Two of the brightest minds I have met in Kuwait, Rashed Al Foudari and Dawood Al Bader mostly known as the owners and architects of the famous Thai restaurant, Ubon, are making an innovative impact in the Kuwait’s world of architecture.
Rashed and Dawood both studied at Kuwait University in the Architecture department. They are freelancing architects willing to go in to the architectural world of Kuwait with a challenge of crossing the barriers of the typical “playing it safe” game.
So tell me what’s the story behind Rashed and Dawood working together.
We used to be close friends in university. We worked on a lot of projects together. After graduation, we felt that the market was more or less taking advantage of people, where design seems like a product to sell, taking it purely as a business.
What is the culture of Dawood and Rashed’s architectural studio?
We try not to take a lot of projects at the same time; allowing us to focus on each one as if it where our own. We go into every detail in our designs, and we ensure that every space portrays a unique significance.
What was your motivation to join the field of architecture?
Dawood: I was just 16 when I entered university, I had no background in architecture, however I knew I enjoyed a practical field of work. The people around me gave me an idea about Architecture, so I just decided to join without knowing if it’s exactly what I want or not.
Rashid: I had a vague background about the field, however from the other majors at K.U. this one suited me most.
What are your first projects you have worked on?
We started with designing our own restaurant Ubon and Rush gym for men. We also worked on designing furniture and interior to close friends and families during our university years as a part time job. We have also designed small courtyards and facades for residential houses. We also joined some exhibitions and designed our own furniture. We got a lot of experience from that by dealing with different clients, contractors and suppliers.
What projects are you currently working on?
We are currently working on Rush gym for women. We are also working on a Brazilian restaurant in Kuwait City.
What is the idea and concept behind Ubon?
It was the other way around; we liked the space and wanted to do something with it. We worked in parallel with managing the food, looking for cutleries, managing governmental papers, and designing the place. Although initially we had negative thoughts from some people, we still went on with the idea. We thought that Thai cuisine is interesting and that people in Kuwait are missing out on something.
The interior design concept was minimal; we used Asian technique of burnt wood along with metallic golden finishes reflecting the “Thai ornamentation” in a minimal way.
What type of architecture do you practice?
It depends on the needs of the market (clients). Most of the projects we have done so far are commercial in particularly, interior design projects.
Are you advocates of form or functionality?
We both think that form and function complement each other where both have to be equally thought of during any design. We face some challenges sometimes, however we try our best to balance them out.
Do you integrate sustainable design into your projects?
In most of our projects we push the clients in cutting down energy consumption, where in interior projects LED lights and smart systems play an important role. On the other hand, when it comes to designing architecture projects we consider the sun orientation, evaporative cooling, landscape within(courtyards), and etc. Therefore, it depends on the clients if they are willing to invest but we always try to educate them on the benefits of using these systems because we know it is better on the long run.
Do you think that the people’s perspective of architecture is changing in Kuwait?
We believe it is changing in a slow pace, as there are some architects & firms that are truly putting an effort in delivering the right type of designs. This being said people are starting to get more aware when passing across those creative projects around Kuwait.
Is there enough awareness in Kuwait?
There is not enough awareness in Kuwait especially in high schools, there is no course that would give you an idea of what architecture, design, or engineering is.
Rashid: Plus we have a lot of what I call “toothpaste buildings”; where they try to maximize the buildable area of the property thereby ending up with an extrusion of the plot shape. This approach neglects integrating any recreational areas such as courts or indoor/outdoor gardens.
What challenges do you face in dealing with clients from the Kuwaiti market?
Some clients come in with a vague idea of what they want. We try to convey the client into the right approach and at the same time fit their needs into the space. Design is not just a product to sell, it’s like a back and forth process with the client. Listening to their needs & feedbacks is essential in finding the right solutions.
Some clients also look for ready-made floor plans for a house to look for the easier and less costly approach. This approach is not recommended where each site is different and thereby needs a distinct design.
Some clients come with a certain vision of what the design should end up like, but we try to give them several options and covey them to the most appropriate one.
What are the challenges you face in Kuwait as an architect?
We need to define our profession, we want to be seen as an “architect” not an “engineer” or a “designer” like how many people call us.
Working in governmental sectors, architects, architectural engineers, civil engineers and electrical engineers are treated as employees with the same profession.
Education and architecture
What do you think of the education offerings in Kuwait in terms of architecture?
When we were in the department, the ratio of student to professor was appropriate in each studio, where the professors had enough time to focus on each student individually. Nowadays the number of students in each studio is increasing and thus the professors are not having enough time to focus on each student individually. A few professors are limited, they are not exposed enough in term of hands on projects. They seem to follow standard out of the “textbook”.
How do you think it could be improved?
Having more professors with different backgrounds in the design field.
What have you seen outside Kuwait that you think should be implemented in Kuwait?
Regarding urban settings, there should be better infrastructure; roads, landscape and better transportation.
There should be a clear vision to develop the city, we see today that the city is growing spontaneously without any guidelines. After having this vision, the policies and regulations should be firmly implemented to ensure a better healthy environment.
What message would you want to pass to the young architects that are in their beginning of their career path?
Learn as much as you can in university; try to teach your selves programs and software that will be of benefit on the long run. Taking a part time job, internship, or workshop will help you get a sense of the practice you will be working in once graduated.
What message would you pass to the architects in Kuwait?
All architects should develop their own personalized approach for their projects, they should try to challenge them selves and set some goals and visions of where they will see their selves in the near future. This will keep them motivated and driven to work harder every day.