How one man’s film career helped shape his architectural design career
Successful interior designers and architects strive for diversity in their work and often attempt to avoid repeating the same designs. Mohamed Badie is no exception to this method. Badie chases new experiences every day because he believes it translates into his work and helps him achieve new design ideas in his projects. His projects are unconventional and bold, to say the least, and he challenges himself and his clients to push borders. He strives to execute unorthodox, impossible, and original work while aiming to provide his clients with better human experiences.
Similar to many Egyptians, Mohamed Badie picked mechanical engineering in college simply because of deep cultural roots.
While he was studying mechanical engineering at a private university in Egypt, he took a course on designing equipment and systems. This led him to switch to architecture.
However, upon graduation, he took a different career path and worked as a set designer.
“I gained a desire toward filmmaking while I was studying architecture,” Badie, the architectural designer, said.
As someone who always wants to participate in the universal language, the Egyptian film industry at the time was not fulfilling. He felt it was localized.
“I’d love to work in a world without borders or limits. The Egyptian film industry to me was full of restrictions and borders. We stop at a certain point. We can’t go extreme,” he said. “I believe that all of us are participating in a singular global culture. Design is a democratic platform for anyone in the world.”
He believed that the Egyptian film industry at the time was focused on budgeting and production.
After three to four years, he left the film industry and opened a wood workshop.
Despite it being “one of the biggest failures” of his life, he learned the physical techniques of working with materials, manufacturing, and carpentry equipment.
Working in the film industry also helped him because it taught him how to humanize the spaces he creates.
“Our goal in the film industry is to spark the human experience,” he said. “We dress the room as if someone is living there. My designs are different because I learned how to add a soul to the space I create. People feel attached to my designs.”
The workshop also limited him because he was only working on manufacturing products.
“At some point, I felt I was more than just making a product. I’m a product designer. I always wanted to think on a bigger scale,” he said. “I felt like quitting the architecture and the interior design industry after this experience.”
His luck took a different turn shortly after he closed the workshop. He woke up one morning to an article written about the industrial space that he designed for his friend.
“I was one of the first people to introduce an industrial kind of atmosphere in interior design in Egypt. Those kinds of materials did not exist in our culture during this period,” he said. “I was depressed at the time, and that recognition gave me a push.”
From there, he started working on one project after another for a year and a half, working for different architecture firms. He transferred from one firm to another because he got fired frequently.
“I got fired because I wasn’t following the paradigm of the company, which I felt was not the right path for a designer,” he said.
Upon realizing that he couldn’t work for anyone, he opened his architectural design firm. It happened gradually. He started in a small shared office.
“I stepped into the architecture world with a set designer’s perspective,” he said. “I thought everything I was doing was bullshit. I thought I wasn’t going to achieve anything. At the time, my work was not appreciated like it is today.”
People thought his ideas were unorthodox.
“My projects are bold for a conservative culture. I create original designs and new experiences,” he said.
In Egypt, the interior and architectural design industry is about styling Badie says
“In design language, ‘styling’ means you go back to history and you get inspired, but it’s a short-lived inspiration,” Badie said. “We follow more than we create because we fear the unknown. This is called copying.”
According to Badie, a designer should never replicate history.
He stayed in the US for a year and has executed several projects. It was another turning point in his career.
“I got to know who I am, what I want, and what I am capable of. I left my comfort zone, and I explored. You either survive or you don’t, and I did,” he said. “I felt like I was naked, and I was finally starting to put on clothes.”
His work was appreciated over there, and that made him recognize that he could produce global products. This gave him hope, so he returned to Egypt.
“This made me recognize that if I design a house and place it anywhere in the world, it would work,” he said.