Architect, designer, artist, poet and philosopher Tarek Wagih talks to us about Arabic Minimalism and living in spaces that provide peace and tranquility, as we visit his new interiors store in CityStars.
Great architects and designers are artists who have a full understanding of the history of art, design and architecture, and the philosophies behind them. “We can re-experiment with things and develop new things that are of a certain origin. Architecture goes in parallel with philosophy. You have to understand the philosophical stance of the time and apply it to the design. Philosophy is the love of wisdom. That is what it literally means,” says architect, interior and furniture designer Tarek Wagih, the man behind Origin furniture store in CityStars.
His innovative designs bring to the world Arabic Minimalism. “I always felt that minimalism is missing something, and it occurred to me to add Arabic calligraphy to furniture. From thereon I built up a collection of designs and entered the market,” he says.
Some people would argue that if you add something to minimalism, it no longer becomes minimalist. However, that is not the case at all here. As Wagih says, “development comes through total absorption of style and where it came from and its origins as well as exploring its aesthetic sense, depth and letting it mature and develop. But no cutting and pasting.”
It is that coherent process of evolution and development that defies dogmatic forms, preventing them from being repetitive and overused and allowing space for things to grow into their whole potential. “Minimalism reject ornaments,” he goes on to say. “But I use them as texture to give identity and create balance. Minimalism’s problem is that it is all about smooth finishing. It really needs textures. Some people add the lost texture of minimalism through materials and pattern. Maybe this takes minimalism to a different level. But I still abide by minimalism’s most famous quote by Mies van de Rohe: ‘less is more’. You always have to keep developing and not stick to one design. You have to keep creating every day. It is a never ending process; improvising along the way.”
What is a piece of furniture, placed in a room randomly? It doesn’t work that way unless you have no interest in the beauty of spaces that surround you. Wagih works with the concept of spaces as a whole. “What is important to me is not to make pieces of furniture. It is important that I create an ambiance using concepts of furnishing and design. Context is very important to me. It’s not just a piece I am very concerned with the overall mood and atmosphere,” he says.
The souls of pieces of art are not derived from their lines, and the philosophical movement behind them, but they take on the soul of the designers themselves. What do they love? Who are they? Where do they come from? What was their childhood like? What ignites their passions and drives them into creation? All these make up the soul of a piece.
“Design is not a mental exercise only. It is important that it has some kind of existential meaning. I love poetry, the early modern...” says Wagih. His love for Arabic poetry is evident in his works. It is not just the context of the poems but the beautiful Arabic calligraphy that comes with it. “Arabic calligraphy is considered the highest form of Arabic and Islamic orientation. Writing gives aesthetics. A master of calligraphy cannot make an ugly piece of calligraphy, if the structure and aesthetics are inter-weaved.”
In addition to the soul of the designer, a piece also takes on the soul of calligraphists and carpenters to whom Wagih hands over the design with measurements and instructions. “Pieces take on the spirit of the maker from the designer to the craftsman;heart and soul and hands… Each object had someone dedicated to it. Every piece is part of us. They are not just objects. An architect is like a film director. He manages a team and should get the best quality out of the team by orchestrating it,” he says before adding that “Egypt is full of very qualified people. They just need discipline and a certain kind of guidance.” Amen to that.
So how exactly does Tarek Wagih create his soulful designs?
“I usually envision the space and the place. I imagine being there feeling the whole of existence; its scent, imagining people there… Standing, sitting, talking. You have to always use your imagination. Once you draw you can risk entering the 'icon trap'. You have to imagine everything first, feel it, put your soul in it. Only then can you begin to put things on paper. Moreover, maintain attention to details in your mind… With every frame giving an aesthetic feeling giving off a sense of peace and tranquility. Design is spiritual. Minimalism is spiritual, it uses light. It aspires to create tranquility and peace…but we need identity. I need to relate to place. I reject the word ‘ethnic’ my work is contemporary Arabic or Islamic,” says the keen artist. He stresses that the word ‘ethnic’ is overused and misplaced. “What offends me about the word is that not all cultures ae the same. You can’t bring together all cultures under a certain term, it takes away the uniqueness. Give everything its name. Everything stems from different spiritual beliefs, and techniques.”
Tarek Wagih names his designs after himself not out of egoistic purposes, but because he learned the hard way that this was the only way he could protect his intellectual rights. Origin only uses natural woods of the highest caliber and quality from Cherry, to Walnut, to Palisander and the accessories are made out of nickel-plated brass.
The architect, artist, designer, poet and philosopher leaves us with some food for thought. “There is no civilisation without art. Once you lose the sense of wisdom, you lose your aesthetic sense.”
Follow Origin, and Tarek Wagih on Instagram @originbytarekwagih.
Get in touch by e-mailing him or calling him on 01150511111.