Dubai: Tarik Al Zaharna is one of those architects, who always has a sketchbook and pen in-hand, constantly drawing and mapping out ideas in the traditional way.
It is a refreshing approach in the age of technology, where passion and detail are placed first and computers second. Of Palestinian origin, the designer grew up in Luxembourg before working in Dubai. His newly established and fast-growing studio, T.ZED Architects now works between our desert city and Luxembourg, maintaining a keen focus on forming a Middle Eastern contemporary architecture narrative that stands up alongside other forms of modern design, both in the region and internationally. A founder member of the Design Ras Al Khor (DRAK) collective, Tarik talks to Made Journal about craft and detail in architecture and what DRAK has install for visitors to its inaugural showcase at Dubai Design Week.


We would like to develop a ‘Middle Eastern Contemporary Architecture’ that too can be exported internationally.


Tell us a little about your background – what led you to architecture and what did you study?

I remember the exact moment I decide to pursue Architecture as a career and passion. It was something that has been brewing for a while as I have always been conscious of space, and the role of buildings in the built environment. I was fascinated by what buildings and materials did and how they helped form a city, as well as how they influenced the behaviours of people using them. It came to me quite early on that the most successful architecture is in fact non-architecture, or buildings that were less of a statement and more of a beautifully executed solution that was a result of a combination of spatial, material and light compositions. Plus I always enjoyed drawing so that was a plus. I started my Architecture education at the School of Architecture and Spatial Design at London Metropolitan, and then completed my Diploma at the Bartlett, UCL. Focusing on how drawings translate into buildings, I then worked for Bolles+Wilson and Urban A&O to further hone my design, drawing and building skills.


Explain a little about t.zed architects and the projects that you’re working on now.

T.ZED Architects is a design and research driven practice that focuses on producing well-executed and material detail-oriented projects in the Middle East and Europe. Through designing, research and making we explore new architectural solutions to client briefs. We are not limited by project scale and are driven by program and context. If we feel that there is something to be discovered then we will engage the project. Some of our smaller projects have been catalysts to other much larger ones as a result of our attention to detail and our willingness to always investigate novel ways of using materials.


You’re known for taking a research approach to your work, with a focus on regional contemporary architecture. Can you tell us more?

Historically, regional architecture has always performed successfully. Middle Eastern cultural and social habits as well as climate and context form a complex fabric of formulas that overlap to result in an architecture ‘style’ with purpose. Semi-enclosed colonnades, open-air courtyards, mashrabiyas and other regional architectural gestures were a result of a deep-rooted understanding between user, building and context. Of course these factors are ever-evolving as with social habits and customs, however it seems that there has been an abrupt halt in the development of regional architecture. Architects sometimes neglect the essence of context while designing. At T.ZED Architects we are interested in developing the region’s architecture and in taking it through its paces in order for it to catch up with its more contemporary counterparts. We would like to develop a Middle Eastern Contemporary Architecture that too can be exported internationally. This in turn has resulted in a portfolio of clients, who feel like they are contributing to something substantial, relevant and long-lasting. With my education and growing up in Europe, as well as professional experience in the US, Europe and Middle East, setting up T.ZED Architects was a natural progression of a sequence of events.

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Through the grapevine we’ve heard you are part of the new DRAK design collective. 

I am a founding member of Design Ras Al Khor (DRAK), which will launch during the first ever Dubai Design Week from the 26th of October to the 31st. I can’t say much, however we are honoured to have been invited into forming such an initiative, which will be far-reaching in its presence and involvement in the design industry globally.

You’re also participating in Dubai Design Week with DRAK, what can we expect from T.ZED Architects 26-31st October?

Craft, contextual relevance and detail, as always. Of course I will need to mention that our involvement is largely due to Macrame‘s support. You’ll hear of them very soon…

Tinari-Tzed-Architects-Made-Journal-2568Tinari-Tzed-Architects-Made-Journal-2635Tinari-Tzed-Architects-Made-Journal-2629Tinari-Tzed-Architects-Made-Journal-2584Tinari-Tzed-Architects-Made-Journal-2614Tinari-Tzed-Architects-Made-Journal-2621Tinari-Tzed-Architects-Made-Journal-2550 All photographs by Sandra Tinari, Made Journal (copyright)

T.ZED Architects