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AUS graduates achieving high honors in global architecture and design arena
From being shortlisted in one of the world’s most prestigious architecture competitions to designing high-fashion pieces for international celebrities, graduates from the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) at American University of Sharjah (AUS) are reaching new heights of success in the global design industry.
In architecture, projects involving three graduates and a former faculty member were shortlisted for the highly coveted 2019 Agha Khan Award for Architecture for their transformational role in creating cultural venues and environmental education spaces in Sharjah. Now in the running for a prize of US $1 million, 20 projects were shortlisted from around the world, with two out of the three UAE-based projects created by AUS graduates.
The Agha Khan Award for Architecture was established in 1977 to identify and encourage building concepts that address the needs and aspirations of Muslim communities. From improving the living conditions of the impoverished to designing high-rise “green” buildings, the shortlisted projects must exhibit architectural excellence and create a positive impact on the quality of life for local communities.
Shortlisted for their work on the Al Mureijah Art Spaces in Sharjah, former CAAD faculty member Mona El Mousfy and architecture alumna Sharmeen Azam Inayat renovated five dilapidated buildings in an urban Sharjah neighborhood to reclaim historic links to the city center. From open-air exhibition areas to interior galleries, the Sharjah Art Spaces were designed for the Sharjah Art Foundation with the aim to both preserve the urban fabric while creating new venues for the local and international art community.
Ahmed Al-Ali and Farid Esmaeil, CAAD alumni and principals of the Dubai-based firm X-Architects, were also shortlisted for their design of the Wasit Wetland Centre in Sharjah, which is part of the larger rehabilitation and environmental preservation project in Sharjah. The architects worked to create a “green lung for the inhabitants of Sharjah,” and used the existing topography of the site to minimize the structure’s visual impact. The Wasit Wetland Centre ultimately offers a safe place for reproduction of local wildlife and provides unique educational opportunities for the public to reconnect with nature.
“We are immensely proud of — but not surprised by — the caliber of work that CAAD graduates continue to produce,” said Dr. Varkki Pallathucheril, Dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Design.
“At CAAD, our students receive world-class training in world-class facilities from world-class instructors. Every day our students are directly engaged with the architecture and design industry and immersed in a culture of ‘making’, giving them both the network and the skills to achieve the highest success in the workplace. We are delighted to see just how much our graduates can achieve in the global architecture and design arena with the skills and knowledge they have gained at AUS,” said Dr. Pallathucheril.
As part of this culture of making, CAAD students are given opportunities to work on real-world design-build projects, such as the recently unveiled Tarkeeb Gate House and Garden, which was itself nominated but not shortlisted for this year’s Agha Khan Award for Architecture as well as The Plan’s online People’s Choice Award. The project was conceptualized and designed by CAAD students and fabricated in the CAAD Labs on campus at AUS.
And moving into the design arena, architecture graduate turned fashion designer Ahmed Alkhyeli made headlines recently when international singer and actor Lady Gaga wore one of his couture creations on a popular US late night talk show. In an interview with The National, the Emirati designer spoke very positively of his architecture training at AUS, which formed an excellent foundation and launchpad for his new career in fashion.
Dr. Pallathucheril said the versality of graduates such as Alkhyeli is nurtured from their Foundation Year at CAAD.
“An effective education prepares designers to succeed not just in a particular discipline, as is the case with the Aga Khan Award, but also in other creative endeavors. Ahmed Alkhyeli’s success speaks to his drive and talent, and also to the development of strong fundamental design abilities when he was a student at CAAD,” he said.
CAAD offers majors in the disciplines of architecture, interior design, design management, multimedia design and visual communication.
For more information about the College of Architecture, Art and Design at American University of Sharjah, visit www.aus.edu/caad.