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Aezad Alam: Ten years of storytelling through design
With the architecture and design industry estimated to contribute upwards of AED132 billion (US$36 billion) annually to the UAE economy, many young designers have reaped the benefits of the urban development boom for which the UAE has become synonymous. Among these is Aezad Muzaffar Alam, who in just 10 years has progressed from being a student at American University of Sharjah (AUS), to interning on Dubai’s iconic Palm Jumeirah project, managing landmark projects such as Dubai’s La Mer beachfront development, and winning the 2020 Van Cleef & Arpels Middle East Emergent Designer Prize, featured in Vogue Arabia.
Originally from Pakistan, Alam graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture from AUS’ acclaimed College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) in 2010. He is now the Founder of Reform Studio, a boutique Dubai-based multidisciplinary practice, where he leads as Project Architect. As a professional, Alam takes an experimental and curiosity-driven approach to design that he credits to his education and training at CAAD.
“For me design is about telling a story and sharing experiences. At any scale the common objective is creating lasting memories through my work and every project I work on offers an opportunity to learn, where the gained knowledge leaks into the next endeavor,” he said.
“The education I received at CAAD was not just studio focused, but related electives and courses contributed towards providing me with a holistic understanding of design. Drawing on this training, my design approach is sensitive to the social trends with an awareness of the wider historical and intellectual context in which my designs are situated,” he said
This month, Alam’s winning design for the Van Cleef & Arpels Middle East Emergent Designer Prize 2020 was unveiled and is now showcased at the Les Salons Van Cleef & Arpels Dubai Opera boutique. His whimsical, abstract design of a “floating” chair entitled, “Fragments of the Desert Garden” is masterfully made from wood and rattan and perfectly captures the theme of Flora.
“As an architect, most of my creative energy is spent designing spaces that improve user experiences. Taking part in the Van Cleef & Arpels prize allowed me to carve out time to design at a micro scale. During my studies at CAAD, I took a furniture workshop course and the skills I developed helped me design an interactive object for the prize,” he said.
CAAD’s emphasis on exposing students to professional industry opportunities made a significant impact on Alam’s early career when he had the chance to work as an intern on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah project before landing a job with a regionally acclaimed firm upon graduation.
“My professors were very active in the design industry, so I benefited immensely during design crits where my studio work was reviewed by reputed architects and design leaders. My final year review with Professor George Katodrytis was actually attended by Khalid Al Najjar, founder of DXB-LAB Architecture, whose progressive architecture typology is unique to this region. Therefore, my meeting with him at the time paved way for me gaining a position at his award-winning practice.”
Over the past ten years, Alam has worked on projects of various scales across the Middle East, ranging from small boutique design to developments on a district scale, including the mixed-use development La Mer in Dubai for Meraas Holding.
“As the Manager of Architecture on the project I oversaw the design and construction of the beachfront destination and my approach was focused on enhancing user experiences and challenging people’s perception about the public spaces in Dubai. Now completed, La Mer has become a major social media attraction with high visual and emotive content, while improving the rapport of Dubai’s outdoor and waterfront developments.”
While Alam continues his work with Reform Studio, where he is working on a private retreat in the desert area of Saih Al Salam, Dubai, he is eager to continue exploring more opportunities in furniture design.
“I consider my collective body of work as a continuum of the same design language, fueled by curiosity and playfulness. I hope to continue developing new skills and further explore designing at this intimate scale,” he said.
For more news about the outstanding alumni, student and faculty of the College of Architecture, Art and Design at American University of Sharjah, visit www.aus.edu/caad.