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Egyptian designer creates a foot door opener to limit virus spread

A door opener foot operated, the ideal accessory in time of pandemic that the Egyptian designer Ramzi Ebeid Makram has also made aesthetically attractive. 

If it happens to be invisible or discreet, design is yet at the heart of our lives, sometimes softening them, harmonizing them or simply shaking them up. Whether it is into the private, professional, industrial or commercial space, design is never neutral. Egyptian designer Ramzi Makram Ebeid understood that very well when he created his Cairo-based boutique interior and furniture design firm Human Nature. Among his numerous  projects, the transformation of the old museum located in the modern resort town of El Gouna along the Red sea coastline, into a sleek new office or more recently a 4000m2 office space near the pyramids. His signature, a sophisticated mix of functional and minimalism that never forgets the heritage and landscape in which it is inscribed. Last summer, he also created Bel Gazma, a hands-free foot-operated door-opener that allows you to open doors by simply pressing your foot on a pedal while keeping your hands clean & germ-free. An idea that found particular resonance during the Covid-19 health crisis.


Initially you have a business background, why did you make this shift in your career orientation?


Design has been my passion since I was a kid, but when I was deciding what career path to take, the business world seemed to be a safer option.  That was a big mistake on my part, as it was obvious from early on what I should be doing.  And I didn’t listen to my gut, I listened to my fears.  Though I did well in my studies, and subsequently in the business world for 3.5 years, I was quickly losing my excitement to go to work and pursue business ventures.  My heart simply was not in it, and when I was 28, thankfully, I realized this and went back to what I should’ve done from the beginning.


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During the covid, one of your creations, Bel Gazma,  drew media’s attention. Can you talk to us a little bit?


Bel Gazma started actually last summer when I was in Los Angeles. I’m a big hygiene lover and always got frustrated in the lack of it in public bathrooms.  Not wanting to touch anything, made each visit simply annoying.  I would get a paper towel to dispense the soap and open the faucet, then wash my hands and use the new paper towel to close the faucets and eventually open the door.  It was the opposite of being green and took too much time.   So, when I saw the idea in an LA bathroom and subsequently in Europe, we made a similar product for the local market – better priced with the same high quality with the metal king of Egypt – Edward Naccache. 


What is the purpose of a good design according to you? And what can it bring in a time of pandemic?


Functionality is the most important aspect of design, and it is certainly needed in a time of a pandemic.  Designers the world over have been researching and seeing how design would be during Corona and after it.  Though there is so much missing information, we know that social distancing, for example, is crucial.  So when designing an office, we have to see how many employees will be there (lots of companies are doing shifts to lessen the number of people at one time), and how we can maximize distance between them while still making the space functional and cost effective.  It can be super tricky at times, but design obstacles in general force us to find new solutions.  In a nutshell, design will be one of the most important factors for us to get to a new normal that is safe and yet, allows us to live a happier life.  


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How your heritage finds itself in your own design philosophy? Would you say it is egypt- rooted?


Definitely.  Would imagine that every designer is affected in some way by the culture or country they grew up in.  I studied design in California, and the program was fantastic and covered design from all over the world.  That, mixed with my own travels and upbringing, has made me inspired by endless design philosophies.  Luckily, some of my favorite designs are Coptic and Islamic, and I can just go down and walk and discover and get educated. Most importantly, I always design with the area around my space in mind, be it in materials, style or even function.  For example, I’m doing a modern take on a mashrabia for a café.  The purpose is to give people privacy while still allowing them to see what’s happening outside, i.e. the intent of a mashrabia. 


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Published on 17 August 2020