Mohamed Abdel Aziz Hamada, founder and design team leader of Egyptian Studio Design Firm Associates (DFA). In 2012 He completed his bachelor degree at the school of architecture, MIU, Egypt. Shortly after in 2013 he obtained an interior design diploma from London. Mohamed established DFA in 2016 and focused his efforts on designing energy-efficient buildings.
We here at Lines Magazine decided to sit down with Mohamed Hamada in Cairo city and discuss with him the state of architecture in Egypt and learn more about his thoughts and contributions to the field.
Doha Moustafa (D.M): How did Design Firm Associates (DFA) come to existence?
Mohamed Hamada (M.H): DFA actually started in challenging circumstances. In 2015 I was constructing Mokami project (a residential building in the fifth settlement, New Cairo). A client who knew me and believed in my design skills assigned me a project. At that point, I had faith in teamwork and did not believe in a one-man show. Around the end of 2015, I contacted two designers who also happen to be friends of mine. Mohamed Ashraf who’s responsible for technical drawings and Khaled Kamal is in charge of 3D rendering and client presentations.
On the first day of 2016, the building was still under construction, but we decided to take one of the unfinished room in the basement that had no windows or any doors and use it as an office. The DFA journey started from that basement in these circumstances until we received our payment for a project. We then started finishing the space and installing the missing windows and doors. The same client loved the project, word of mouth helped us score more projects so we started hiring more employees.
In only three years we expanded and that basement room turned into 3 rooms with full facilities and a team of 20 employees. What helped us reach all of this was our architectural vision. From day one our mission was to produce a new type of architecture, whether we are designing a small room or an airport we stay eager to come up with a different idea. Clients in Egypt are becoming more aware of the significance of architectural design. For the client, investing more money to develop a concept and receive a well-designed building will help them later on during their marketing process.
Mokami project located in Fifth Settlement, Cairo designed by DFA
Mokami project Entrance located in Fifth Settlement, Cairo designed by DFA
(D.M): How do you assess the current state of architecture in Egypt?
(M.H): For 20 years there have been ongoing developments that have resulted in creating a movement of and for architects. Some of these architects are on their way to becoming perceived as celebrities. Even though people who are not architects might know the names of local interior designers or architects. It is true that most of the buildings are not designed by architects, but it’s an ongoing process. Owners and developers nowadays are interested in investing in architecture and landscape design more than ever. If we proceed to evolve in this direction for the next 50 years, a new character will develop. In private projects, the landscape became a very attractive pillar. Thus developers might decrease buildings footprint to provide space for landscape. Since this started happening in class A projects, with time class B & C projects will start implementing the same strategy whenever possible.
(D.M): How is DFA contributing to the architecture scene in Egypt?
(M.H): DFA has a plan to contribute to social awareness. An architect is not just an engineer, architecture is a major that merges between art and science. All the other engineering departments are pure science, but for architects, it’s a different story. Not everyone understands specifically what is the architect’s job. That’s why we here at DFA invest in spreading awareness through social media platforms.
(D.M): Do you usually explain or justify the design decisions to your clients?
(M.H): Yes, we do and they really do appreciate it. Either the client chooses to pay for the extra quality or not, they understand the difference that it makes and really appreciate the science behind it. Also, the users’ mentality is more accepting of such design qualities, since the energy crises that occurred in 2013 and media awareness campaigns addressing the issue, users became more open to listen and understand how a building could save energy.
(D.M): We started solar panels being integrated into building worldwide, is it the case in Egypt?
(M.H): In DFA we focus more on choosing power saving techniques rather than generating power. Even if the client chooses afterward to generate energy, the generated energy needed will be less than before applying passive techniques. We put our efforts into finding affordable solutions, to make these solutions appealing to the client because once you start proposing expensive solutions, it is unlikely that the client will agree to implement it.
(D.M): What projects are you particularly excited to be working on?
(M.H): No certain projects at the moment, what really makes me excited is actually the client himself. A friendship with the client helps me understand his personality, I believe that the client is the main designer and my job to act as a translator. Translating the client’s emotions and ideas into architecture in my own way and design character.
(D.M): Outside of architecture, what other fields are you most interested in and how does it influence your work?
(M.H): Art and marketing. Design in anything always fascinates me, it could be a fork, car, building or a shoe, everything has a design and design is art. In my everyday routine, I observe different objects and how users interact with these objects. The human face has one of the most interesting designs, you see a person that has a certain feature that might be considered as a flaw, nevertheless, it looks perfectly fine and in harmony with his or her other features.
Being a successful architect means being a good marketeer, marketing your idea is very important. As an architect, you can create a brilliant concept but no one will be convinced to buy it if you can’t market it properly, that’s why I’m interested in having a marketing strategy behind every architectural concept.