Raya Habib, an American engineer of Egyptian descent, is obsessed with the concept of “minimalism.” Thus, she turns her back on unnecessary elements of decoration … In the end, the works that bear her signature highlight a solid architectural background, good taste and harmonious relationship between the elements, with a distance from the monotony.
In the following dialogue, engineer Raya Habib, talks to “Madam” about her philosophy in architecture and sheds light on the reason for her passion for commercial projects, which reveals her creativity according to her expressions.
Are there any Egyptian features in your work, whether they are performed in the United States or around the world?
In the field of interior design, my work evokes a sense of eternity and mastery. Here, I can relate to my origins, especially to the timeless history of the Egyptians, the prosperous history of craftsmen and their skilled crafts, based on beautiful natural materials.
Minimalism in design
How do you define “minimalism” in design? Why is most of your work related to this concept?
“Minimalism” means emptying spaces of any thing and “things” that do not work; This approach is also widespread in my work, because I believe that architectural space should be “silent”, and away from noise, although there are exceptions to every rule in the design world always! Moreover, I aim to design simple spaces without any complexity … People’s days are finally filled with chaos; In confrontation, I like to create spaces that offer harmony, balance and peace of mind. I believe that light, shape, materiality and volume express my vision in architecture, not any decorative element that distracts from the basics of the project.
High ceilings, sunlight, high-end materials and earth tones clearly fall into your projects. Did I miss any other feature of it?
There are also strong concepts, details (or physical relationships), simplicity and natural materials.
How would you describe your style, in a nutshell?
It is true that the “minimalist” or harsh method is essential to my work, as I said, but every project has its own circumstances. I see that my style is always evolving, but the essence of my style is to be artistic by working on a minimalist design, adhering to the originality and functionality that comes first!
Do you prefer designing commercial or residential projects? And why?
I prefer commercial projects, as working in similar spaces gives me pleasure and allows more people to experience, enjoy and be inspired by designs. In addition, I like the idea of interdisciplinary cooperation, in the context of running a business, as it enables you to learn many experts, whether from civil engineers, cooks, food and beverage consultants or hospitality workers … In short, I’m excited to work in Commercial project design because it frees up my creativity. But the above does not mean neglecting residential projects, and preparing good and attractive designs for them!
A residential project that keeps your fingerprints, Hacienda White Beach House in Egypt, has gained the attention of the interior design community. Tell us about this “White Homestead”, in terms of concept, materials and style?
The project owner wanted his summer house to be characterized by simplicity, splendor and comfort, so the design concept revolved around connecting the interior and exterior spaces with each other, with the first view from the outside areas and the pool, which takes the shape of the letter L, so that the eyes of those sitting inside can be drawn away from it, in addition to allowing those entering the living and kitchen premises as well as the bedrooms to see the water. Within this frame, the folding glass doors allowed the interior and exterior to be seamlessly integrated. In terms of materials and spaces, they are “straight”, well thought out and accurate and are in stark contrast to the seascape surrounding the “home” and the imperfect natural formations of the sea.
It is worth noting that the white color that dominates the space allows it to dim the abundant sunlight and that the natural materials used, such as wooden beams on the ceiling and local grinding stones on the floor, evoke a sense of authenticity and roughness.
Technology and youth
You have been a teaching assistant at the U.S. Department of Design; How would you describe today’s generation of students?
They are good thinkers and approach design in technological terms .. On the other hand, I think they are more efficient in making good use of time, compared to people of my generation.
What projects are you working on, through your company, now and in the near future?
In the United States, there is a new business in Los Angeles, California and a private apartment in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In Egypt, there are some beautiful private houses, a North Coast restaurant, a club and an inclusive residential environment concept in El Gouna. In addition, there is a commercial project, in Dubai!
in rows …
Raya Habib Salila, from Egyptian parents, was born in the United States, where she lived for a long time before returning to Egypt in 2009, with residence from her home country and the United States alternately.
Raya studied architecture and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a master’s degree. Subsequently, she founded her first design company in 2016. Raya describes the company, saying it is an “interdisciplinary design boutique, carrying out architectural and interior projects”.