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AUS students win the 2015 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award
The abaya was the muse behind an award-winning project conceptualized by Nada Al Mulla and Salwa Al Khudairi from American University of Sharjah (AUS). The project recently won the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award 2015 presented by NYU Abu Dhabi Institute, in partnership with Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation, and will be unveiled in Abu Dhabi after an award ceremony on March 15, 2015.
Entitled Keswa, an Arabic term meaning "vesture," the project took inspiration from Christo and Jeanne Claude's work and their tendency to cover buildings and objects with fabric, explained the 20-year-old architecture juniors in an interview.
Al Mulla and Al Khudairi aimed to emulate the concept behind the abaya, a traditional cloak worn for modesty, both conceptually and visually. "The exterior part of the structure is smooth, the geometric folds allow the steel-our chosen material for the project-to curve, and the resulted lines resemble the seams in the abaya," said Al Mulla.
Being friends already, Al Mulla and Al Khudairi brought the best out in each other as they teamed up and encouraged each other to produce high-quality work.
No road to success is without challenges, however. Al Khudairi noted, "Among the challenges we faced were "figuring out what kind of support to use for the structure and dealing with safety issues as well. Nevertheless, in a well-spirited teamwork effort, we decided to use steel as our material as it allows us to have both skin and structure within one panel."
Not only is this their first award to win in this field, but it is also their first time building a structure made of metal. However, the AUS juniors worked through all the steps of design and were able to design something that would eventually be built in reality. "This is quite different from the projects we do within our major as this allows us to actually build the structure in full scale," added Al Khudairi. "This project has given us the opportunity to share our work, which is a reflection of us, with the public. The work, after all, is an expression of both of us," she concluded.
Their AUS journey has given them the proper background to make this project a reality. "Our major, architecture, developed our design skills. It taught us how to implement what we've learned by making physical models, and testing the structural systems by building it in a smaller scale," said Al Mulla.
While the project was not affiliated with any course the students were taking, they sought the mentorship and guidance of AUS Assistant Professor of Architecture Emily Baker and Laboratory Instructor Daniel Chavez. Both mentors helped clarify the concept as well as transform the project from a digital into a physical structure.
"It has been a pleasure working with Nada and Salwa on this project," said Baker. "They enthusiastically engage the work on multiple levels, from concept to sourcing materials to fabrication. It is really empowering for students to go through the process of making their ideas become full-scale reality, and it's a kind of work that we value and foster at the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) at AUS."
Still in the production phase, the students plan to use CAAD's labs to build the project.
After being unveiled in Abu Dhabi on March 15, 2015, the work can be seen at:
- NYU Abu Dhabi Campus, Saadiyat Island
- Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort, Liwa
- Maraya Art Centre (Flag Island), Sharjah
Monday, March 16-Thursday, April 2
Sunday, April 5-Thursday, April 16
Sunday, April 19-Thursday, April 30
Visit www.Christoandjeanneclaude.net for more information.