Hussain AlMoosawi: Capturing urban landscapes

The multidisciplinary creative spark is documenting the heritage of façades that inform and define Emirati architectural identities, which have largely been shaped by regional influences since the 1970s



by

Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Fri 2 Dec 2022, 4:04 PM

Last updated: Fri 2 Dec 2022, 4:24 PM

Hussain Adnan AlMoosawi was always passionate about urban landscapes since he was a child.

Hussain, who was born in Dubai and spent his early years in Jumeirah, which had sandpits and open spaces amid the villas, was fascinated by Bur Dubai, one of the old quarters of the emirate, where his maternal grandmother lived.

“Most of my vacations were spent at my grandmother’s house. She preferred to stay in old Dubai. The more densely populated neighbourhoods in Bur Dubai, as compared to where I lived, piqued my interest in urban landscapes, which became my métier over a period of time,” said Hussain, a multidisciplinary creative spark with over 20 years of experience in the realms of design, photography and visual journalism.

Hussain, the eldest of three siblings, including a younger brother and sister and son of a government official, attended Dubai International School (DIS) at Al Garhoud.

He was keen to pursue a degree in geophysical engineering — a combination of mathematics, physics, geology, chemistry, hydrology and computer science — from Colorado School of Mines.

However, destiny had other plans for Hussain, who was always “expressive from a tender age”.

He chose to trade his engineering dreams for a diploma in applied media from Dubai Men’s College, which he obtained in 2004 and honed his skills in journalism, graphic design, photography and video production.

“The course laid a good foundation for a practical approach to applied media but lacked any theoretical understanding about the history and culture of design,” said Hussain, who is the Acting Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic Al Arabiya Magazine, which was launched in October 2010 and is published under licence by Abu Dhabi Media (ADM).

Hussain was the first person from his immediate and extended family who went abroad for higher studies. He obtained an undergraduate degree from Queensland College of Art in Brisbane, Australia, in 2007.

He started his design career by working for The Letter D and Museum of Brisbane.

Later, he completed a postgraduate degree in communication design from Swinburne University in Melbourne, where he also documented some of the city’s urban typologies.

Hussain, who took to still photography from a young age, explored urban landscapes during his student days in Australia.

He is enamoured by the tools that “the millennials now have at their disposal, which were a far cry from my time when you could get hold of a camera, but you needed to buy lenses and get the images developed that entailed more expenses”.

Fortunately, those challenges are a thing of the past as his expertise in the visual medium and an innate interest in design has kept his passion going and he is deeply appreciative of cutting-edge technology and innovation that's touching people's daily lives.

Hussain returned to his native UAE in 2013 and started his professional journey as an infographic artist and content creator for The National and other media platforms of ADM.

The job offered him to explore the urban landscapes of Abu Dhabi, an emirate he wasn’t “all that familiar with since I never lived there but only visited it before I went off to Australia for my higher studies”.

However, he is set to complete a decade of living and working in Abu Dhabi next year and it “gave me an excellent opportunity to explore the hitherto unknown landscapes of my beloved country’s capital”.

Hussain spent crucial years staying away from his country, when it was at the cusp of a breathtaking rapid change.

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“I’d be astonished and overwhelmed whenever I visited Dubai during my annual vacation. The city was undergoing changes that were difficult to keep pace with. It was around that time that I decided to document the change as and when I’d return home,” he added.

And close to a decade on, Hussain, who is chronological and meticulous in his approach, is on course. He plans to finish the project on Abu Dhabi, whose modern urban architecture is a marked departure from the coral stone houses, which is reminiscent of Trucial States in a pre-unification era.

He is keen to document the architectural heritage of these facades, “which inform and define Emirati architectural identities that have largely been shaped by the regional influences since the 1970s”.

Hussain said, “I’d like to follow my own instincts to document the fascinating urban landscapes of my beloved country in transition without any noise.”

Hussain, who loves cooking and olive oil is his “favourite medium”, has Asia and Africa on his “bucket list” of travel.

However, he keeps visiting Italy and southern Europe, where he likes to explore the urban and rural landscapes on foot as sustainability and conservation are high on his agenda.

“Public transport and walking are the best ways to explore a new place. It’s also a lived-in experience that stays with you for long,” he added.

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