Medy Navani is the CEO and founder of architectural and interior design practice Design Haus Medy, established in 2006. The company works on all sorts of projects, from private homes to hotels, shops to restuarants. Here Navani, who established his business in Germany before moving to the Middle East, relocating to the Design District last year, gives his views on the current state of architecture.
MM: What do you see as being the major trends in architecture at the moment? Why these?
MN: In the last couple of months, most of the architectural trends I have seen have been of an experimental nature, with architects trying out new and unconventional approaches through the combination of different building materials, forms, and shapes. With the advancement of technology, we are able to experiment more, especially with 3D printing and 3D architecture. Buildings with completely new shapes are being developed by a lot of architects around the world and more and more are moving towards sustainability and alternative materials.
MM: What do you expect to become the biggest issues in architecture over coming years?
MN: Today we are faced with the issue that there is not enough housing for the dramatically increasing population. In order to combat this, we are seeing buildings being constructed in a short period of time to withstand demand but with this, the developments can be of very low quality. I believe that one of the biggest issues we’re going to see is inadequately executed architecture, not because of bad planning but due to the use of cheap materials. Of course, this also brings us to an increase in high rise building, with vertical architecture being the main focus. Eventually, I predict, we’re going to see a decline in houses to make way for skyscrapers.
MM: Such high-rise building may be commonplace but they face a lot of criticism around the world for ruining city skylines. What do think about that? How can skyscrapers be justified?
MN: High rise buildings are a very interesting subject. When I was at university, I was growing up and studying in Hamburg, Germany. Hamburg at this time only had two towers but no high rise buildings, and it was asked to the Mayor of Hamburg during a conference, “Why does Hamburg not have more skyscrapers or towers?” His response: “We can afford not to have skyscraper as we do not have a demand for space. As long as the city has enough space, it can afford to not build skyscrapers”. I think this was quite a dominant statement – one which shows skyscrapers are not the optimal living solution. Of course, there are perks to living in a high-rise, including beautiful view, but it also brings its fair share of concerns, including technology used, the effort to build to a certain height, and its carbon footprint. Safety is also something that needs to be taken into consideration – in the case of a fire, obviously a high rise can be quite dangerous. Therefore, taking these aspects into consideration, if there is the luxury not to build a skyscraper, I think that should actually be favoured.
MM: We’ve also seen architecture help rebrand cities around the world. Is this still an important role for architecture? How so?
MN: In my opinion, architecture plays a huge role when it comes to not only rebranding but also when creating landmarks of a city. As we all know, the landmark of Dubai, once upon a time, was The Clock Tower located in Deira. As Dubai evolved and with the completion of the first seven-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab became the iconic ‘logo’ for the city. Today I would say the landmark of Dubai is the Burj Khalifa and Business Bay. I believe that every city starts to take shape through a process of architectural phases which are strategically placed in different areas. It’s down to the architecture to redevelop and re-cultivate a city to add new value. I would say architecture is the most important part of the development of a city. Another example of this would be Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum, a building which helped revive an entire city and Norman Foster’s Reichstag Building, which is a building that rebranded an entire nation.
MM: Has the rise of the ‘starchitect’ been a good thing?
MN: The ‘starchitect’ is not something new – in the history of mankind we have seen architects that have designed buildings which elevated them into the spotlight as a starchitect, including the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci. What really makes and defines a starchitect is their ability to create and build architecture that is recalled as modern or influential for their time. As early as the Renaissance, Baroque and even seen today in modern architecture, to be able to make it as a success story, it has to be considered a blockbuster style of architecture, something that is a novelty for the time. In the modern day of social media, this provides an influential platform for architects to showcase their work and allow for younger generations to become interested in the topic. I don’t believe starchitects are a bad thing. It is just a different definition to provide to someone who is looked up to and creates a fellowship due to unique designs.