Green Attitude
May 8, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Muhammad is the "Partner" in Hoehler & Partner LLC Architects and Engineers, a German-Omani joint venture, founded in 2008 and based in Muscat. Though the company is young, it is already gaining recognition as one of the most innovative architecture firms in Oman. At the 2013 Construction Week Awards Oman they received the award for "Best Commercial Project" for the new GUtech campus in Halban, while Richard Lisker, from the company and project, won the prize for "Best Project Manager."

Muhammad, the owner and chief architect received highest recommendation as Engineer of the Year and Construction Executive of the Year. What set the company apart was their emphasis on going above and beyond usual standards with modern, sustainable designs that bridge traditional Omani architecture with contemporary, functional, architecture, ideas that are very important to Muhammad. "It's a sustainable building, and it's the new architecture of Oman," he says, sitting in his office in Shatti Qurum. Architecture runs in Muhammad's blood. His father was also an architect, and since he was a child, Muhammad, now in his early 30s, has been fascinated by designing buildings. "I used to go to his office when I was a kid. I loved it. I was already designing before I went to school. When I was in high school I would help my uncles design their houses," he recalls, a big smile brightening his face. His father actually discouraged him from pursuing a career in architecture, telling him it wasn't appreciated enough, but Muhammad wasn't deterred. Without his family's knowledge, he majored in architecture at the University of Oklahoma in the USA. He loved his studies and continued on to get a Master's degree.

After graduating from the University of Oklahoma, a job opportunity took him to Germany, a country where sustainability and concern for the environment is widespread. While living in Germany from 2004 until 2008, he enrolled in Aachen University, from which he's now finishing a PhD in Urban Conservation. It was also there that he and some German architects decided to collaborate and submit a design for the new GUtech campus. Part of their proposal included setting up a base in Muscat. When they were awarded the contract, Hoehler & Partner was born.

GUtech is much more than classrooms, Muhammad says. It's a pioneering design for sustainable architecture. It has an air conditioning system that reuses the cool air, and redirects it to cool the main common area, which is an outdoor courtyard type of space within the main building. The doors and windows are airtight to hold the cool air. There are sensors to turn off lights when no one is there. It reuses its own dirty water to water the green spaces. It was built according to the direction that would maximise wind flow for natural cooling. The campus also reflects the environment around it.

"The whole concept has Omani elements. It has Omani architecture, like the open space in the middle, like you have in Nizwa Fort, for example. That centre has to have life. It's a place where students can stay in the summer, and we cooled it by five degrees with the sails above to create shade and air flow with their direction, and with the water fountain below," Muhammad explains.

Since the GUtech project, the company has been growing rapidly. Some of its currently projects include the Museum of History of Islamic Science, the Porsche showroom renovations, and the new University of Buraimi campus. They also have some small projects, including villas for environmentally-conscious Omanis, and they are doing project management for a project in Ghazni, Afghanistan, which is the Cultural City for Islam for 2013.

At the centre of all these projects and others, are the concepts that made GUtech a winner. They feature designs that save energy and are more eco-friendly than most. The Museum of History of Islamic Science, which is about to be built on the GUtech campus, includes designs that combine Islamic art with sustainabl

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