What makes a design “Smart”?

Enjoying a bright sunny day, a light breeze and a cosy fire in winter are three of the most delightful pleasures one gets to experience. Surprisingly, I hardly remember the last time I got to enjoy such moments from the comfort of my own home; an atmosphere of blissful pleasure which the Germans describe as “Gemütlichkeit”. However, I remember that before I leave Amman-Jordan for the last time, one of my mother`s friends invited us to join her and her family on a short trip to the hill where we can sit and relax in their Bedouin tent; something I used to see only on TV.

Photo after Mus’ab Farag, https://www.qallwdall.com

Photo after http://ich.gov.jo/node/23










To my surprise, my impression of Bedouin life especially concerning living in these tents was completely mistaken. For some reason, I  imagined it will be hot, dry and unbearable. But on the contrary, sitting inside that huge tent which was handwoven from the animal hair was an absolute pleasure. Even though the weather was hot outside, we were sitting on the comfy cushions that are known for their traditional patterns and humble height to the ground while enjoying the cold breeze that has found its way through the tent`s layers. Out of curiosity, I kept asking about what happens in the winter, doesn’t the rain get through for example? Our peers then explained how the woven knots get tighter as the size of the threads increases because of the water, which made me astonished by how smart is the idea.

Then, I have come to know that the social Beduin life that is bound by social conduct, honour and hospitality is an inseparable part of the successful experience of taking this marvellous tent as a house. For example, setting and wrapping the tent had to be easy for Beduins who were rather mobile and that was not a problem due to the large number of people helping each other. Women were gathering for knitting while singing or telling stories that became part of the Jordanian heritage. Also, the rearrangement of the inner sections of the tents was relatively easy to meet the varied demands of the people who were as famous for their pride in their traditions and hospitality, as much as they cherished the simplest pleasures of life and the beauty of their natural surroundings that inspired their stories and poetry. Only when I remember these people the words of the famous American-Lebanese author and artist Gibran Kahlil Gibran begin to make sense more than ever when he said: “Look, O majestic Sultan, look at those palaces and institutes, for they are narrow dens inhabited by man, proud of the decorations of their ceilings that veil him from the stars, and he is pleased with the solidity of their walls that separate him from the sun’s rays. They are dark caves in whose shade the flowers of youth wither, and in their corners the embers of love lie, and in their space the drawings of dreams turn into columns of smoke, they are strange basements in which the child’s bed swayed next to the bed of the dispute, and the bed of the bride stands near the coffin of the dead“.

In conclusion, Beduins were able to utilize their local materials and resources to make homes that met the demands of their lifestyle. Their design was truly smart as they worked with the nature of their environment, needs and values, instead of overlooking them or rubbing against them by a mere focus on the tools themselves. Therefore, for a design to be “Smart” it does not necessarily have to be defined by high technology but with how accommodating it is to those who are influenced by it.

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