TraMod TALKS with Saudi Architect & Urban Designer Yousif S Alsaeed

TraMod TALKS with Saudi Architect & Urban Designer Yousif S Alsaeed

Tradition + Modernity in Saudi Arabia

The interaction between tradition and modernity can be seen as a philosophical balance between the spiritual and the rational

Yousif S Alsaeed is an architect / urban designer with a strong creative grasp of design at any scale. His work is a bridge between nature and culture, applying modern architectural and urban design principles while respecting traditional values. His designs ensure results that are aesthetically pleasing, functional, spiritual, and sustainable. Yousif`s education includes a Master's degree in Urban Design from Washington University in St. Louis, Sam-Fox School, and a Bachelor's degree in Architecture from Imam Abdulrahman ibn Faisal University. His professional experience spans over 10 years, during which he has served as a faculty member at Imam Abdulrahman Ibn Faisal University, an Urban Design Consultant at MISH, and a Senior Urban Designer at the Sharqiyah Development Authority. His diverse background and extensive experience have equipped him with the skills and knowledge necessary to create innovative and culturally delicate designs that meet the needs of modern society while honoring tradition

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

Yousif: Saudi Arabia has been undergoing a significant transformation in its urban design and development, driven by the Vision 2030 plan launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2016. This plan aims to diversify the Saudi economy, reduce its dependence on oil, and urbanize its cities. As part of this vision, the contemporary urban design of Saudi Arabia is characterized by a focus on sustainability, innovation, and economic diversification. These projects are aimed at creating modern, vibrant cultural cities that are attractive to residents and visitors alike. Think projects like: NEOM – Riyadh Metro – Red Sea projects and Qiddiya

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

Yousif: I believe, the interaction between tradition and modernity in design and urban planning can be seen as a philosophical balance between the spiritual and the rational. This balance involves recognizing and respecting the meaningful and cultural significance of traditional elements while also seeking to create designs that are progressive and relevant to contemporary society

TraMod: 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

Yousif: Perhaps. I think the designer's tool of understanding cities has become an aggressive mathematical set of equations to fixate absolute artificially designed outcomes, ignoring the anthropological side to weather. In consequence, the eternal conflict between what is monumental and what is modern fatigued the spiritual paradigm of our built environment. It separated the individual from the hero as Joseph Campbell states. Is there a nectar to be leached out of today's chaotic systematic identity situation of the Middle East? The ancient stories of heroic holy prophets' acts are still vital in people's ethics and actions. Their inability to fuse the bipolarity of their modern identity and their religious heritage harshly creates itself in the built environment. This is where prestige prize such as TraMod (Tradition + Modernity) comes significant in trying to reexamine the situation by shedding light on the roles designers could play to re-bridge the gap

TraMod: Have you any project (built or unbuilt-concept or research) which interaction between tradition and modernity can be seen in it

Yousif: Yes, that would be the project Jabal Abo-Makrogh Development – A crowned Sight Unseen. The collaboration between modes of mobility, housing, and talent-oriented localized economy is reached for to transform the Almalaz district into a sustainable and interconnected model that aligns with Riyadh's 2030 vision. This vision is characterized by closed-loop production systems, which aim to achieve economic and environmental sustainability simultaneously within modern built environment that embraces deeply rooted tradition of locals in the neighborhood, especially day dreaming kids as Khan’s quote hints. As Louis Khan said “A city is the place of availabilities. It is the place where a small boy, as he walks through it, may see something that will tell him what he wants to do his whole life”. In this work, Riyadh Tradition, landescape and poems art told as a tale of moddern built environment, A utopian dream is being realized, one that envisions a sustainable future where economic prosperity and environmental stewardship go hand in hand. This built environment is not just about creating a physical space but also about fostering a sense of belonging lifestyle between mountains covered with desert velvet flowers

TraMod: How can “Traditions” be used in design? How do the contemporary architects of Saudi Arabia do this

Yousif: In Saudi Arabia, where there is a rich and diverse cultural heritage, the concept of Identity plays a significant role in design and urban planning. The region's Saudi identity is deeply rooted in its Arabic-islamic traditions, historical sites, vernacular architecture, and natural landscapes. Any design process in Saudi Arabia must consider these elements to create spaces that reflect the cultural and spiritual values of the region. The King Salman Charter for Architecture and Urbanism, launched in 2017, highlights the importance of preserving Saudi Arabia's architectural heritage while embracing modernity and innovation. The charter emphasizes the need to balance tradition and modernity in design and urban planning, and it provides guidelines for the preservation of historical sites and the development of sustainable urban environments. By incorporating the region's identity into the design process, architects and urban planners in Saudi Arabia can create spaces that are meaningful, relevant, and sustainable. This approach not only preserves the cultural heritage of the region but also fosters a sense of belonging and pride among its inhabitants

TraMod: Is it possible to transfer the tradition of a region to another society by design? How and which factors are needed

Yousif: Transferring the tradition of a region to another society through design is indeed possible, with significant considerations and challenges. The process requires a thoughtful and holistic approach that incorporates endless on-going factors. However, one key drive of these factors instills itself in the term “Humanization”. Thereby, the design process should prioritize the well-being and quality of life of the people who will inhabit the space. This involves creating environments that promote social interaction, cultural exchange, and a deep sense of belonging. I believe, designers could migrate environments that honor and preserve humanization valuable experiences despite the cultures while undergoing constant change of factors amalgamated in constant set of traditional values

Images ©: Yousif S Alsaeed