Innovation and Craft in Cairo

Innovation and Craft in Cairo

Last week, while on vacation with my family in Egypt, I had the delightful opportunity to meet our CAD engineer, Youssef Bahaa in person!  Youssef graduated from the University of Cairo with a BS in Civil Engineering. His major was Structural Engineering with a focus on steel.  His qualifications struck me when I was searching for some extra help on Upwork, and I really lucked out because he’s amazing! He drove all the way to meet us at our hotel after a full day of work to have tea with our family.  He came bearing beautiful gifts for all of us, necklaces for my girls, a bracelet and a ring with Egyptian hieroglyphs.  I am positive that my kids were very taken by his kindness and generosity and I’m also positive that it was a wonderful experience for them to see how intelligence and skill spans the globe.  Youssef knows our projects intimately, and it was cool for my kids to hear us discussing the nuances of Modern Metal’s technical drawings on the other side of the world!  

Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the intersection of innovation and craft as it relates to Modern Metal.   I was asked to ponder this question during our panel discussion, Creative Cross-Pollination, during SF Design Week, and it was very helpful for me to really think about this. The biggest part of our business is custom design every custom job involves a combination of  an innovation and craft. 

I rely on engineers, CAD drawers and architects to help solve design challenges.  For instance, we have a four story building that we want to cover in Modern Metal….how do we do this? We have to consider all architectural and structural requirements needed such as solid perimeter around the pattern area, frequency of screw holes or attachments, thickness of metal to withstand the panel size, aperture openings that are large enough yet still meet building codes.  As far as actual design goes, I need to make sure that my repeating pattern within each panel works at a scale that works with the structural requirements, and I have to make sure that my pattern works from one panel to the next so that the building does not look like it’s covered in bad wallpaper! This can be tricky and complex, and often takes patience, and hours of tedious pattern work.

To solve these problems, it’s both a design challenge, and an engineering challenge, and THAT is innovation and craft working together!   I work with only the best people but it takes all of us working together on our craft to innovate.   

Youssef recently pointed out a subtle scale change in the pattern on a large panel we were fabricating.  It seemed like a small detail but it was extremely significant as it would have huge repercussions to the end product.  The architect on this project was extremely grateful Youssef pointed this out as he did NOT like the scale change.  I am extremely thankful to Youssef as well, because he saved us from realizing this AFTER the fact.  Would have been a nightmare to realize this after the panels were cut.  Phew, and high five to Youssef who saved the day!