Tarek Beshir

Blurring the Architectural Lines

Tarek Beshir is a visionary in his field. A graduate of Cairo University, Beshir received his Master’s Degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and did his postgraduate studies in landscaping at Harvard University. He was granted MIT and Aga Khan awards for academic excellence, and in the early 90s, Beshir settled in Chicago to work for Perkins & Will, one of the leading architectural firms worldwide. Upon his return to Cairo, Beshir started his own firm to bring his unique vision to homes, hotels, and offices all over Egypt. eniGma’s Lina Ashour talked to Beshir about his innovate approach to creating beautiful homes.

You clearly have a unique approach when it comes to designing a house, how would you describe it?

Architecture in itself, to me, is about the relationship between what’s inside and what’s outside; how to relate the house to its surroundings. As an architect, you study the building, you think about the facades, the layout, and the relation of the spaces together without necessarily addressing what’s outside. But by paying close attention to the outdoor area and the landscaping, you start thinking at a macro level instead of the micro level. Where to place the swimming pool, the greenery, and the pool house should be related to what’s happening inside the house, such as the position of the living room and the view from the windows. I’m all about orchestrating these elements so that when you’re sitting inside you feel as if you’re sitting outside.

How can this synergy between those two elements be created?

You should allow the building to extend its arms to the outdoors, so you don’t know where the building ends and the landscaping starts. In architecture you work in 3 dimensions, length, width, and height. In landscaping you add the fourth dimension of time. Knowing the right plants to use can really add to the beauty of a home. Some designers will occasionally choose a plant that is really small when it is planted, but as it grows the roots spread underneath the foundations of the house and can create serious structural problems. I’ve been lucky enough to study landscaping, which means when I work on the interior design, architecture, and landscaping of a project I can have a very integral and comprehensive approach to it.

How important is the use of light in creating a beautiful home?

Playing with light is very important. I don’t like to create gloomy, dark spaces. I like it when you’re sitting in the house and you can feel the passing of time. I hate the idea of turning on the lights in the middle of the day. I feel intrigued by the idea of atriums, halls, and light; and blurring the lines between buildings and the landscape. All the elements have to be meshed together in a well thought-out manner so that the project ends up appearing a lot larger than it actually is.

Do you believe in the importance of creating a positive vibe as opposed to something that just looks beautiful?

Creating a positive vibe is very important, so is simplicity, the flow of space, and finding a simple, straightforward solution, something that is sophisticated in its simplicity. I don’t like to clutter spaces with a lot of furniture and objects. And I also don’t like to limit myself to a particular style or theme. I can start following a certain style based on the compound the home is in so there is some basic level of consistency, but if I have the choice to do something freely then I just work with the house and the nature around it. I love designing with nature. Our country is very sunny and hot so we have to design buildings that address issues such as high temperature. That way we can create a heavenly oasis in the desert rather than just having a building to live in.

Does your vision sometimes clash with that of a client? And if so how do you reconcile the two?

I don’t want to stereotype clients in any way but many times they have their own preconceived ideas of what’s beautiful, be it classical, modern, or whatever. I guess the most successful tool to convince a person of a new idea is using the “seeing is believing” concept by showing them some photos that can allow them to visualise what I’m proposing. But I leave the final decision to the client of course because you can never escape your character or style. So instead of forcing my own style on them I try to free myself from my own preconceived notions. I Iook at each project individually. The location and dimensions of the home, and the aspirations of the client are ultimately what dictate the design; which is why all my projects end up looking different from each other. You should definitely have a design character but I think it’s important to always be exploring different styles and ideas so you don’t repeat yourself.