Finding Cultural Insight For Architectural Megaprojects

Finding Cultural Insight For Architectural Megaprojects

How do foreign architects seek inspiration in a culture that is for the most part private?

Plus Aziz
  • 3 december 2010

The New York Time’s Nicolai Ouroussoff has interviewed four architects (Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Norman Foster, and I.M. Pei), collecting insight on the pros and cons of construction projects in the Gulf; as well as where architects go to seek inspiration in a culture that is for the most part private, a landscape that is more or less barren, and an urban history that is predominantly oral. In this post, we look at some of the more and less obvious factors that govern architectural and  construction trends in the Arabian Gulf.

The interactive feature, titled ‘Blueprints of the Mideast‘, is coupled with a lengthy article, both of which shed light on the role of architecture–of museums especially, in reshaping cultural identity and creating a much-desired cosmopolitanism. The projects highlighted are located in Doha, the capital of Qatar, and Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Understanding A Private Culture

Architects on assignments in the Gulf typically have almost no contact with its private spaces. Frank Gehry commented that, “the realization that this was a very private culture, [and that] they weren’t going to invite me home for dinner necessarily, [made it] hard to figure them out…I feel myself like a blind man feeling his way into this culture.” Most architects will reflect on public space, literature, and visual stimuli to inspire their designs. Therefore, there are two distinct opportunities for local development in a culture where these sources of inspiration are more difficult to access: the region can become more reliant on its homegrown creativity for these mega-projects and/or research companies can step up their role by providing foreign companies with consulting, and trends research that provides an insider’s perspective to fortify the architect’s vision.

Innovating Cooling And Shading Methods

Building in inhospitable desert conditions creates a rare challenge for architects. Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi demonstrates an innovation in shading techniques through its perforated dome whose design produces similar shadows to those that filter down through the boarded roofs of street markets (or souks). The extensive shaded area creates “a public place beyond the museum building itself.” Norman Foster’s National Musem of Abu Dhabi uses cutting-edge cooling technology being piloted in sustainability projects where deep drilling taps into hot water sources far underground and transports that liquid to the surface. Foster then employs geothermal cooling technology to moderate the building’s temperature, a much more efficient and cost effective method.

Turning To Nature For Inspiration

Most nations in the Gulf have a short modern history, while their ancient history is buried in an oral tradition and nomadic culture which leaves foreign architects in the dark, who then turn to nature for inspiration instead. I.M Pei compares designing Qatar’s museum (which is located on an artificial island) to working on the Louvre in Paris–a building that has an irreplaceable role in French history–as a completely opposite experience: “Doha doesn’t have much of a history… you can make your own site, which is something you cannot do in Rome or Egypt.” Jean Nouvel instead, turns to the geometry of crystals and sand roses in a focused design that seeks to reveal Qatari identity.

“The Qatari were nomads. The challenge is to translate the beauty of their origins. These nomads who stopped at the edge of the water found unsuspected resources in the desert that led them to a harsh modernity because the natural gas, oil, and industrial riches are expressed in ways opposite of Qatar’s origins.”

All four architects demonstrate strategies for understanding a culture and then building for it. Despite the various natural, cultural, and technical challenges, they engage in these large-scale projects with great confidence, curiosity, and tactful precision.

NY Times: Building Museums and a Fresh Arab Identity

The National: Norman Foster: Building An Oasis


Genetics Startup Is Working To Create A Completely Personalized, DNA-Based Range Of Products

Retail Yesterday

Store Technology Expert: Why Retailers Must Invest In Store Associates

Jan Kotowski, Head of Product at Tulip Retail, shares his thoughts on how retailers should be preparing for the future

Travel Yesterday

United Airlines Launches An Updated Business Class Program

The new Polaris product prioritizes customer service and updated modern amenities


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Design & Architecture Yesterday

Video Explores Complex Museum Architecture

A mini video gives a quick overview of the most beautiful cultural buildings built

Sustainability Yesterday

Smog Vacuum Turns Pollution Particulates Into Unique Jewelry

A large device was installed in Beijing that sucks up smog and compresses it into small centerpieces atop jewelry

Related Expert

Alexander Rea

Customer Experience At Retail

Experiential Marketing Yesterday

PSA Fashion Line Shines A Light On Victim Blaming

YWCA Canada is using fashion and sexist tweets to highlight how often we as a society blame the victim in cases of abuse

Syndicated Yesterday

What PSX 2016 Tells Us About The Modern Games Industry

Nostalgia and big brands are defining how the console market is being shaped

Technology Yesterday

The PSFK Holiday Gift Guide 2016

Based on a year of research by PSFK Labs, we curated a list of innovative and unique holiday gifts


Future Of Retail 2017
Transformation Strategies For Customer-First Business

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

VP: Why Messaging Apps Are Issuing In A New Era Of Commerce

Matt Johnson discusses how mobile messaging commerce is creating a different modality for interaction between retailers and consumers

PSFK Labs december 1, 2016

Retail Spotlight: Home Depot Reimagines How Employees Conduct Tasks

The home improvement retailer puts the customer first by initiating local fulfillment centers and simplifying freight-to-shelf inventory management

Food Yesterday

Minute Maid Opens A Store That Sells Nothing

The beverage company opened a pop-up shop that encourages customers to write letters to their parents instead of buying a gift

Entertainment Yesterday

Samsung And Viceland Partner For A Virtual Reality Documentary On The Syrian War

The White Helmets film uses VR to immerse viewers in the everyday conditions of the war-torn country

Design & Architecture Yesterday

These Designs Bring Modern Architecture To The Humble Birdhouse

Artist Douglas Barnhard has imagined a series of designs emulating the work of architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Joseph Eichler

Mobile Yesterday

Nine Technologies To Invest In When It Comes To Retail [Future Of Retail]

Retailers are leveraging assistive technology to help employees in their daily tasks and customers on the sales floor

Travel Yesterday

Acura Cockpit Envisions The Future Of Autonomous Travel

The car brand has built a proof that offers a sneak peek of the self-driving vehicle experience


Conference Built Around Our Report Launch

Retail Yesterday

How Artificial Intelligence Is Enabling Anytime Shopping & On-Demand Support

Retailers are leveraging advanced technology to relieve associates from mundane tasks, while better assisting customers

Cities Yesterday

NYC Map Calculates Economic Benefits Of Every Tree

TreesCount! maps all the greenery in the five boroughs and even figures out how much money it saves the city

Design Yesterday

Create A Perfectly Tailored Shirt Using Just Your Phone

UKYS has created an application to get accurate measurements of buyers through a few simple pictures for custom shirts

No search results found.