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I’m with Trump

Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 1

The title of this column might be deceiving and lead the average reader to believe that I’m a supporter of Trump. I’m not. I don’t know who is going to win the elections and I have no business making uneducated predictions about the identity of the next American president. What I do know is that after watching the final presidential debate a few weeks ago, I found myself agreeing with Trump on one important, albeit unusual, issue: windows. During the debate, Biden suggested that buildings across the US should be retrofitted to have smaller windows in order to save energy. President Trump, in response, mocked this plan and suggested that it would make the American people depressed by giving them the sense that they’re caged inside the walls of their own homes. Like Trump, I too believe that large surfaces of glass are very important in housing and have a profound psychological impact on the well-being of the population. The issue of glass surfaces in architecture, especially in the arid desert architecture characterizing our region, is a perennial issue. I remember that when I was a student in the College of Architecture during the 1980s, this issue was widely discussed both inside and outside the classroom. The common wisdom was that windows should be made as small as possible in order to reduce incoming heat and thus curb energy expenditures. Accordingly, those who observe buildings built during that era will, indeed, notice that most of them boast small windows, which became a common trait of many buildings in Saudi Arabia. However, as time went by, people began noticing that smaller windows prevented them from enjoying the outdoors. They felt trapped and caged and, more importantly, detached from their natural environment. I’m with Trump in his belief that homes and buildings should boast large windows that allow their inhabitants to communicate with the outside world. Architectural history and the human experience have proven that this is important. I’m with the opinion of the American president because human beings need light, view, and nature. Those who want to conserve energy must think outside the box. Today, there are technologies that enable us to create glass that is energy-efficient. Instead of building barriers between humans and nature, we would be better off embracing the natural world around us and opening up to it. Too many homes today have turned into concrete boxes that feel more like prisons than a safe space. Therefore, I have the right to be with Trump, as he is right about at least one thing. We must place our psychological and social well-being at the core of our decision-making processes. Unfortunately, when I look at the work done by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Housing, it becomes immediately clear that other considerations – like money and politics – are unfortunately put first. – Mishary Al-Naim (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)