With a one of a kind name and local feel, bab.nimnim is one of the newest and most innovative architectural firms in Kuwait. Founder, Jassim Mohammed Al-Saddah, a graduate of the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, established the firm after refining his own home and designing the well-known Al-Saddah Mosque in Dahiat Abdullah Al-Salem.
All of Al-Saddah's designs give a modern ambience yet somehow stay committed to their Arabesque theme. Although it’s recent, their designs exclusively fit the streets of Kuwait. There is no doubt you will look twice passing by any of bab.nimnim’s work!
Khaleejesque had the chance to meet the creative mastermind behind all this, and also got an in depth understanding of what bab.nimnim is all about: it’s all in the details.
How did bab.nimnim establish itself?
Well, when I first graduated from my studies in 2008 I spent some time in London searching for jobs and helped out in some projects at Milk Studio. After that it was time to go back home and see what is available. I first worked in refining and finalizing our new home and also designing the Al-Saddah Mosque in Dahiat Abdullah Al-Salem. During that time I thought of establishing an office that will give a young and new approach to design in Kuwait’s closed, yet new market. This granted the opportunity to go ahead and establish it based on my design principles that I have developed in the past couple of years.
Incorporating the two Arabic words “bab” and “nimnim” caught our attention at the start. How did you come up with this name?
Bab is the universal Arabic word for door, and this particular element is the threshold between the interior space and the exterior space, hence that is what we like to deal with in interior design and exterior architecture. Nimnim is a local word that means small bead or detail, which gives the name a very local feel and focuses on our attention to high standard detail in our designs.
There is a similar pattern conveyed in all your modern projects. How do you develop the local and cultural design of the Gulf Region with an edge to all your structures and buildings? What kind of details do you like to emphasize the most?
If you realized from our designs, we like to apply a certain feature that gives a local feel, like a mashrabiya pattern, or the material used, or an element that has been adjusted into a modern interpretation of itself. We always take into consideration what would make this design stand out yet not go over the top and outshine everything around it.
There are a lot of architectural design firms in Kuwait today. What differentiates bab.nimnim from the rest?
We are local, and have a better understanding of the environment and the culture and we always incorporate that into our projects. We are a small firm and work on each project that comes to us rigorously and make an effort in producing something unique, and not recycled design from anything that we have seen or produced previously; I think that is what makes us different.
The Green Movement has become the latest craze for the past year, mainly in living arrangements. Does bab.nimnim encourage an eco-friendly living in their modern designs?
We do encourage it but unfortunately can’t apply it to its full scope because of the municipality. Kuwait doesn’t have a guideline or full understanding of it. It’s really unfortunate to see neighboring states enforcing it fully on all the new buildings that are sprouting in their cities.
Out of all the projects you have worked on, we have mainly heard about the breathtaking Mohammed Al-Saddah Mosque in Dahiat Abdullah Al-Salem. Tell us about your experience in designing this.
As I mentioned before, I started on it before establishing bab.nimnim, but then was adopted by the office to finalize it. Overall, if you look into the form of the building it’s quite a basic cluster of square volumes but the materials and finishing details were the stars that added a different twist to the architecture of the mosque.
Everything in the mosque was custom-made; from carpet, to stonework, to woodwork and chandeliers, all were designed to a specified detail that works in giving a coherent overall theme.
A single pattern was overlaid on different surfaces and a single type font was used to convey the 99 names of Allah and two Quranic verses. The end result is a cohesive yet simple language that can be seen throughout the mosque's interior and exterior.
All the projects seem spacious, organized and full of light. Where does most of your inspiration come from?
Modern references to design, and always updating myself on the scene through the Internet and/or books. Making use of our most powerful resource: our beautiful sun that is cloud-free almost all year long. Local culture and know-how also affects some parts of the design, making it relatable and comfortable to our needs.
There are countless talented architects/designers all over the world. We’re sure you have many favorites. Who are they?
Zaha Hadid is what made me go into architecture, and plenty of other people who studied it. To name a few, UNstudio, Morphosis, Jaime Hayon, Marcel Wanders, Philip Starck (back in the day), Future Systems, Rem Koolhaas, VERB, FOA, Asymptote, Heatherwick Studio, Ron Arad, the modernists: LeCorb, Mies Van Der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, all of who inspired me either through their designs or theories and how they were ahead of their time.
On the topic of inspiration, who inspires you and what do you aspire to be?
Kuwaiti culture inspires me constantly. I aspire to produce beautiful things that convey our rich culture and showcase it to the world.
What are you currently working on?
Many things, like an auditorium refurbishment, a multi-storey restaurant, a modern diwaniya, and an exhibition on a single piece of furniture.
What are your future plans for bab.nimnim?
Hopefully to expand to a larger base and nurture future architects/designers.
Are you considering designing anywhere else in the Gulf Region?
If we ever get the chance to design in the Gulf area we would be glad to, but for the time being Kuwait is our focus.
– Iqbal Al Sanea
Images courtesy of bab.nimnim