Maintaining cultural identity in design: shape grammar as means of identifying and modifying design style.
Authors: SAS-BURO and Alsallal, A.S.
This research is an attempt to find an objective system for maintaining cultural identity in design. The proposed framework will guide interior designers to identify the key features and design language of their traditional style, and then to modify it to give more variety to the developed style and to help it keep pace with fast developments in the field of design.
This work came from the need to find a solution to the fact that there is a lack of cultural identity in the field of design such as those of furniture, decor and facades, in particular in the state of Kuwait. The lifestyle of the people of Kuwait has changed dramatically since oil was discovered, the lifestyle of its people has changed dramatically. The development of its economy have resulted in a more wealthy and up-to-date society. Such a transformation was not imposed on them, but was rather their choice. The problem is not in modernisation, but in the rush towards it without comprehending its consequences.
There is no doubt that the traditional crafts are an important source of inspiration when generating new ideas, but what if the process of generation leads to cliché designs? The focus of this research involves the analysis of a popular traditional Kuwaiti product called Sadu.
Style in art and architecture is measured in terms of consistency over a series of artifacts which can be recognised through the similarity between them. The aim of this research is to create a link between consistency in style and the Kuwaiti style, and it does this by dividing the work into three sections, each with an associated milestone. The first employed focus groups to identify the Kuwaiti style. The results of the test clarified the most common features of geometric shapes and symmetry rules among the Sadu products that directly influence the approach which the study proposes. Then the shape grammar method was adopted as a means of identifying the Sadu design language.
The second section developed the traditional style using knowledge gained from the first step as a means of generating new designs. Seven design groups were created, each with a unique approach to creating patterns. The groups were tested to evaluate whether that the new designs had not lost their original identity, and to identify which method produces the most recognisable patterns of the Kuwaiti Sadu style, and what are the common rules in the seven groups that successfully generate this Kuwaiti style. Also the test measured the likability of the design group amongst Kuwaitis.
In the final section, a design tool was created which incorporated features inspired by the data and evidence gathered throughout the study. The tool was then tested and evaluated to measure the consistency of the patterns it produced with the Kuwaiti cultural style. The tool produces inspirational designs that can be used for architecture or product design that has a theme of cultural identity, such as furniture, illumination, flooring and plan layout.
Methods of developing a Kuwaiti style whilst at the same time maintaining its original identity have been presented. The key to developing the original style was firstly to measure it by identifying the common style features. Sadu was used as a case study as this was deemed an iconic representation of traditional Kuwaiti style. Specific geometric shapes and symmetry rules were established among the tested designs and these features were found to capture the essence of the original style. Shape grammars were applied to explore the style and the results produced a set of rules that were indicative of that style. In the second step, Kuwaiti Sadu was developed by shape grammars and the common rules of the established style were augmented with new rules that would produce recognisable and likable patterns which were still of the Sadu style. The degree to which these were recognised and liked by a sample of Kuwaiti people was tested. The end stage of this research was to develop a software tool with features established from the data gathered in the previous stages that produced consistent Sadu patterns so that Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis would be able to produce designs that maintain the original style. The framework and design tool that were used to develop a traditional style proved to be successful. These were used to generate 2D developed style designs that were translated into 3D models, through action research from an interior designer. These were found to emulate the Kuwaiti style.