Nedal Badr is an architect, interior designer, and product designer and founder of Nedal zone. Get to know how these passions co-exist in the article below.
Mariez Hany: Tell us a bit about your background
Nedal Badr: I was born in 1980 and joined Architecture school in the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport where I graduated in 2003. Later, I applied for the master’s program in Architecture in the Bauhaus and received my master’s degree about 2 years later. After many years of practice, I opened my own architecture and design studio in 2014. Overall, I took part in the design of many megaprojects as Al-Azhar park and City Stars Hotel. My designs have received many silver and gold awards. In addition to that, I represented Egypt with my “ANUB Collection” in SaloneSatellite in Milan. Also, I participated with my “Alf” lighting design in the Paris Design Week in 2019. Generally, I designed projects in Egypt, Europe, and the Arabian Gulf most of which are in the interior design field.
MH: What is your philosophy in Design?
NB: I believe that a designer should be useful to the people around him in specific and humanity in general. Consequently, my design approach is always to create a human-centric design that is eco-friendly and sustainable. For me, design is a quality experience I provide through the mood of a space.
MH: We can’t be interviewing Nedal Badr without mentioning the design of the house of Timur Hadidi. What made the design of the house distinctive?
NB: Above all, I’m so proud to be part of the project. I believed in it and that was the reason behind my persistence till the completion of the project. Aside from the idea of using recycled materials in the construction of the house, the essence of this project is in its spatial experience, and this is what I learned from Timur throughout the project. To illustrate, the house provides a variety of exciting experiences that allows the user to feel delighted. Every corner in the house is a hand-crafted art piece that sends a message of distinctiveness and uniqueness.
MH: Aside from architecture design, you also have a clear passion for lighting design. Can you tell us more about this branch?
NB: I perceive lighting design at a level beyond that of just designing lighting fixtures. To clarify, lighting design is intended to set the mood and feel of space. In my designs, I use the tool of light to create multiple experiences that the user of the space would indulge in. My passion for lighting design is also translated into designing eccentric lighting fixtures such as “muqarnas” and “alef”. In addition to my latest collaboration with 3Brothers to create the “S-line pro” lighting fixtures. What’s special about this unit is that we used the sun-like LED feature that has great qualities. Some of these qualities include: the fixtures are tunable and dimmable, which is the first time for any lighting unit in Egypt. In our collaboration, we were very keen on providing a quality experience through the design of the fixtures.
MH: You have put your mark in another field of design which is the product. What was the most interesting design experience you’ve passed through in this field?
NB: The NU chair design experience was definitely one of the most interesting and challenging ones. Above all, this product design was a challenge for Mobil to redesign the “qahwa” or coffee shop chair. The chair came in parts and the designers involved in the challenge had re-put the parts together to create a new design while maintaining the outline of the new chair to be similar to that of the old one. The original chair was first designed in 1859. So, I was dealing with a design that is more than 150 years old and I had to re-design it. At first, I didn’t quite know what I was going to change in the chair’s design. However, once I started to put the parts of the chair together and to really connect with the chair, the vision became clearer.
My idea was to declutter the composition of the chair from any extra parts while keeping its essence. So, I started putting the chair’s pieces together step by step until it could structurally stand on its own, and at that moment, I would know the extra un-needed part. After many trials, came the shock. The chair didn’t come together until I used and set up all of its parts together! This conclusion was really challenging, but I kept trying. My hands and mind were soaked up in the design of the chair until I figured the way out. My way out was to invent a new structure system for the chair to stand properly. To clarify, in the 1850s design, the weight of the seat of the chair was being distributed among four arches then it moves down to the legs of the chair.
The new design, my design, was to remove one of the arches and form a bracing with the remaining three. So, now the weight of the seat would pass through the legs of the chair first then through the three connected arches, and then unto the legs of the chair again. I was so proud of the final outcome of the NU Chair, by which I mean the new chair, but with a minimalistic approach. It was an uncluttered version and a structurally peculiar style of the original one. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the NU chair was the first one in the competition to be mass-produced and used in the La Sieta project.
Certainly, I’ve always adored Arabic calligraphy and I’ve always taught it in a distinctive way. That is to say, I teach calligraphy in an “architectural” way meaning that I analyze and write the letters in modules and proportions. In this product design, I used the “thuluth” style, it’s the most complicated and most elegant style in Arabic calligraphy. Throughout the design of the two products, the module was the dot and it was where light comes from in the alef lighting fixture and it was a side of the earring in the alef earring. In its minimal design, the products provoked many questions that when answered resulted in raising awareness and shedding light on the awesomeness of the Arabic calligraphy, which was the whole point of the design in the first place.
MH: Since you have an absolute passion for calligraphy, do you, Nedal Badr incorporate calligraphy in architecture and interior design?
NB: Usually not, because it is perceived as a superficial ornament rather than a crucial part of a space experience. For me, the art of calligraphy holds so much significance, meaning, and features to be used to decorate a space.
MH: What was the most challenging project you’ve worked on?
NB: As Nedal Badr, Most of the projects are a big challenge at first, but later when I immerse in the design process, they become less complicated or challenging. However, there is this one project that was challenging and I really enjoyed working on. It was an adaptive re-use of a restaurant to be used as a mosque. In this project, I designed a modern mosque, without any minarets or even domes. I collaborated with “incode” to do the interior design. The challenge was that we weren’t allowed to demolish the ceiling. So, we designed with the existing ceiling and we also kept the outer skin of the building. The designed mosque was an extrovert building rather than an introvert one, which was the case in most mosques.
To clarify, we created a connection between the outside and the inside through plenty of openings and landscape attachments. This was done so as to create an extrovert building that invites and welcomes its visitors.
Enjoyed the interview, get to know other architects if you click on: Towards Minimalism and Meaning: Interview With Ahmad Fayyad