Monday, November 7, 2011

CO.D.E. Studio in progress

Work at CO.D.E. Studio started 5 weeks ago with students from the 2nd year. Contrast Designs' partners Mazin Abdulkarim and Kareem Hammouda have guided two separate groups of students to explore 'patterns' and 'material qualities' as design veichles for spatial and organizational characteristics. Below are some images of the students' work after 5 weeks. More details and updated information can be found on the studio's blog here.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

CO.D.E. Studio @ AAST

This semester CONTRAST Designs partners, Kareem Hammoda and Mazin Abdulkarim will be running a design studio at the AAST in Cairo under the name CO.D.E Studio. The studio is split internally into two units each exploring a separate field of interest. In Unit A, Abdulkarim will be exploring ‘Patterns’ as a device for spatial and material constructs, and will investigate their potential relevance and application within architecture. The investigation will develop a critical understanding of the potentials of patterns and its associated effects. In Unit B, Hammouda will be exploring the tectonic qualities of materials by studying inherent spatial characteristics and organizational patterns through various manipulative experiments to develop an architectural language reflecting the materials hidden potentials and complex reflexes to alteration.

We will be posting more from the studio's work as it progreses.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Alef M.O.A. Nears Completion

Our fourth major design collaboration with Alef Bookstores, their new branch in Mall of Arabia, is coming to its final stages. After establishing their signature interior design theme in Mirghany, Zamalek, and Le Marche (Alex.) branches, the new branch in MOA (6th of October) adds several new ideas to the bookstore's I.D. theme. Besides the interior design of the branch, CONTRAST Design also fabricated the central light installation 'Pixel Cloud'. We will celebrate the initial opening of the branch next Friday the 30th of Sept. Join us for a special design tour of the branch and its features.

Monday, July 4, 2011

On Cairo's Gated Parks

This series of images portrays classic cases of gatedness for several of the public green parks of Cairo. The typical metal green fence, used to surround public and green areas around Cairo, physically separates and creates a distinct barrier condition. In some cases, a ticket is charged to enter the park in a desperate move to generate money to cover maintenance costs.

While the lush green grass portrays a tidy and clean image of the chaotic city, the park remains extremely dissociated from the daily perceived image of the city’s users. This dissociation represents the predominant culture of distancing and alienation that has controlled Cairo’s urban development during the last decades. This physical and psychological distancing, clearly defined by the high metal fences, creates large subtractions from the cityscape dissecting and fragmenting the collective perceived image of the city.

Consequently, the public park transforms into a repeller instead of an attractor. This inverted situation of use embraces the fence and the opportunities that are generated by it. Users prefer to use the free perimeter of the park for walking, jogging, sitting, selling, and other activities, while the park remains abandoned. Temporary street vendors utilize (occupy) the fence appropriating it for displaying their merchandise.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

@Shubbak : Public Domain Exhibition Participation

Below is a part of our participation in the "Public Domain: Public and Civic Spaces in the Arab World" exhibition. The exhibition is at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Second Floor Gallery, 66 Portland Place, London, from 12 July to 24 September 2011.

On 12 July, with the opening reception of the exhibition, there will be a talk by leading architects, academics and journalists who will share their insights on public and civic spaces in the region and how the use and design of these spaces are changing. Shahira Fahmy will be talking from Egypt, Bernard Khoury from Lebanon among others.

"For centuries, religious festivals have been at the core of defining Egyptian culture and identity. Due to their yearly repetition and need for appropriate space to occur, they have become a crucial player in the composition of the urban fabric. They are mostly linked to a specific city square or mosque due to its symbolic or iconic importance.

The dual relationship that starts to appear between physical, fixed and dominant entity (the square) and a non-physical, temporary and spiritual entity defines a very apparent, yet reoccurring, transformation in the urban fabric. These photos document and identify the temporary appropriation and transformation occurring during Zain el Abdeen religious festival. A temporary collage of colorful tents that house religious cultural activity, folklore and religious singing and dancing, light installations, flags, decorated textiles and even cradles and swings.

While the festival is centered in and around the mosque and its plaza, the appropriation extends to include the whole district and floods onto the neighboring streets to cater for the large amounts of visitors. The street becomes an extension of the mosque plaza. The functions are mixed, facades are replaced by new festival façades of colorful fabrics, public becomes private and private becomes public. Pavements become private bedrooms; pedestrian walkways become shops for residents."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Our competition entry for the Serlachius Museum in Finland

The competition was for a new extension to an existing complex of buildings, the serlachius museum complex, to accomodate a larger amount of displayed art work through temporary and permanent gallery spaces. The competition results were announced a few days ago. We did not win this time, but here is our complete proposal.


Where, in the past, a great idea and the dedicated work of Gustaf Adolf and Gösta Serlachius sent out some leading impulses to the art world of Finland and beyond, the Museum extension building is now to send out new impulses to both of scenes, art and architectural. The old and the new, the past and the present, the then and now are all to be linked together in an innovative manner, creating an extension to the institution that is to be at the centre of the Nordic art scene.


The volumetric composition of the new building consists of components of different heights that are connected in a whole that consists of individual but well integrated parts. The idea to make a whole out of elements comes as a reference to the present character of the immediate surrounding that could be perceived as an ensemble of architectural and vegetal sedimentations over time. Moreover, the act of densification of mass results with a compact form that is highly advantageous in terms of ecology and therefore sustainability.

This rationale enabled an organizational plan where internal programmatic applications are interwoven on many composition levels, thus allowing spatial synergies of various intensities. Major programmatic strong-points that are catalyst of public presence, apart from the exhibitions spaces, are all oriented towards the southern perimeter of the building where the panoramas over the surrounding landscape are extraordinary.

In the exhibition spaces, the interior is concealed from the exterior thus creating a world of itself. As symmetry, the foyer is largely open and orientated towards the surrounding natural habitat, thus creating a duality of atmospheres that are to be experienced by the museum visitors.


The new building stands confidently alone where its northern border is parallel to the service road and the building is stretching down over the eastern slope, as far as half the way down to the clean lake bay. Consequently, the museum extension building fully respects the disposition of the existing plants that are found to be one of the greatest values of the immediate context.

Regarding mass distribution, the eastern volume of the building houses the foyer, becoming the central space of the complex aiming to achieve a volumetric balance with the Joenniemi Manor. The height of its grounded brick base volume is respected and the foyer rises up to that point only. By this decision, the “new” demonstrates its respect to the “old” and establishes a dialogue with it.

In order to establish a further relation to the Joenniemi Manor, the eastern wall of the foyer respects and follows its materiality, and is too rendered in brick. Thus, the foyer unites several independent spatial areas and frames them by the two parallel walls made with same material properties. The panorama between them is formed by the nature itself as the southern envelope of the foyer is a massive glass wall that is in direction of the lake. In the mixture of the materiality of the brick together with the massiveness of the walls, and in the contrary to the undisturbed view towards the landscape, the foyer could somehow be perceived as a space that is a hybrid of city and landscape.


Apart from glass windows, the rest of the outer surface of the building is made of prefabricated vertical blades made of wood. Their purpose is to ensure a better control of the natural light, but also to establish a better volumetric and material relation to the surrounding context. By the act of distortion of the surface, the necessarily big mass of the building becomes somehow scale-less as its size is hard to compare to the other elements in the landscape. The surface is abstract and created by irregular rhythms and its vibrations are in relation to the constant movement of nature, which is yet another narrative that is to be exploited in establishing a more context sensitive building. The result is a rich and dynamic building whose appearance is contemporary but also “light” enough not to interfere with the existing architectural environment.

The roof façade is perforated in order to introduce the desired lighting for the exhibition spaces. The system of roof openings consists of single repetitive prefabricated element that allows the desired quality of lighting into the exhibition spaces. The roof is also used as a productive surface as its great floor area is used for planting photovoltaic panels that will ensure a clean and sustainable energy.


The integration of the building within the highly precious existing landscape was one of the major concerns of the project. Thus, the existing topography is fully respected and the interventions to it are minimal.

The positioning of the building was done carefully and according to the great respect to the existing trees and only few of them are to be relocated in case of construction. As the connection between the Joenniemi Manor and the new building is established at their first floor levels, the museum extension footprint doesn’t disturb the pedestrian path that in the north-south axis is connection between the central square and the lake. The system of pedestrian paths is extended to the eastern side of the site where path finishes at the water border. The bridge that once connected the island with the mainland is to be reconstructed and later integrated in the patchwork of pedestrian routes enabling visitors to enjoy unrestricted movement through the site.


The building is rational and efficient in many ways. It is firstly the compact form of the building that makes its ecological footprint highly efficient. In that sense, the mass compactness guarantees an optimal relationship between external surfaces and mass, whiles the very careful use of glazing (apart from foyer), ensures effective thermal comfort and limited dispersion.

The structural system is clear and rather conventional and its simplicity will potentially enable a great reduction of building costs, an issue that is obviously very high in the agendas of the foundation.

Project Authors:

1- Contrast Designs (Egypt)
Kareem Hammouda
Mazin Abdulkarim
Tamer Nader

2- Jovan Ivanovski (Macedonia)

Project Team:
Andrej Prosevski
Goce Tikvarovski
Ivana Topalovska
Loai Nabil
Sara Mitry
Sayed Abdelmohsen