“A city without heritage is like a person without a memory,” says Sonia Ashour, founder and principal of A|G interior design consultants. The Gulf is built on a vocal tradition of stories, poems and pearling songs. Passed on from one generation to the other, this tradition sets the basis of information needed to understand the “why?” factor of its social structure and built environment.
Today, the Gulf is witnessing a major transformation on all fronts, including architecture and design. With the influx of foreign design firms in the effort of modernization, this region is rapidly losing its identity. The information needed to understand this culture has been overlooked and neglected by its own people and invaluable information buried in these stories, poems and pearling songs have been cast aside resulting in design solutions alien to their environment.
‘Cultural Identity - Breaking the Boundaries of Clichés’ illustrates the importance of the Gulf’s vocal tradition in retrieving information needed to develop relevant context. It also clarifies that understanding this culture and taking a closer look at its vocal tradition is not to recreate the past, however to achieve an in-depth understanding of this region to set a platform for innovative yet rooted design solutions.
Sonia Ashour is the co-founder of the Department of Interior Design at Dar Al- Hekma, one of the first and leading private colleges for women in Saudi Arabia. In 2001, Ashour founded A|G interior design consultants and has been principal since. Her firm handles high profile sovereign and cultural projects including embassies and residences for ambassadors for the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and The UNESCO Arab Regional Center for World Heritage in Bahrain. Restoration projects include the late Minoru Yamasaki Airport in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and the Murad Guest House for the Ministry of Culture, Bahrain (a UNESCO world heritage nominated project).
Ashour is passionate about her heritage and committed to academia. She teaches and advises on a volunteer basis at several Gulf-based universities and speaks on the subject of “Cultural Identity” at many conferences. She has conducted numerous cultural workshops including MENALAB 2010 in Dubai, UAE on “The preservation of Al-Khoor” and continues to act as a design and cultural advisor on many mega projects in the Gulf.
Sonia Ashour has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interior Architecture from King Faisal University, Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in International Hospitality Design from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia.
VCUQatar’s Crossing Boundaries Lecture Series reflects the cross-disciplinary nature of the featured speakers who are representatives of excellence in design thinking. Each speaker will present a paradigm of design thinking that seeks to evolve solutions to problems in innovative, creative ways.
‘Cultural Identity - Breaking the Boundaries of Clichés’ is the first in the series of six lectures and will be presented on 21 September at 6:00 PM at the atrium at VCUQatar. The lecture is open to the public.