In the interest of space, I had to cut short much of my conversation with Thabit Khalaf, who I featured in our weekly Q&A on Friday.
What you didn’t get to read were some of Khalaf’s thoughts on his profession, and how his philosophy on architecture has helped him find peace with his new life as a refugee in San Diego.
In this segment of our conversation, Khalaf is talking about being invited to participate on a committee of professors evaluating students’ projects at the New School of Architecture in San Diego. He had wondered how his presence on the committee might benefit a group of American students he had never met.
When I was in Iraq, I was asked in 1976 to open up a new school of architecture at the University of Technology in Baghdad. We were about 5 or 6 architects. We used to sit at night at one of our houses and decide what kind of program we were going to build. We said, “What do we want our graduates to be? Philosophers, designers, writers, environmentalists?”
One of us was educated in Russia, one from America, one from England, and so on. We decided that these different educational backgrounds were an advantage. Each one had a certain outlook.
So here in San Diego, when I joined this group of students and told them I am an architect from the Middle East educated in Britain, I wondered if it was an advantage as far as they were concerned.
The days of the great architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Corbusier, those days are gone now. Now there are teams of designers who work together. I’m a great believer that with architecture, when you design a building, whenever there is a team, you will get a better solution.
The dean told me that next year they’re opening for post graduate studies, so there’s a chance they might take me to teach there next year. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and wish them the best of luck. I would be happy to contribute, because sitting here at home not doing work is not easy.
What do you foresee in the next few months?
The first day of university at Cardiff University, my architecture professor told us to meet in a pub. It was a little place where everybody came in. Rich people, poor people, homeless people, all kinds. He said, “This is architecture. This is the inside and that’s the outside. The inside is in harmony with the outside. This village and this pub, together.” To learn architecture, you have to live it. If you are going to design for the people, you have to live with the people.
So now I am here. I have to live with the people. People are suffering because of the economical squeeze. I don’t expect to drive a fast car. When the people become well off, then I will become well off. I eat, I drink. Tomorrow, I don’t know.
— ADRIAN FLORIDO