architect that can re-express the soul of a city. Let us not forget that Jeddah is an amazing city.
Here is where the [zero] becomes a value. We are thankful, grateful and gratified with all architects who have shaped our city. It is time to mark the value of the [zero] as an extraordinary beginning. There is no more failure. Subsequently, as a generation of architects, there are fewer fighters amongst us. We do not enjoy being the victim anymore.
Granted, it shall be a difficult re-birth of the city. But it is a notion of forward-thinking and service to the city. This is the promise.
It is all about understanding the moment of design in order to design a moment of understanding.
Maximus: You ask me what I want. I too want to stand up to the Emperor as you did.
Proximo: Then listen to me. Learn from me. I wasn’t the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd. You will win your freedom.
Maximus: I will win the crowd. I will give them something they have never seen before.
- Gladiator (2000)