Winning Sketch: A Passage from The Heart of Sharjah, Wael Al-Masri
"Our eyes are made to see the forms in light: light and shadow expose the forms…” Le Corbusier.
Reflecting the limited resources and local building materials in the region before oil; vernacular architecture in the Gulf is characterized by being simple and humble. Old buildings in the region are inward-oriented, exteriors formed by solid massive walls, occasionally punctured by niches, parapet recesses, and small openings and reticent doorways. Exceptions to this rather austere building character can be found occasionally in the relatively more ornate wind towers penetrating the horizontal skyline of old Gulf cities. These vertical elements which are scattered over the rooftops, can be found especially in the traditional architecture of the United Arab Emirates, and have become distinguished icons of its architecture and identity in general. My competition entry depicts a narrow passage in the “Heart of Sharjah”; the historic center of the city of Sharjah. Being the appointed ”Custodian of the Heart of Sharjah” responsible for the master plan and concept urban design for this historic area over the past twelve years, I became deeply aware of the intrinsic qualities of this architecture, and made several sketches of it. This particular scene caught my attention, as it embodies the identity of this setting. Its architectural character celebrates the play of light and shade, achieved through the composition of solid and void and the rhythmic repetitions of façade elements. The delicate decorative elements at the top of the wind tower contrast with the otherwise plain massive walls beneath, accentuating the feel of deep shade, while the texture and aging of its white washed walls reveal the passing of time and effects of weather conditions on these surfaces. I tried to capture the qualities of this place through a pencil sketching technique using tiny dots of varying densities to express the power of light as it washes and penetrates the wall surfaces, and creates deep shades and shadows on the buildings and the passage floor. I tried to express the distorted shadows of projecting elements such as water gargoyles, street lamps, studs and decorative elements as they throw themselves on the walls. Another quality I tried to capture through this sketching technique is the interesting effects created as light bounces between walls, floors and sides of niches and projections creating a pleasant variation of lightness and darkness. I also tried in this technique to express the delicate wall render and its texture and aging, as well as the effects of water dripping on the tops of parapet walls and the cornices of the wind tower. In summary, I think this sketching technique and process, has helped me explore and express the qualities of such a human vernacular architecture in a way that perhaps would not have been attained through other presentation media. This unique place has inspired my artistic depiction of it through sketching, which in turn has in no doubt further increased my appreciation of it."
2nd Place: Old Nizwa, Oman, Atef Khedhir
"The sketch board represents the layout of the room in which I stayed in the Old Nizwa. It is a 200 years old renovated house. The sketch shows as well the street in front of the hotel and the light that penetrates in between the narrow streets."
Shared 2nd Place: BASTAKIYA, Mohammad Majid Yunus
I have selected “Bastakiya” Dubai for my sketch for this competition. Dubai has rich vernacular architecture and Bastakiya area is well preserved and excellent example of local Vernacular architecture. The key feature of this style of architecture are Wind Catchers, which helped in natural ventilation and created convection cycles in the indoors which facilitated cold air inflow and hot air escape. I have done a collage of sketches showing a mud house with wind catcher, a wind catcher close up, wind catcher decorative details as well as a section through the wind catcher showing air flow of cold and hot wind through the wind catcher."
3rd Place : Al-Khor Mosque, Heba Tannous
Just around the corner from the modern glass skyscraper of Qatar are traces of the country’s past. The early mosques in Qatar were traditionally uncomplicated and consisted of a simple architectural design. Unfortunately, the few that are left are mostly left forgotten, abandoned, or waiting to be demolished. This sketch aims to celebrate one of the still-functioning early mosques found in Al-Khor, Qatar.
Al-Khor mosque consists of locally sources limestone with walls held together using natural resources like packed mud, gravel, and smaller stones. The view of the old mosque was taken from the east in 2019. This sketch highlights the common architectural features that shape vernacular mosques including the courtyard, Minaret, and arched alleyways. One of the main elements in the sketch is the old Minaret which consists of a circular shaft resting on an octagonal base. Although the head represents the octagonal form in the base, there appear to be only six rounded columns supporting the capping elements. Another key element is the arches near the 'riwaq' and 'musala' to the left side of the sketch. These pointed arches reflect the honesty of the structural columnar form. The heavy columns are not taken right up to the ceiling, but rather narrow down to meet a similar-sized exposed beam. Most of the traditional roofs were constructed of scarce wood known as dangeel, and so whatever remains outside the boarded was maintained and left hanging in different sizes. This adds to the character of many vernacular architectures in Qatar.
While these architectural elements may appear repetitive or similar, they are a result of this building’s unique geographical location and hence the materials used to design and construct it.
4th place: Dubai Traditional Souqs: A City Inside A City, Christine Espinosa Erlanda
"The Dubai Traditional Souqs have stood as the city's source of pride for the Emirates for decades, contributing to the city of Dubai's distinctive character. This place in Dubai was alive with the sounds of cars, people shopping, haggling for herbs, cloth, kitchenware and jewelry. It's been almost three months and now I can only recall and imagine Dubai souq long before Covid-19. I had been privileged to study and understand the authentic nature of Dubai Traditional Souqs through my souq projects. During the time, I have walked around this area in Deira and noticed that your anyone’s to Dubai is not complete without a visit to the traditional Dubai Souqs.
What I love about these souqs is the liveliness of trading, variation, colours and smell. It is a place which sends out an open invitation to all to travel through its winding sikkas. A place where imperfection and irregularity are embraced, a place rich in architectural heritage that allows us to understand how the place developed over years of trade evident through those rustic aged walls, the unassuming thatched roofs and floorings, each add to the authentic past this place has quietly witnessed.
The recent situation has added challenges to the concept of traditional Dubai Souqs, first-COVID 19 challenges those small sikkas and tight retail shops, second is the existence of modern shopping malls and the emerging digital world that fundamentally changes the way we shop. I believe, however, that the Middle East still has a culture that favors personal experience, and so while technology will not replace the traditional Souq concept, it can still be used to enhance it absolutely.
Yes, it will take time until the regular buzz and chaotic environment that we all missed returns, before then I'll be waiting to witness the rebirth of typical Dubai Souqs, the core of Dubai that continues to pound. All I can do now is celebrate life, chaotic arrangement, through my sketch celebrating the history and significance of the place. My imagination brought me back to months ago, when this Dubai area, buzzed with ardent shoppers, is trading and haggling for products, seeking everything from spices and hand-woven textiles to perfumes and gold. I see traditional Dubai Souqs as humble doors that help one to understand the breadth of the Emirates culture. It is the heart of Dubai trade after all, a fabric of the society that bonds the past present and future. A heritage which is here to remain authentic for society and society."
Shared 4th Place: A Stroke of the Past, Louna Albatarani
"A pencil drawing that depicts the beauty of the vernacular architecture of Qatar, showing the elegant designs and materials used by the locals."
Shared 4th place: Architecture of Pandemic, Neda Salmanpour
"With this drawing my aim was to express my vivid realization of how strongly one’s socio-economical standing factors into their vulnerability in a time of crisis, and how our spaces and built environment is a direct presentation of that standing. Our architecture is a manifestation of ideas and collective thoughts of our societies resulting in a physical structure. Even we, as architects, are products of that collective thinking too.
Thus I wonder, how do we navigate between the self-image and the way we are viewed within our social context from the outside? Most importantly, how realistic is our self-image and the role we play in contributing to bettering our cities, buildings, rooms and products...etc. around us?
In times of crisis we evaluate our reality since our understanding and equilibrium of life has been disturbed and I wish to find my path to best navigate through the chaos and to the other side, no matter how utopian or unachievable it might feel!
On Drawing Technique: I have used ink-stippling technique for illustrating the building and then superimposed the drawing on the charcoal on a craft paper base using Adobe Photoshop.
The precise and controlled technique of ink stippling with drawing one dot at a time embodies what the architecture represents in the drawing, built slowly over a long time, contrasting the encompassing flood which represents the chaos or perhaps yet another type of order which contrasts our understanding of order."
5th place: The heart of Sharjah, Yasmine Mansour
"This is a spread out of my sketchbook that aims to demonstrate the typology of the vernacular architecture in Sharjah. This sketch is an axonometric drawing reveals the sectional as well as the three dimensional qualities of the vernacular architecture."