Emirati photographer Hussain Al-Moosawi discusses his friendly facades

Thu, 2021-01-14 10:12

DUBAI: Sometimes when we paradoxically find ourselves feeling
out of place in a city or country we call home, we might be able to
rekindle a sense of who we are through cultural means — whether
it be food, music, or language.

For Emirati photographer and graphic designer Hussain
Al-Moosawi, who went to study in Australia in 2005, returning in
2013, an effective way of warming up again to his urban
surroundings was through architecture.

“I was overseas for eight years and for Dubai — or the UAE
in general — that was a time when a huge real estate boom took
place. I would come back once a year and not see new buildings, but
a new cluster, a new neighborhood. With time, I could not make
sense of what was happening and I didn’t feel like I belonged to
it,” Al-Moosawi tells Arab News. “So, when I came back to my
city, my place, (for good), it was alien to me, because my
knowledge as a designer was not mature and the space was different.
At a subconscious level, I wanted to document that, to feel
connected again to the place. I had to renavigate the space by
looking at small details. The typologist in me wants to understand
that landscape; my quest is to make sense of space.”

“Bin Ghatti Vista” is from “Facades of the

Al-Moosawi involved himself in a number of projects and the
resulting images may come as a surprise to outsiders (perhaps some
residents too), who have likely been exposed to the UAE as a
glitzy, skyscraper-lined destination of movers and shakers. Nearly
five years ago, he started photographing the uniquely colorful and
patterned fences around construction sites in the UAE’s
residential neighborhoods.

“It’s the state of being temporary that gives these fences
the license to be whatever they want. To express freely. To be
yellow or pink, or a bit of both. They teach us a lesson to be
free,†he wrote of that project — â€œUnder Construction†—
in a statement.

Meanwhile, in 2019, Al-Moosawi dedicated time to capturing
interior and exterior details of 40 places of worship — for a
variety of faiths — across the UAE, all of which have been
collected in a book, backed by the UAE’s Ministry of Culture and
Youth, called “In Search of Spaces of Coexistence in the

“Liwa Tower†is from “Facades of the

“It took me six years, possibly, to reintegrate and I’m
honored when I say that these projects did connect me back to the
community,†he says.

For the past three years, Al-Moosawi has been following what he
describes as his “life calling†— developing a pictorial
database documenting the geometrical facades of buildings from the
seven emirates: Classical and contemporary, high-rise and low-rise,
flamboyant and brutalist.

What instantly stands out in “Facades of the UAE†— which
can be viewed in a group exhibit at Dubai’s Gulf Photo Plus until
January 30 — is the bedazzling and repetitive aesthetics of

This picture is from â€œUnder Construction.†(Supplied)

“There is a natural appreciation of symmetry to the human
eye,†he says, comparing the facade’s visual appeal to that of
a symmetrical human face. The varying facades are full of character
with their earthy tones and glassy blues, not to mention the sheer
variety of window shapes. Beyond their surface, though, the
buildings also reflect the influence of a wide range of foreign
design styles on the country since its unification in 1971.

“Many architects who were commissioned from the 1970s and
1980s came from the region, whether it was the Arab world or the
Indian subcontinent,†Al-Moosawi explains. “But from the 1990s
onwards, when the international firms came in, things got a bit
messy in terms of how to build. I think it’s very important to
mention that in those days usually the owner of the building would
commission the architect or contractor directly. (That doesn’t
happen nowadays) because real estate companies took over. Today,
whatever you see around you, even towers, has been commissioned by
real estate firms so you don’t have that individual touch.â€

This picture is from “In Search of Spaces of Coexistence in the

As you’d expect from his photographs’ meticulous
composition, Al-Moosawi describes himself as systematic, trusting
his instincts and clearly knowing what he’s seeking when clicking
the button. He says that it can be a challenge driving around and
finding the perfect building or location for his project. He has so
far captured around 100 buildings.

“I love architectural details. You zoom out and you see
windows, a portion of the buildings and then facades,†he says.
“There are so many different kinds of zoom-ins, zoom-outs, and I
think facades are a good crop to give people an impression about a

Ultimately, Al-Moosawi hopes his repertoire of images will be
featured in a series of books – classifying the facades according
to era, location, style – that can be of use to architects for
analytical purposes. “Architecture is very important. People care
about it, but they need to be shown these things in a specific way,
because sometimes without you showing it in such a way, they
don’t pay attention,†he says. “The greatest achievement for
me is when someone tells me, ‘Now I started noticing these

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Source: FS – All – Interesting – News
Emirati photographer Hussain Al-Moosawi discusses his
friendly facades