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Architecture and urban planning students and faculty honored for sustainable design solutions with local impact
Students and faculty members from the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) at American University of Sharjah (AUS) were recognized for their innovative approaches to sustainable architecture at the Environment and Protected Areas Authority’s Eighth Annual Sharjah Sustainability Awards held online recently. The CAAD students won the Outstanding Student and Outstanding Team Awards for their projects prepared under the guidance of architecture faculty members Dr. Jerry Kolo and Cristiano Luchetti.
Known for developing and nurturing the region’s leading design talent, the college’s latest achievement honored projects that focused on sustainable building practices that minimize adverse environmental impact at a local level. Eman Alshaikh, who was mentored by Dr. Kolo, Professor of Architecture, won the Outstanding Student Award for her project in the “Applied Scientific Research” category, while Aashika Shibu and Akhila Girijan, with Assistant Professor of Architecture Cristiano Luchetti as their advisor, won the Outstanding Team Award for their project in “The Sustainable Architectural Design in the Built Environment” category.
According to Aashika Shibu, the award was an avenue for their final year thesis project to have a real chance at being implemented in the UAE, as it addressed significant challenges impacting the local area of Al-Nasserya in Sharjah.
Entitled ”Aqua–Care Machine Park,” the winning project was part of Luchetti’s ARC 501 course offered in Fall 2019, which focused on the requalification and urban regeneration of Al-Nasserya. The students designed the overall masterplan and then proposed singular projects within the common scheme.
“Shibu and Girijan’s project focuses on social issues and challenges in Al-Nasserya, including the lack of gathering spaces, shaded walkways, playgrounds and designed pedestrian road network. In addressing these issues, the project aims at being a self-sustaining machine that not only introduces sustainability measures for itself, but also aims at making its community greener,” said Luchetti.
“We aim to build a sustainable machine that can be used as a prototype which can be inserted in every neighborhood in Sharjah to make the entire community energy efficient and enhance waste-water management through a variety of sustainable approaches, such as a reed bed system, aquaponics and vertical farming, and also by creating a series of high-comfort microclimates,” he said.
Commending his students on their project, Luchetti added, “The real mission of an architecture school is to contribute to the improvement of the built environment in which it is located. This project is a clear example of how this can be achieved through sensibility toward environmental issues and extraordinary design quality. It demonstrates that a feasible, yet sophisticated, contribution to the context through the architecture designed in academia is possible.”
Eman Alshaikh, who graduated with a Master of Urban Planning degree this year, was recognized for her project “Biomimicry as a Sustainable Solution in Sharjah.” Her research focuses on the concept of biomimicry, which sees sustainable urban design shaped around the function and features of the natural environment.
“Biomimicry is a powerful concept that implores city leaders and experts to learn how nature functions, and to use these lessons learned to design engineering and structural systems that aim to address society’s environmental problems in a sustainable manner,” said Dr. Kolo.
“Alshaikh’s explorative, evidence-based project uses social science research case studies to show how biomimicry can be used as a framework by cities like Sharjah to learn how nature functions. The lessons learned can now be applied to design nature-inspired and sustainable solutions to environmental problems, such as air pollution, flooding, urban heat and more,” he said.
Dr. Kolo, who also serves as Academic Coordinator of CAAD’s Master of Urban Planning program, said that social science research like Alsheikh’s helps to strengthen university-community ties and bolsters the university’s research in areas that help cities address their major challenges sustainably.
For more information about the College of Architecture, Art and Design, its programs and award-winning faculty and students, visit www.aus.edu/caad.
Image caption: Winning project for the Outstanding Team Award