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Home renovation joy for pensioner

Bahrain News
Fri, 02 Sep 2016
Ghazi Alshehabi

 Manama: A Bahraini man’s dreams for a better home for his family have been reignited thanks to an initiative to renovate rundown houses.

Ghazi Abdulkareem Al Khaber has been living in a dilapidated house in Jidhafs with his wife, 17-year-old son and two brothers for nearly 35 years.

The 44-year-old pensioner’s house was selected for renovation by Dar Competition for Photography and Architectural Design, organised by the Art of Life Society.

The contest, which is being held under the patronage of Capital Governor Shaikh Hisham bin Abdulrahman Al Khalifa, aims to highlight the issue of dilapidated houses in Bahrain.

A group of young architects and architecture students examined Mr Al Khaber’s two-storey property yesterday to draw up plans to restore it.

“Aside from the necessities such as cracks in the walls and lack of space, I would like a living room, we don’t have a living room,” said Mr Al Khaber, who lost his right eye in a car accident when he was six years old.

“I want a place of my own. I’ve discussed with my brothers on pooling our money together to get them an apartment, so I can have a place for my family.

“Because the road is uneven with the house, when it rains water floods in the house and it becomes like a swimming pool in here.

“I want to leave something for my son, at least I gave him something.

“I’m not comfortable in this house, I’m always working, always cleaning it.”

The rundown property, owned by Mr Al Khaber who has been on the Housing Ministry’s waiting list for social housing for 18 years, is riddled with cracks and each floor “is no bigger than 40 square metres”.

“I think there’s a problem with ventilation, a problem with the steps, and the height of the entrance, as well as the drop which is different from one place to another,” said one of the architects visiting the house, Deena El Bishouty.

“There are standards for how people should be living, the windows, there isn’t enough natural light inside and that affects people psychologically.

“We asked him if he wants a recreational space like just to put some flowers, but all he wants is a living space and he’s very old school, he’s willing to pay rent for his brothers to move out so he can create his own space.”

The GDN previously reported that the Dar Competition would be looking at eight houses and was broken down into two categories; architecture and photography. Winners of each category will receive BD1,000, while runners up will receive BD500 and BD300.

“Next the competitors will begin working on their projects,” said Dar Competition media committee head Bader Al Noaimi.

“Photographers will compile a photo series that tells the story of the house and the architects will propose a design solution for the family and their home, taking into account their social needs, work needs, health needs and psychological needs.

“The submission date for the architecture component is September 25, which will be followed by an initial judging phase, and after that 15 finalists will be selected.

“The finalists will be required to submit a physical model of their design solution, which will be displayed at the final exhibition set for end of October or early November.

“As for the photography their submission date is September 30. Fifteen finalists will be announced and those finalists will move on to the exhibition, and of course at the exhibition we will announce the final winners for each category.”

Mr Al Noaimi stressed that all eight houses would be renovated following the end of the competition.

“The society plans on rebuilding all eight houses after the competition,” he added.

“However, as for the winning design, it’s not a guarantee that the winning design will be implemented.

“For example, the design might be really good but when it comes to implementation the design needs modifications or go with a different design which all depends on the condition of the project during the implementation phase including budget and the companies and architecture offices we will work with.”

There are 1,600 rundown homes in the Northern Governorate, 900 in the Capital Governorate, 800 in Muharraq, 200 in the Southern and 1,000 in the now-dissolved Central Governorate, according to latest statistics published by the GDN last year.