The Next Generation Of Architects: Part 2

By August 3, 20212021
Safa Saleem Esraa Abdellah

In the second part of this series we chat to assistant architects Safa Saleem and Esraa Abdellah who share their sources of inspiration and their thoughts on what good design means to them.

  1. What was it that appealed about architecture that made you want to take it up as a career?

Safa Saleem: The way buildings are shaped from country to country, region to region has always intrigued me. I am fascinated by the way buildings define the socio-cultural aspect of a place as well as the amount of influence structures have in shaping the environment. I enjoy learning how what we build affects the lifestyle and quality of life of a place and this makes me appreciate the importance of my role as an architect.

Esraa Abdellah: Growing up in a city where its architecture is simply a great mixture of different cultures and styles from Greek, Italian and Ottoman to Pharaonic, Coptic, Islamic and Arabic resulting in an extraordinary melange of architecture and igniting a great passion for me to add something to the world of architecture. I believe a series of successful buildings create a beautiful city.

  • What are the challenges and what inspires you the most in architecture today?

SS: I do sometimes feel that we don’t have an ideal work-life balance at times. There are times when the workflow isn’t too taxing and there are times when you’re on the brink of a submission deadline and realise that there are many changes required by the client in a very short space of time.  Those are the weeks that are quite hard, when the workload and the time frame requires you to stay late and to work on the weekends and you don’t really get the rest you want. Of course there are occasions when this is unavoidable but we should not glorify late-nighters – staying late night after night, week after week. But this is all worth it when you see something you designed come to fruition. And the accreditation for the projects we have worked on as well as the vast array of challenging and exciting projects. This is what inspires us and pushes us on every day.

EA: What inspires me the most in architecture is that it is the only thing that combines Beaux-Arts and engineering; all together forming a spectacular outcome. And what really frustrates me is when a building is built without applying the fundamentals of architecture and the correct proportions ending up with the most annoying user experience where people don’t want to stay in that building.

  • What or who has been the biggest influence on your work?

SS: Working in this region and particularly here at GAJ, I have been able to experience and be around people from such different backgrounds with a plethora of life and practical experiences. Managing partner Brian Johnson is someone I look up to. I have never met a man who has achieved so much in life but who is so down to earth. It humbles you. Despite the vast amount of knowledge and experience he has, the diplomacy while exchanging a conversation or even a pleasant morning greet is something for everyone to learn from not just in terms of good design but also in being a good human being.

EA: I am a passionate architect who is captivated by the details of the building space from its external facade to its interior architecture. Great architects such as Le Corbusier, Antoni Gaudi, Norman Foster, Frank Lloyd Wright, Hassan Fathy, Zaha Hadid and many others within the list are perhaps some of the greatest architecture influencers of my career life.  

Since 2007, when I initially took my first step into the world of architecture, I have learned a lot from the people around me and I believe I will continue learning, developing and improving through my team leaders, colleagues and clients throughout my career.  

  • Define good design

SS: Good design is an amalgamation of functional architecture, articulate interiors and adequate lighting. Design should never compromise on functionality when delivering on aesthetics while taking into consideration the end-user and psychological affect it will have on people.

EA: A good design is an outcome that offers a great user experience, comfort, sustainability, respect for the environment, resilience, accessibility to everyone, and a successful design is achieving all the above by creating an astonishing piece of art.