Interview// Farouk Yaghmour
HKZ caught up with Farouk Yaghmour, founder of Yaghmour Architects and a professor of Design at SABE at the German Jordanian University. Yaghmour is known for his cultural conscious work in the region and has carried out projects on a myriad of scales including interior design, architecture, urban design, conservation and planning. His projects include everything from a house in Amman to the rehabilitation of the Solomon pools in Bethlehem.
In this interview, Yaghmour speaks more on what architecture and the city mean to him and how his practice and daily experience inform him.
Interviewed by Heba Najada
HN: For you, what is architecture?
FY: Goethe, the German writer once said that ‘Architecture is frozen music.’ And to me architecture is everything but frozen, Architecture is visible, flowing sonata, an ever-changing lively embodiment to what relates a human being to his environment, through the tangibles and the intangibles of space penetrating its solids and voids, and exemplified in what is visual and what is not. Architecture is a dynamic ample shift, from the un-built , towards the built, a quest of attaining a livable, humane and sustainable outcomes to ‘shelter’ the humans and provide them with substantial comfort.
HN: As an architect and urban planner, which things in the city inform your work?
FY: The city influences the design of a building through its general character that stemming from the historical heritage of it and the many accumulative layers that determines what a city is. Any design should tackle such layers formulating the city’s vibrant composition and urban fabric, bearing in mind also the environmental conditions, the laws and regulations of the city and the specificity of the project’s location and it’s relation to its direct context.
HN: In your numerous projects, we can see that you’re not fixed to a particular style. How do you foster this constant innovation inside your office? What keeps you going forward every day?
FY: Each project is a sole experience, I usually isolate each project from any precedents, to give it its proper share of research, brainstorming and creativity. This helps in innovating designs that evolve and transform to accommodate the requirements and demands of an ever changing age we live in, all within the social, economical and environmental framework of its context , and ultimately to enrich previous experiences and to remind us with the necessity of an ongoing learning experience, bearing in mind the importance of my involvement in the Academia, and maintaining its relationship to the practice to help in feeding innovation and creativity.
HN: Let’s talk more specifically about design and its process.
FY: The process begins with the first encounter with the client, usually it’s a big indicator to his aspirations, expectations and understanding of his project, we start to develop the program together after visiting the site and comprehending it’s several conditions such as its environmental and natural attributes, topography and levels, views and relationship to surrounding urban tissue..etc
After thorough analysis and research, and after setting our priorities a ‘dialogue’ between all those elements generates conceptual solutions that are flexible for development from their early stages of design and towards the final finishing stages.
HN: I have had the chance to visit your projects in Jordan, but you also designed in Palestine, UAE, Iraq and many more. How do you approach projects in other countries, other cultures?
FY: It’s a given that each country has its own circumstances and special requirements, even with the proximity of the Palestinian lands and Jordan , our first project in Bethlehem had a very specific condition, a two thousand year old site with an intense, rich historical narrative. In this project there was an urgency for a very sensitive approach in tackling the design. As for the gulf region, the environmental conditions are always a priority and it’s good economical status accompanied by strong positions and conceptual basis, builds mutual trust between the architect and the client, which provides us with room for flexibility in proposing ideas.
HN: How do you feel designing in Palestine, how do these projects face the occupation?
FY: Designing in Palestine is different from any other place for several reasons, building in Palestine grounds people to their land, by engaging people with their built environment and creating work opportunities, in an attempt act of persistence. Although this is obstructed by the occupation’s apartheid , it’s barriers and complications and some projects take several years to be accomplished, like the Solomon pools project, we worked on in Bethlehem, we estimated 2 years of construction and it actually took 10 years to be finished, due to the harsh political setting and the oppression of the occupation, where even empty developments under construction were not safe from attacks and demolishing.
However, with the determination and commitment of the Palestinian youth and the dedication of the people of the area , the project is almost complete, and many more are built to continue resisting and to stand strong against all the injustices happening there.