TraMod TALKS with Mohammed Ibrahim Shafee

Tradition relies on the past for guidance, while modernity seeks progress and new ways of living, reflecting both the present and future

TraMod TALKS with Saudi Architect Mohammed Ibrahim Shafee

Mohammed Ibrahim Shafee, is a Saudi Architect and Graduated from Saudi Arabia University of Dammam. He is founder Of Mish Architectural Office and lead architect with ten years of experience. Mohammed is Al Madinah Al Monawara and is widely regarded as creativity and conceptual design. With a track record of award-winning designs, he is known for his groundbreaking ideas and exceptional conceptualization skills with his experience in the field. He has honed his craft to a fine art, earning a reputation as a visionary who can bring any project to life. His recent project, Al Gharra Mosque, has been selected as short list project in TraMod AWARDS 2023, professional, architecture, built category

TraMod ACADEMY: How do you see the contemporary architecture of Saudi Arabia? Where is it going on

Mohammed: In the realm of contemporary architecture, Saudi Arabia reflects a fusion of traditional elements with modern innovation, driven by ambitious urban development projects and economic diversification initiatives like Vision 2030. Urban centers such as Riyadh and Jeddah are actively engaged in planning initiatives aimed at fostering sustainable living environments. The integration of technology and sustainability principles is dynamically reshaping the architectural landscape, with Saudi architecture drawing inspiration from Islamic tradition while embracing modernity. Looking ahead, Saudi Arabia is poised to prioritize architectural innovation and urban development, aligning with societal aspirations and fostering economic and cultural growth. In this transformative process, the architecture and design commission holds a pivotal role, guiding and evaluating these endeavors to ensure adherence to standards of design quality, cultural sensitivity, sustainability, and community engagement

TraMod ACADEMY: What is the meaning of “Tradition” and “Modernity” for you? How do these effect design? And how can they have interaction

Mohammed: Tradition relies on the past for guidance, while modernity seeks progress and new ways of living, reflecting both the present and future. The interaction done by emphasizes the importance of a contextual approach to architecture, integrating tradition and modernity in the designs. I believe in drawing inspiration from local cultural contexts and traditions while embracing contemporary ideas and technologies

TraMod ACADEMY: According to the speed of the technology, is it needed to know about the “Identity” of a region before a design process starts? How can “Identity” be effective

Moahammed: Technology is a tool to enhance the role of architect and it’s also an important factor that effect the design and built environment. The effectiveness of identity in architecture lies in its ability to create meaningful and resonant built environments that enhance the human experience and contribute positively to society

TraMod ACADEMY: How do you pay attention to interactions between tradition and modernity in your mosque projects

Mohammed: "The design process aims to return to the roots and fundamental elements of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, seeking to weave a unique fabric in the area beyond conventional norms. The design reimagines the mosque as a place of worship characterized by simplicity and the absence of ostentation, while preserving natural aesthetics and utilizing locally available materials. The design interacts with the block surfaces to adapt to the environmental context. This is not intended to create a sense of spirituality within the space, as defining spirituality through design is technically challenging. Rather, it aims to minimize anything that might detract from the devotion of the worshiper in any space, whether it be a rough cave or a mosque with smooth surfaces. The design sensitively addresses the symbolic imagery and aesthetic expressions of the mosque due to its religious significance and the difficulty of challenging the architectural norms ingrained in the community. While elements like domes and minarets have shaped our current religious landscape, acknowledging our attachment to them, it's equally challenging to generate designs that may offer new perspectives and dimensions, which we urgently need amid existing and evolving challenges

The design replaces expected ornamentation and specific interior elements like the mihrab and qibla with descriptions in meanings. This facilitates a clear expression of functional and aesthetic design in materials and openings in windows and ceilings, alongside the clear and unadorned appearance of the structural elements (columns and beams). The curved qibla wall is horizontally aligned to include the mosque within the peripheral view of the worshipers, emphasizing the centrality of the imam and employing locally available volcanic hajar al-harra in its construction, considering it as a recognized building element in Medina and readily available in its environment. The visitor's journey to the mosque is carefully designed, starting from entering the garden square, passing through the ablution area, and gradually ascending alongside the concrete mass of the mosque on the ground, culminating at the glass entrance reflecting the garden and the opposite palm trees. Additionally, the housing block (imam and muezzin) is strategically elevated to shade the lower path leading to the mosque at a side entrance

Images ©: @i7snov | Mohammed Ibrahim Shafee