Ahmad Fayyad is the Co-founder and Managing Director of F&R Partnership. Passionate about minimal architecture, he has followed his passion ever since he’d graduated from MSA, Faculty of architecture in 2003. Fayyad is also an award-winning architect at the International Property Awards 2017.
Mariez Hany: Tell us about yourself
Ahmad Fayyad: I studied architecture at MSA University. My class was actually the first to graduate from the architecture department there in 2003. After graduation, I worked as a freelance architect for years until I established my own design firm, F & R Partnership, with my wife who is also a co-founder of the firm, in 2010. Above all, I have always believed in minimalistic design and lifestyle in general. To illustrate, I was brought up by Sufi parents who taught me ways of simple living. Consequently, I grew up with a minimalist mindset which has shaped my personality and so my designs.
MH: Ahmad Fayyad, your designs have a minimalistic feel to them. What does Minimalism represent to you and why do you design with this style given that it’s not “popular” in Egypt?
AF: I began to create abstract, simple, or minimal designs since I was an architecture student. My thoughts, which later turned into designs were clear and uncluttered. In my opinion, minimalism isn’t just a design school, but rather an approach to life. It’s how I think and react to and with things around me. I remember that the first person to “highlight” this was a teaching assistant in one of the design studios. Honestly, I didn’t know back then that the designs I create actually belong to a school named minimalism. It was simply what naturally flows out of me when I was given a pencil and started to design. Concerning working in the architecture field, minimalism wasn’t appealing or even known in the Egyptian design field. So, I faced many challenges. But it was what I believe in and it was my way, and the only way, to design.
MH: Minimalism and tiny living spaces can cross roads easily. Did you encounter Egyptian users who show interest to live in small houses?
AF: From the architects’ perspective, small spaces challenge them to create an appropriate design within the limited area. From the users’ or clients’ perspective, the idea of small spaces or tiny living started to grow as a result of social needs. The social and cultural standards that society puts on the youth are just hectic. To clarify, young men, are required to have luxurious apartments in prestigious places which they couldn’t afford to have because of their young age and limited financial income and resources. So, that’s when small living spaces enter the game and change it. We’re currently working on a residential project in Masr El Gedeeda named “The Condos”. The special thing about this project is it will offer affordable apartments with areas starting from 50 m2. In addition to being suited in a splendid area.
MH: The firm F & R Partnership is a collaboration between you and your wife Malak Rashad. What insights does each of you add to the table when it comes to the design process?
AF: Certainly, each one of us provides another perspective to the design process. On one side, I’m more into the brainstorming phase, concept-building, and mass forming. On the other side, Malak balances the whole project flow with her exceptional organizational skills and precision in the technical drawing process. Sometimes I work on some projects by myself and other times she works on some on her own too, but we always share ideas and insights whether we work individually or together.
MH: Is there a project type that you specifically enjoy working on?
AF: Yes, I love working on big projects in general and residential ones in specific. Above all, big projects allow designers to set their imagination free and use the given vast space. Personally, I don’t prefer to work on big projects that are “crowded” or in other words clustered with activities. I enjoy working on subtle ones, the ones that aren’t too loaded and the ones that provide a relaxing vibe and those are mainly residential projects.
MH: Do you have a favourite project?
AF: The residential unit in the Lakeview compound is my favorite. This project is where the magic of transformation takes place. To clarify, the project was already built as a traditional architectural style house, but we succeeded in transforming it into a minimal realm. This project was also very challenging as we weren’t allowed to edit much in its skeleton. However, the final outcome was wonderous as many described it when they saw the before and after phases of the project.
MH: How do you start designing a house? And how do you turn it into a home?
AF: I would reply to this question with one keyword which is: layering. To illustrate, the secret behind any successful project, which doesn’t have to be an architectural one, by the way, is the add-ons. It’s what makes Michael Jackson’s songs timeless and what makes architecture works full of life. Firstly, I start with brainstorming. In this stage, I study the given space, its surroundings and get to decide the feeling or the spirit I want to breathe in it. Then, I envision the form of the building that would go hand in hand with the inside mood and atmosphere of the project. Finally, I turn all this into appropriate architectural plans to be constructed.
MH: What was the most challenging project that you’ve worked on? How did you deal with the challenge?
AF: The most challenging project I’ve worked on was Creek which was a hotel in Gouna. The challenging part of the project was that it was already designed from the exterior and we had to design its interior. So, there were constraints as the form of the building, which was already existing and also wasn’t matching with the spirit of what F & R Partnership would design. In addition to the inside room divisions, spaces and openings. We had to improvise and design an interior that doesn’t only speak our language but also harmonize with the exterior of the hotel.
MH: F & R Partnership has received the International Property Design Awards on the design of the Maadi Villa. Tell us more about that experience.
AF: The Maadi Villa was built in the late 1950s and had a modern vibe to it. We worked on the villa and changed its architectural language from a modern style to an abstract and minimal one. We were very proud of the resulted modification of the villa.
MH: Ahmad Fayyad, as an experienced architect, do you think that housing in Egypt might take a new approach after Coronavirus?
AF: I honestly wouldn’t say that housing would take a different approach, but rather some new requests. We’re now more frequently asked to include more open spaces as windows and balconies. Also, it’s worth mentioning that some clients of medium-sized projects now request home office spaces to perform their work in. Above all, I think that the pandemic has enlightened people about the importance of having a comfortable home. Where home isn’t only a shelter but a place that hosts their preferences and reflects themselves.
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