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Architecture: Cosmology and the Middle-Eastern Perspective

Samer Akkach springs out of bed at 4.00am to begin his days work. He pities the man who spends his life working towards a retirement holiday on the beach. There is no such thing as working towards happiness. Happiness is now. Samer lives and breathes his passion seven days a week and it goes well beyond compulsion or addiction. Samers research work defines him it is him. Rather fitting given his research is concerned with the relationship between architecture and the body, soul and spirit. Samer himself epitomises this. We often refer to buildings as having a life of their own: this building has soul....these walls can talk.....this place has played witness to many an interesting conversation..... Buildings or spaces can have a profound effect on the way we feel and therefore we tend to relate to them during conversation with a humanistic bent. The reality is a building or a space can induce intense feelings of happiness, revulsion, fear, elation, or overwhelming awe in a person...but what about the impact that goes beyond the rational? The moments of extreme beauty and inspiration: light streaming through an open window casting an ethereal glow over a foyer, transfixing and transporting a witness into a state of heightened consciousness. Living the beautiful touches the soul and ultimately warms the body and lifts the spirit. This is one aspect of Samer Akkachs research. The Preface of Samers first book Cosmology and Architecture depicts a defining moment during Samers childhood where he recalls watching the snow fall from behind the confines of a window pane. He knew of a clever trick: if you stand very still, there comes a moment where the snow stills and you begin to rise. So incredible was this feeling for Samer, he played the trick repeatedly, sometimes wondering if he could float as high as Gods world, up and up past the blue sky and beyond. He saw beauty and he connected with it from an early age. Initially it was Samers plan to study engineering, however he was one mark short of gaining enrolment and therefore he selected Architecture instead. Not long after commencing study he knew this was what he wanted to do anyway. (Life has a funny way of steering you in the right direction.) Samer enjoyed drawing, particularly in pencil (black and white) and he retains his childhood drawings which illicit fond memories of being made an example to other students. Architecture allowed Samer to be creative and provided an opportunity to explore ideas. Architecture was not just about buildings, it was a means of exploring the spiritual aspect of life. Samer became interested in symbolism and cosmetology, and his inspirational University Professors redirected his focus from aesthetics, insisting he read about philosophy, religion and spirituality. Samer firmly believes this broader study was responsible for truly opening his horizons. Samer enjoys the social aspect of architecture and believes designing is a social exercise; its not an individual in isolation drawing up building plans for a client. We often think of creativity as about self and own ideas, but in truth it is a collective process. Companies, councils, project managers, builders etc, must work together to create a building. Samer feels there has become too much focus on the individual image of the Architect and students must return to an understanding of their role in the society and contribution to a clients life; we must break down the barrier between the ego of the architect and the society to which they belong. To make his lectures captivating, Samer employs humour, music, film, short story and class interaction. He encourages his students to let things be, to make the most of circumstance and let circumstance flourish without rigidity. Ideally Samer would like to see a change in Architecture education to make it more socially focussed and to

diffuse ego. Historically we know a group of craftsman, artisans, builders, etc, created a building - but who was the architect? Modern times impose a social image of the architect, dictating what is architecture and what is not. Samer feels this is socially inhibitive. We need more cultural studies in order to change design and to engender more collective creativity. The built environ is suffering and we need to improve the physical environment in which we live so people have a better living experience. We need to empower communities to have a say in how they live, as the current urban sprawl means people must conform to a certain style of living, yet there are other varieties of living which include more ownership over spaces. There needs to be more effective forms of consultation rather than a community living environment dictated by one person. Collective creativity will ultimately lead to people living happier, richer and more enjoyable lives. In general, anything in life we do is about design. We design a dress or a shirt to wear and we sew it. We imagine a three tier wedding cake and promptly bake and sculpture it. We compose a musical score in order for an orchestra to play it. Architects literally do design for a living. Architects contemplate our world and how we live. Samers three Australian Research Council grants are about exploring how we live now in the modern world and at what moment the modern world was born - there was a moment of change, so how did it happen? Too often the story is told from a western point of view. Samer has been telling the story from a middle-eastern perspective, for the making of change was not just a European story. Current political climate would suggest we live in a polarised world (east against west) and both sides are equally responsible for constructing a perception they have nothing to do with each other. Moreover, there seems to be a focus on protecting our way of life and about not allowing outside influences to penetrate that. The reality is, weve all been living in this world together and we have an intertwined history, so we need to highlight that side of the story. When portraying the story, Samer must endeavour to be sensitive and smart about communicating his ideas in an inspiring way. He has done so in a series of books, the most recent is Intimate Invocations. Ultimately, Samer aims to influence future generations through his research. He would like to see students become immersed and involved in taking up the call to mend the bridges between east and west society. Architects profess to be the guardians of our built environment, so they need to have a greater sense of community responsibility not just local community but international community. They also need to connect with the beauty of our world and understand the impact it has on our overall psyche and well-being. Perhaps when you next take a moment, just like Samers snowflake, pause to admire the intricacies of a spiders web. Each spiders web is unique like that of each falling snowflake. I challenge you not to let it speak to your soul, for such simple beauty is not easily ignored. Look for the beauty in all things as it has the power to change us for the better. Thats Samers message. Written by Allayne Webster