­­­­­Initiatives Headed by Designer Dalia Sadany

By Rehab Saad

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Dalia Sadany, is a creative Egyptian architect and interior designer. She is the recipient of 11 International awards including the Silver “A” award, and a recognition for designing “Mowraj — Black 2 Seats”, that was named one of the most influential Gothic pieces. Sadany is also the founder and president of Dalia Sadany Dezines LLC. that was established in 2005, president of the International Association of Designers (IAD) in Italy and founder and president of ASDA Sustainability Development Association.

Sadany believes that architecture is an expression of values — the way we build is a reflection of the way we live, and this belief is reflected in all her designs and projects. Driven by her sound initiatives and ambitious future plans, we talked to Sadany about her own visions and opinions, not only in the fields of architecture and interior design, but in education and youth.

Early Life and Experience

Receiving her high school diploma in Abu Dhabi, Saadany came to Alexandria, Egypt where she realized her passion for architecture from admiring the old heritage buildings in the city, later graduating as an architectural engineer from Alexandria University.

“D ARCH was my first private business company that I established when I was just 18 years old, starting off with two employees and a construction engineer,” mentioned Sadany. “My first project was my family’s villa in the North Coast which was to be built from scratch. After completing the architectural drawings, landscaping and interior design, leaving the civil drawings and construction supervision for the engineer, I was highly praised by everybody.

Feeling that I still needed more experience and a wider technical background to create a successful private company, I later decided to close D ARCH. I believed that if I wanted to become a master builder and not just a designer, I should implement projects from A to Z,” she presumed.

After completing further studies in Italy, Sadany worked for more than ten years in one of the biggest real estate companies in the region, facing many challenges during the process. “Everyone has to balance between being a boss and being diplomatic. You need to give your team the encouragement they need while maintaining a solid structure,” advised Sadany. “However, many workers in Egypt are not punctual or committed, and the quality of their work is not of high standards. But, by training and guiding them, they do improve. This is what I always advocate in ASDA: commitment, respect, motivation and dealing with diversity. I am happy that many females have joined the architecture field recently,” she added.

After having a broad international background and gaining wide experience in architecture and interior design, she established her company Dalia Sadany Dezines LLC.

ASDA Sustainable Development Association

The ASDA Sustainable Development Association aims to upgrade the architectural, planning and environmental aspects everywhere in Egypt. “I decided to devote part of my work for this development. The idea came to me when I was in Italy attending an honorary ceremony as the president of the International Association of Designers (IAD), where one of the journalists asked me whether I was going to implement the projects that I designed in Egypt. This made me realize that my country should have similar solutions for urban spaces. I also believe that any Egyptian outside their country has a duty to provide something significant to his country,” she explained.

Sadany was motivated by the idea of relating public spaces to people’s behavior, and she realized that this kind of philosophy does not exist in Egypt, but rather that the society usually concentrates on function. She wanted to create an atmosphere in open spaces that would be beneficial to the well being of people, and at the same time generate income for the country.

She believes that with designs that reflect our culture, history and disciplined streets, people’s attitudes and behaviors could change positively.

AUC Greek Campus

The Greek Campus is the first technology and training hub in the heart of Cairo, previously an old theater used for storage. This prestigious location offers state-of-the-art office spaces for Trend Micro, a global leader in internet security software. The project’s name was inspired by the historical Greek building.

Many issues arose during the implementation of the project, including the contrast between the Eastern Islamic AUC building and the French Renaissance style of Tahrir Square, where creating a design for an electronics company demands a futuristic structure. “I had to combine all these different styles into one,” said Sadany. Another obstacle was that the building had no maps, so we had to do the construction work first. After destroying the building, we discovered that the foundation was an unsupported structure, with no ceiling support or columns,” she continued.

“We also encountered the closing of surrounding streets due to security reasons as we are working near governmental buildings, so we occasionally had to stop work for long periods of time,” explained Sadany. “There was also the issue of importing specific materials due to foreign currency instability.”

The project included construction and civil work, interior design and crafts work like the world map engraved into the wall using recycled iron, an outstanding masterpiece. After this success, Trend Micro asked me to do the same design for their branch in Sydney and Dallas, with the label “Egyptian Hand-Made”.

The building now consists of five office spaces, two classrooms, open spaces designed with moveable glass walls, three meeting rooms and the manager’s office, which was distinguished by its Pharaonic design.

Construction took around two and a half months and the whole project was handed over after ten months. The state-of-the-art design of this magnificent space reflects Sadany’s deep vision.

El Hegaz Square Renovation 

This project will be implemented under the auspices of the Cairo Governorate, which has an active role in the participation of civil society institutions and companies in the development of the Egyptian society.

El Hegaz Square is the largest in Heliopolis, and the second largest in Cairo. The total budget of the project is estimated at 65 million Egyptian pounds, and consists of pedestrian yards, a park, a cinema theater, an open space for poets, sculptures of famous Egyptian poets, a Roman theater for art performances, fountains, a ball yard with a large globe sculpture, a swing yard and a sculpture yard for talented sculptors to present their work.

Tahrir Square Renovation

Sadany’s vision behind designing and planning the renovation of Tahrir Square goes back to the historical background of this significant area, which reflects the periods since the 1919 revolution.

The plan includes turning some areas of Tahrir to a touristic place, which would generate revenue for the country. The project will include a pedestrian area, a memorial wall that illustrates the history of Tahrir, coffee shops, a fountain with “Liberty” engraved on it, in addition to arcades, seating areas and public gardens.

Tahrir Square was previously renovated by a public company, however it did not include any of the historical, touristic or even commercial values that is intended in Sadany’s vision.

Future Plans

Inspired by the AUC Greek Campus experience, Sadany offered to remodel governmental schools. “I want to re-design classes to be tailored to students’ needs and help them enjoy their studies in a positive environment to develop their devotion to their school,” she mentioned. “It is not about increasing the number of classes, but about making good use of the space available. Great designs are reflective of cultural identities, heritage and how these affect people’s attitude and spirit in a given space,” continued Sadany. “We should deliver architecture that is not only functional and creative, but that is also comfortable.” Her initiative is still under study with governmental authorities, however, she is going to approach the Cairo governor again soon.

Sadany is willing to develop and renovate old Egypt, including Islamic and historical monuments. She is also planning on presenting a TV program soon where she would discuss interior design.

Motivational Sessions and “Future of Young Egyptians”

In celebration of Women’s Day, Sadany has been invited to give a talk in Algeria about motivation in architecture and her experience as the founder of ASDA, and also about the concept of Arab identity in architecture. This event is organized by the Institute of Architecture and Geology’s Scientific Club in collaboration with the Institute L’architecture au Féminin.

“I met a lot of frustrated youth who do not have a specific vision, and do not know the needs of the market,” she explained. “Our mission in the association is to guide these youth, giving them orientation courses related to the market needs, and giving them a chance to do on-the-job training,” added Sadany.

ASDA played a significant role in introducing a youth initiative called “Future of Young Egyptians” (FYE) to assist governmental entities in the field of design in schools and universities,” said Sadany. “As for the Arab Identity session, I believe that every nation has its own history, architecture and design that should reflect each nation’s culture. Actually, I am not a fan of globalization and mass production, because each country has its own character and should be the mirror of society,” mentioned Sadany.

“Internships for architects and youth in general has to be become an obligatory service in all companies, where a fixed number of internships should be decided annually, and companies who do not commit should pay a certain fine,” she suggested.

Opinion on Alexandria’s Architecture Scene

As Sadany is originally from Alexandria, she gave her opinion about the current condition there and her contributions in improving them. She was a guest at the concert held at the Syrian Club, which was her first meeting as the first Arab woman president of the World Association of Architects.

“I am concerned about Alexandria’s deteriorating conditions now. I can’t believe what happened in Alexandria. The face of civilization and history is threatened to collapse,” said Sadany. “During this event, we agreed that each of the Inner Wheel Club women should be prepared for the problems that Alexandria faces. The work will be carried out in accordance with a plan and study in cooperation with ASDA, in order to protect them from the urban violation and destruction it is faced with,” concluded Sadany.

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