A Meeting of Diverse Minds
That would be what Architects Hub is all about, if put simply. But Omeima Ismaiel, the founder behind this networking platform has much more ambition and focused goals for the Hub, of humanising the urban experience through networking events. SCALE talks to this dynamic lady to find out more.
Omeima Ismaiel wears many hats, each worn with a flair, for she navigates her life and career through a design narrative. Omeima is an architect and interior designer, a mother of five, a technology-consumer, a believer of AI and the inevitability of it controlling the next generation of building design and she is also the Founder of Architects’ Hub, a networking platform for architects. The Architects’ Hub is a licensed entity under the Qatar Financial Centre.
She believes in the power of good design to enhance living standards and in the impact of the collaborative minds of architects and designers. Omeima might be from the generation where buildings were conceived on drawing boards and T squares, but she has her foot firmly in the technological era because she knows that is the way to go forward. As she single-handedly, initially, conceptualised and gave a form to Architects Hub and navigated the many barriers in the path of this great venture, she learnt new skills in tackling hindrances day by day, learning from her teenage son when it came to new technology, from others who strode the path for practical advice, never giving up, or conceding to impediments that were littered on the path.
Having lived in Qatar for over 25 years, she has worked as an architect in both private-public sectors. She was senior researcher associated with the Architecture program at the Faculty of Islamic Studies, and then Senior Projects Officer, at Qatar Foundation. Prior to that, she was architect and design project manager at the Qatar Olympic Committee and lead architect with Doha Asian Games Organizing Committee for the 15th Asian Games. But what consumes her time now, is the activities of the Architects’ Hub, a networking platform, a dream that she has strived to make into reality.
She goes down memory lane to her college days bringing us to the time when she moved to Qatar. “I graduated in 1987 from the University of Khartoum in Sudan, my home country. I then moved to Qatar with my family where I started my career as an architect.”
From her long years as a practicing architect, the most inspiring and interesting ones, were when she worked with the Organising Committee of the 15th Asian Games in Doha.
“Truth be told, every one of my work experiences has been a lesson with some gold nuggets of knowledge embedded within,” she says, “However my work as lead architect with the Doha Asian Games Organising Committee for the 15th Asian Games, was my favourite. Apart from being a fantastic opportunity to work in a world-class environment with an international team, it was a great opportunity for me to harness all my experiences, knowledge and skills as well as learn so much about overlay design and Olympic event planning. At the venues department, we were the ‘dream team’. I was the lead architect for the Main Media Centre and the Airport. I also had a chance to work on other projects such as the Sponsor’s Hospitality Village and the Transport hub.”
Doha is a multicultural hub and Omeima finds herself in a strong position to create architectural experiences in Doha that positively impact the quality of life for people. “Doha is truly unique in its diversity and the fact that it is growing and developing. The people we interact with every day and the multitude of cultures is precious. In terms of architecture, every architect dreams of creating a project on a blank space of land and this is possible in Qatar.”
SCALE sits down to have an invigorating talk with Omeima to get to know what drives her architectural passion and her people skills.
SCALE: What according to you is the role of an architect? How is this function being fulfilled to its true meaning in Doha or anywhere in the world?
I think the role of the architect is far bigger and goes way beyond the simple job description and the ‘turn your aspiration into reality’ aspect of creating icons and dream spaces to satisfy the ‘wants’ of individual clients. I think the architects’ work affects every aspect of daily life within the urban realm. Thus, the architect creates a legacy that may outlive the person and encapsulates the very essence of someone’s life and memories. I wish all architects would realise the gravity of drawing a single line on paper and what it translates to in reality and the impact of the simple line. As the rate of urbanity grows, the architects’ role becomes even more serious in humanising the living experience.
A quote from Norman Foster perhaps sets the bar for what an architect should aim to achieve in all works done “”Architecture is a social art – a necessity and not a luxury. It is generated by the needs of people, both spiritual and physical. It has much to do with optimism, joy and reassurance – of order in a disordered world, of privacy in the midst of many, of light on a dull day. It is about quality – the beauty of a space and the poetry of the light that models it.”
I think once the architect stops working for money, loses some professional ego, consciously avoids being dubbed as elitist, there will be a shift in who they choose to work with (employers and clients) and the quality of projects will be much better and hence the quality of human life. Architecture has lost its way in the face of change and many in the industry agree with Frank Gehry when he said; “98% of everything that is built and designed today is pure sh*t. There’s no sense of design, no respect for humanity or for anything else.”
SCALE: Do you believe that architecture is for the human footprint rather than to feed on the ego of the architect?
Ego is a big topic and what comes to mind is Freud’s’ model of the psyche; id, ego and superego. There is the Taoist Yin and Yang. Is ego a bad thing or a good thing? Ego is the Latin word for ‘I’ and is akin to self-esteem or confidence. A confident architect is a good thing. If confidence is not built on sound values, then it becomes a bad thing. I think one’s ego needs to be balance.
SCALE: Tell us how you started with the idea of a Hub? What is the vision and goal of the Architects Hub?
The idea of The Architects’ Hub started in 2014 when I was trying to find an idea for my venture lab at IE, during my Master’s course there. My dream was to have my own little architecture practice and my niche would be homes. As part of my study in Architectural Design Management, we did a massive marketing exercise and part of it required that we study our local competition and position ourselves to create our competitive edge or advantage. In Doha, this was a huge challenge, because there was no ‘go-to’ platform dedicated to locally practicing architecture firms nor individual architects. There were some global brands and some local prominent firms, but I needed a larger part of the market. This started my research to first see who the players in the field were. I created the ‘Find your Local Architect in Qatar’ website as a free tool intended to serve both architecture firms and potential clients. It has a directory listing exclusive to architecture firms in Qatar where each company would also have pages to showcase their projects and a contact form. The gallery was intended to show all project images for potential clients to select their architects. To my surprise, to date, we have only about 36 companies listed and not many are actively showcasing their services. After many trials to enrich this platform, I decided that I needed to meet the architects and create a networking platform. This succeeded and now we have over 256 members on Whatsapp as well as accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and a newsletter. I want The Architects’ Hub to be a global movement connecting architects with peers and their network at the individual level.
That is a moving target. But my favourite space is within the alleys and voids of Souq Waqif. It is like an oasis of a recluse in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Doha and its traffic. There is a micro-level environment full of little experiences. I love it during the early winter mornings when the horses and riders come out. I love their boutique hotels hidden and dotted all over the Souq.
The one place that you would want to visit for its architecture?
This too is a moving target. But let’s say, Iran and Turkey stand out on top of my bucket list. A train trip through Europe is another. It’s a long list.
Architects ideas or client’s ideas? Which comes first in a design process.
More commonly the architects’ services are prompted by the need instigated by the client. Demand and supply. Both ideas in the end merge to produce unique designs.
How do we beget the next generation of responsible architects?
By creating a more empathetic breed of architectural designers thus shifting the mindset and geared towards service of humanity and sustainability.
Tell us the goal of The Architects’ Hub.
An inclusive, collaborative global venture bringing together architects and architectural industry minds with the common goal of humanising the urban experience through networking events. Personal growth and knowledge exchange form the bases of our activities. Harnessing the power of intellectual diversity!