By combining functionality, technology cultural considerations, climate requirements, topography and design aesthetics, any architect has the power to create a building with intrinsic value, not only for the owner, but for the community that surrounds it. When Ebtissam Farid, architect, university professor and Co-founder of Alexandria-based ENCODE hit the headlines, it was well-deserved recognition for her outstanding design skills and innovative approach. Ebtissam Farid Encode
CWM: How did you start out and what projects have you been involved in?
Ebtissam Farid: I received my PhD in Architecture from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Alexandria University, around Mass Customization and the Future of Housing. I have masterminded and orchestrated a number of local and international multi-disciplinary workshops to explore new grounds for architectural practice through different tools, such as various digital and physical computational methods of exploring the potential of digital design and production techniques to correlate education and the design industry. In addition, I work as an Associate Professor at The Knowledge Hub, Coventry University UK, Cairo branch at the New Capital.
Encode’s founders and team are an interdisciplinary group of professionals who interface to challenge the conventional model of design production in Egypt by using cutting edge technologies, research and collaboration between educational establishments, practices and manufacturers, hoping to create an international hub of design that can thrive in today’s economy.
Encode covers architectural, interior and product design services and has undertaken a unique strategy based on cutting edge technologies of CAD & CAM (computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing), based on the mathematical and material logic of natural systems. The team has cooperated with many exciting clients such as Honeywell, Snowpro, L’Oréal, and SAP, giving us opportunities to explore challenging ideas.
You have jumped to prominence for your achievements in your field. What awards have you won?
Ebtissam Farid: I was the recipient of Tamayouz Excellence Award’s Prize for Women in Architecture 2018 in the Rising Star category. I was recently also recognized as one of the top 50 Most Influential Architects in the Middle East 2019 according to The Architect Magazine 2019, and I finally won the State’s Excellence Award for 2019.
What is your vision for housing in Egypt?
Ebtissam Farid: Unfortunately, the housing sector is going towards gated housing development concepts, embracing the concept of building ‘small cities’ behind ‘big walls’ which ironically is moving real estate forward on one hand but on the other hand is segregating and moving society backward by creating boundaries and division between classes and sectors of society. This leads to a change in people’s mindset and behavior towards understanding their own city with regards to human-centered design approach.
What are the major challenges the industry faces?
Ebtissam Farid: Egypt is a challenging, growing market. The contemporary design field is evolving at an amazing clip, moving into new and exciting spaces whether for architecture or interior projects. The field is booming but I believe it needs to give more space to non-traditional, unconventional and experimental ideas. We are hoping to embrace science, nature and technology. The good news is that the Egypt has large resources like educational facilities, factories, and technology, but it lacks networking, the design knowledge, and collaboration.
We hope to have an impact on the young generation to help in the emergence of a creative movement that will shape the future of the design industry, creating a new learning environment, emphasizing on the concept of learning through creation, collaboration and practical research instead of the dominant education patterns in the Middle East that rely on theoretical issues.
I feel there is a real sense of urgency for a kind of critical design in the Middle East where we need to move from imitation to innovation. The design industry in the Middle East should be developed to be a leader in the global market, especially as its communities are nowadays consuming design more than ever.
What trends are current in the housing market in Egypt?
Ebtissam Farid: Adopting and envisioning the opportunities for mass customization concepts depending on the latest technologies, artificial intelligence and new manufacturing technology together with user participation. This can open up an opportunity for the future of housing to achieve both a status of art and commodity, breaking the typical dichotomy in architecture and meeting the individual needs and values of future clients. By introducing design as a critical selling point, customers can make their choices and learn from past experiences.
What comes next?
Ebtissam Farid: We look forward to increasing design awareness in Egypt, with the redefinition of design as a problem solving strategy rather than mere synonym of ‘style’. Design should be conceived as a quantitative scientific strategy to solve community problems rather than mere qualitative luxury. There are huge opportunities for innovation in the evolution of design, from individual work, into a collaborative process of discovering what is next and making it happen.