“I always have projects ongoing on the side, I can’t help but venture into new challenges and opportunities once they are in my way. I don’t want to regret that I once had an amazing idea and I did not work hard to convert it into a reality.”
Abrar Al Ebrahim
Abrar Al Ebrahim is an Architect by profession. She graduated in 2008, however, she jump-started her career way before that; she would design handbags, dabble in fashion, as well as design homes and interior spaces. Eventually, Abrar’s ambitious nature got her enrolled in the Kuwait Fund Program for Architects and Engineers, and this was her ticket to gain an insightful internship in an architectural firm in Boston. She boldly admits that this was one of the most exciting opportunities she has ever had.
Soon after, Abrar joined the Ministry of Public Works with a plan to stay on for two years, primarily to understand how things are ‘built’ in Kuwait. She was assigned to the team supervising the design on Terminal 2, designed by Foster+Partners, in association with Gulf Consult, and that was yet another opportunity she was lucky to have. Working on such a project with an outstanding team inspired her to stay on with the Terminal 2 Project for 9 years now. “It is the best learning experience I could ever ask for.”
Excelling at her job is not enough for Abrar though; she started her jewelry line back in 2011; she definitely multi-tasks efficiently – architecture full time in terms of construction supervision and designing fine jewelry.
What projects have you worked on in the past?
Design-wise, I designed two collections of Kaftans in 2006 and 2007. I designed a collection of handbags in collaboration with Reham Maarouf, a fellow architect in 2004. In terms of architecture, I have designed a number of residential villas and had a few restoration projects. I taught at the School of Architecture at Kuwait University, and I give workshops in jewelry design to children and adults.
Tell us about your most recent work, the new terminal.
Since 2010, I have been on the team that supervised the design and is now overseeing construction of the Terminal 2 Project. I am currently the Team Leader for the Architectural Works Team in the Main Terminal Building. My team consists of 6 Architects and Civil Engineers including myself and our team also follows up with the LEED Certification process for the LEED Gold Certification that the project is targeting to achieve once construction is completed.
T2 is the biggest construction project in Kuwait to this date. It is a very complex and technologically-advanced construction site. It is indeed an extremely challenging as well as an unmissable educational opportunity for us all. We deal with some of the world’s best consultants and designers on a day-to-day basis. Terminal 2 will be a state-of-the-art terminal building boasting vast open spaces and natural daylight; it will incorporate interior gardens and water features, ceilings that are over 20 meters high and a central open space that is larger than Trafalgar Square. Not only that, the capacity of the terminal building will be 25 million passengers per year with a level of ‘Service A’, making it not only an architectural masterpiece but also amongst the most comfortable and convenient terminal buildings around the world. It will truly be, the Gateway to Kuwait!
Difficulties you faced during this project?
The main challenge on our minds is to provide the best experience possible for the passengers in a building of this size. Foster+Partners in Association with GC tackled those challenges in a very efficient manner, since F+P are pioneers in airport design worldwide. To design a building with massive glazing walls, and an enormous skylight in a country like Kuwait was a trial. The result is that the team has actually produced a structure that adapts beautifully to the environment around it and with precise calculations on thermal massing and indoor air quality. During the stimulating process of constructing this massive project, we have poured in volumes of concrete, such that has never been done prior to T2; concrete design mixes that are being implemented for the first time in Kuwait; precast on-site and moved by the world’s largest cranes to their positions. The process is ongoing every day, and we are witnesses to the developmental marvels and in admiration of the structures being erected. It is genuinely something to look forward to every single morning!
The installations at Shaheed Park were spectacular! Tell us more about the creative process.
I was assigned by the Ministry as the Official Representative for their Strategic Sponsorship for a program aimed at highlighting the role of T2 in ‘Construction in Kuwait’, and its LEED Gold Certification. As part of my duties, I was asked to develop a plan of that initiative to accurately and precisely represent the T2 Project.
During one of our LEED follow-up meetings on-site, we discussed the issue of “Construction Waste Management” which is a requirement by LEED. As soon the word ‘waste’ was brought up, Orchun – the LEED Coordinator from Limak suggested looking into the possibility of handing over the waste to the architects to be utilized at the T2 Project. “Leave it to me, I’ll get it done,” was my response, of course; and by the next meeting, a conclusive plan was ready – from efficiently utilizing the waste material – to building pavilions – to a full schedule of lectures and workshops.
Soon we had the exhibition planned, arranged tours around Kuwait city, got collaborations; and we had an 8-day program implemented shedding light on T2, LEED and Construction Waste Management in Construction Sites.
For the Pavilions, many local architectural firms were contacted to participate. They were given size restrictions to adhere to, 70% of the material they were to use were to be from T2 Waste materials and 35% from other reclaimed materials from other sites or projects. The architects that could work with us on such a short timeframe were KAYAN, ATTUNE, STUDIO TOGGLE, and GC, and I do think they did a fantastic job. Each firm developed a structure from different materials, and each had its own concept and construction methodology. We were very pleased with the structures. It is an honor to be a part of the first project in Kuwait, if not the Middle East, that supports an initiative like this one and it has been my privilege and pleasure being assigned this task and adorned with such trust from my superiors.
What advice would you give young girls venturing into the world to influence change?
The only thing that has allowed me to achieve everything I want and work hard to get it, is a simple notion of “ignoring the gender.” I do not think of myself as a girl in the workfield, or in the world to be honest. Between me and myself I am a “woman”, but out in the world, I am a “human”. I believe that the moment women stop empowering the notion of ‘being a girl is different than being a boy’, there will be no limits to what they can achieve, because we are all the same.
If you want to influence change, or have a fantastic idea – move forward, do it, stay up at night, skip the gym for a month, get the work done, with focus and determination, and see the magic enfold!