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Basil Al-Bayati

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Basil Al Bayati (born 13 May 1946) is an Iraqi-born architect and designer who has lived and practiced for the most part in Europe, in particular, London and who Neil Bingham, in his book 100 Years of Architectural Drawing: 1900-2000, has described as "an architect in whom East meets West." [1] Al Bayati is considered to be one of the most important names in metaphoric architecture, an area he was at the forefront of pioneering, which uses analogy and metaphor as a basis for architectural inspiration as well as the "exploration of geometric and design patterns found in nature" .


He is also the inventor of what he termed "the mechanism of the wasitah (or excitor apparatus)" a geometric feedback mechanism for generating form and a method he himself often uses in the design process.


Throughout his almost 50 years working in the field of architecture, he has also designed furniture and artistic pieces for the household using such varied techniques as metalwork, inlay, glass and ceramic work and stonework as well as authoring 9 books, principally on architecture but also fantasy/fiction and autobiography.


"His work is manifested in plans and publications that express an exuberance for visual forms rare in the Arab world today…… His projects encompass a wide variety of architectural possibilities and transcend generally accepted patterns……. In all of his buildings an organic obsession with flower forms and old Islamic symbolism has been merged into a fantastic alternative architecture for the future."


He currently resides in Málaga in the South of Spain where he runs a successful architectural practice and cultural centre as well as continuing his writing.


Career:

Having graduated from the University of Baghdad, he opened his first practice, Basil Al Bayati & Partners, which he opened in Baghdad with a branch in Basra.


In 1970 he moved to London to continue his studies and whilst studying, worked in a number of architectural practices before becoming the Middle East Consultant at Fitzroy Robinson & Partners. Here, in the mid-70s, he worked on a project to redevelop the White City Stadium, as well as a Liverpool Street/Broad Street redevelopment comprising a railway terminal, shops, offices, hotel and civic amenities. In the late 70s he opened his first practice in London, Basil Al Bayati Architect, at 9 Montpellier Street, opposite Harrods, in Knightsbridge, London.


In 1983, he moved his offices to an old mill that he had restored and renovated on Miller’s Way in Shepherd’s Bush. This became for him the busiest time in his career so far and was a highly creative period for him, designing and renovating buildings in both London as well as throughout the Middle East. Much of his work at this time was also published in several books, the most notable being 'Basil Al Bayati: Architect' and 'Basil Al Bayati: Recent Works', the results of a fruitful relationship with Andreas Papadakis, of Academy Editions.


In 2003, he relocated his offices to what was already his private studio at St. Paul’s Studios, 141 Talgarth Road – in one of the famous artist studios designed by Frederick Wheeler in 1890.


In 2008, he moved to Málaga in Spain. There he acquired a five storey listed building at Calle Marques de Guadiaro 3, designed by Jerónimo Cuervo, the Spanish architect responsible for a number of Málaga's most iconic buildings. Shortly afterwards, work began on the full renovation of the building into an architectural centre, as well as the centre for his on-going architectural practice.


According to Jim Antoniou, "he has created an architecture based on stark symbols and historical notions which utilise geometric patterns ranging from square courtyards to domed ziggurats; reproduced objects in exaggerated size, from open books to tall palm trees; and explored technology from giant balloons to Islamic space shuttles. In undertaking all these projects, Al-Bayati has shown an ability to translate the significance of symbols into dynamic and workable buildings, while retaining the simplicity of his original concept. This is partly because his work is based on thoughtful research, and partly because he is able to give shape and form to what are essentially simplistic notions. He is thus able to create architecture with all the inherent qualities and perceptions of workable buildings. For although his buildings are based on simple concepts and often presented on an exaggerated scale, his attention to detail allows builders to remain not too distant from his unusual designs."


Notable works:

Great Mosque of Edinburgh, 1987

The Palm Mosque, (Jama’a Al-Nakheel) King Saud University, Riyadh, 1984.

King Saud University Entrance Gate, (Faith & Knowledge), Riyadh

Church Island House, Staines, 1987

Hyde Park Gate Mews, London, 1990

Oriental Village by the Sea, Dominican Republic, 1988

Tomb of Gul Baba, Budapest, 1987

Ad-Dariyya Cultural Centre, Department of Antiquities & Museums, Saudi Arabia


Other work:


Furniture:

After finishing his studies and whilst running his first practice, he became interested in furniture design. Many of these early designs were created especially for architectural projects that he was working on. They were made from carved wood, made with the assistance of the classically trained carpenter, Faruq al-Najjar and displayed Assyrian and Sumerian motifs together with muqarnas (a mixture of pendentive and squinch). i.e. the offices of the President of the University of Basra.


Later, in the early 80s, Al Bayati continued his experiments with furniture design, mixing floral wood-carving with geometric inlay and turned work. Much of this work was made in Cairo and India and was once again designed specifically for houses that had been built by him in the Middle East. Some of these pieces are now on display in his centre in Málaga.


In the mid-80s Al Bayati’s furniture design took a bold turn – influenced perhaps by the wave of post-modern architects and designers of the time. His designs attracted the attention of a number of flamboyant clients who commissioned suites for their weddings. His furniture of this period was all made at the exclusive OAK factory in Cantu, Italy, owned by the Pologna family with whom Al Bayati became close friends. His work, at this time, was considered by some to be post-modern although to others it readily escaped such definitions. Michael Collins in his Post-Modern Design said of it: "Pluralistic Post-Modernism is evident in the exotic furniture designed by Basil-Al Bayati…….inspired by Persian tomb-towers, Cairo Mosques, minarets, and the balconies of Moghul palaces, to name but a few sources. His is fantasy furniture, inflected towards Islamic colour and luxury."


In 2000 Al Bayati opened ‘Basil Leaf’, the first of a series of organic food shops in London in which all of the specialty gourmet food furniture and displays had been designed by him. The design of these pieces was extravagant and theatrical, using Sumerian mythological figures, chariots, temples, elephants and even Saint Basil's Cathedral as sources of inspiration. At the same time, the pieces were practical, functional creations – cake display cabinets, coffee grinders, fruit cabinets and so on. A number of these pieces can be seen at his centre in Málaga. In 2013, he was introduced by a mutual friend to Sidqa Usta, an expert craftsman from Istanbul. Together they began working on a new line of new furniture that was to include tables, display cabinets and wall units, in a uniquely Arabesque style utilising wood, marble and bronze as the principal materials. A number of these can now be seen in the centre in Málaga.


Metalwork:

His frequent visits to Istanbul put him in touch with a number of local artisans, from sculptors, carvers, glass workers and metal workers. One of these was Yuksel Ustaoglu, an expert metal worker specialised in bronze and brass. Al Bayati began frequenting his workshop in the old Ottoman market and with Al Bayati’s designs, they soon began producing a collection of chandeliers and lamps made from bronze and brass, five of which can now be seen in the cafeteria of his Málaga centre. The inspiration for this collection came this time from the natural world, in particular the geometric patterns and shapes of unusual sea creatures, blended with traditional old Ottoman-style lamps and lighting.


Glasswork and ceramic:

In 1990, he designed a collection of cutlery and tableware, called the Palm Banqueting Suite, based upon the motif of the palm tree. It was a one-off commission for one of his buildings for a client in Kuwait and was made by a local Italian artisan. A reproduction of this set, made in Morocco, is on display at the centre in Málaga.

In 1980 he designed a glass fountain for one of the Saudi royal family. The piece was so particular in its design that it took an expert glass-blower seven attempts before being successfully executed.

During the last few years he has continued his experiments, combining bronze and glass to create a series of bowls and sculptures that can be seen in the centre in Málaga.


Stonework:

Al Bayati has also designed a number of features in stone usually as part of a larger architectural design. Two of the most notable are the waterfall feature of Westbourne Terrace (see list of works) and the Palm Suite fireplace, with its delicate peacock motif.


Writing:

Apart from writing books on architecture, Dr. Bayati has also published works of fiction and autobiography and has contributed articles to publications such as Building Design, Alam Al-Benaa magazine and others. 


Books by Basil Al Bayati:

- Al Bayati, Basil (1981). Process and Pattern. aarp. ISBN 0-906468-07-8.

- Al Bayati, Basil (1983). Community and Unity. Academy Editions/St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-906468-07-8.

- Al Bayati, Basil (1984). The City and the Mosque.Oxford. ISBN 0-906468-08-6.

- Al Bayati, Basil (1988). Basil Al-Bayati: Architect. Academy Editions/St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-85670-925-5.

- Al Bayati, Basil (1993). Basil Al Bayati: Recent Works. Academy Editions/Ernst & Sohn. ISBN 1-85490-170-2.

- Al Bayati, Basil (2008). Basil Al-Bayati: Conceptualist. Genivs Loci. ISBN 978-88-903666-2-8.

- Al Bayati, Basil (2011). The Age of Metaphors. Fabulist. ISBN 978-0-9571235-0-2.

- Al Bayati, Basil (2012). Baghdad: Memories of an Architect. Fabulist. ISBN 978-0-9571235-1-9.

- Al Bayati, Basil (2014). In Days of Old. Fabulist. ISBN 978-0-9571235-3-3.

- Al Bayati, Basil (2015). Creativity in Architectural Design. Fabulist. ISBN 978-0-9571235-5-7.

- Al Bayati, Basil (2015). The Sun, The Moon, The Architecture of Time. Fabulist. ISBN 978-0-9571235-4-0.


Other books:

- Bingham, Neil. 100 Years of Architectural Drawing: 1900-2000. London: Laurence King, 2012. ISBN 978-1-78067-272-4

- Collins, Michael. Papadakis, Andreas. Post-Modern Design. London: Academy Editions, 1989. ISBN 978-0-84781-136-6

- Reynolds, Dwight (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Modern Arab Culture. London: Cambridge University Press, 2015. ISBN 978-0-52172-533-0

- Kultermann, Udo. Architecture in the 20th Century. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1993. ISBN 978-0-44200-942-7

- Hattstein, Markus & Delius, Peter. Islam: Arte y Arquitectura. H.F. Ullmann, Berlin, 2007. ISBN 978-3-83313-536-1


Other information of interest:

- Participated in the ‘Symposium on the Arab City: Its Character and Islamic Cultural Heritage’, 1981, held in Medina.

- Served on the editorial board for the Alam Al-Benaa magazine, published by the Centre of Planning and Architectural Studies.

- Served on the jury for the Arab Towns Organisation (ATO) Architectural award, Doha, Qatar.

- Book reviewer for Building Design magazine and Alam Al-Benaa magazine.

- Participated in the Arab Architecture Exhibition – Past and Present, organised by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce at the Royal Institute of British Architects, 1984.

- Participated in the Venice Biennale of Architecture Exhibition in 1982, directed by Paolo Portoghesi exhibiting ‘Jama’a Al-Kitab’ - The Book Mosque, Al-Nakhlah Palm Telecommunications Tower and others.