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Gratitude Park at American University of Sharjah acknowledges 25 years of contribution and achievement
The creativity and ingenuity of American University of Sharjah (AUS) alumni has been on show once again, with the alumni-designed Gratitude Park being opened this past weekend by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed AlQasimi, Member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates, Ruler of Sharjah, and Founder and President of AUS.
The Gratitude Park was commissioned to mark the 25th anniversary of the university and pay tribute to the contributions that friends of AUS and alumni have made to AUS, helping it to become one of the region’s leading institutions. The park’s design comes from two notable architects who are AUS alumni, Eman Shafiq and Samrakshana Suresh. Shafiq and Suresh graduated from the AUS College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
The park pays tribute to the original vision of His Highness to create a distinctive institution set against the backdrop of Islamic history and in the context of the aspirations and needs of contemporary society in the UAE and Gulf region. Over the past 25 years, AUS has cultivated a reputation for harnessing the talents of its students so that they are well prepared to contribute to the ambitious nation-building goals of the UAE. AUS students, alumni and faculty have helped drive many of the country’s most important achievements, including successful ventures into space, the adoption of alternative energy resources and breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer, among many others. Through the work of students, alumni, faculty and staff, AUS has also positioned itself as a sustainability leader, and is well-positioned to meaningfully contribute to the COP28 event to be hosted by the UAE later in 2023.
The Gratitude Park acknowledges these achievements with its field of rising columns, anchored by a foundational stone wall at its center. Set in a 310 square meter space on the AUS campus, the columns rise as they radiate away from the center wall, representing the commendable work of AUS students and alumni. The timber columns display the names of notable alumni and recognizable contributors to the university’s success over the past 25 years. New columns will be added in future years to mark the new contributions alumni and other supporters will inevitably make to the university. The surrounding park celebrates the educational standards and methodologies of AUS as it celebrates a quarter of a century of outstanding education. Employing a non-invasive landscape strategy with a landscape palette consisting of plants suited to the environment of Sharjah, the park has a reduced environmental impact, consistent with AUS’ position as an international leader in sustainability.
Shafiq, an architect, researcher and product designer, was born and raised in the UAE. She focuses on the concept of civic and social architecture in the UAE and the consequent impact this has had on urban culture. Since graduating from AUS in 2019, Shafiq has gained experience working at X-Architects and as an architectural research assistant at AUS. She has also been part of the inaugural Sharjah Architecture Triennial’s Architecture Production Team. Shafiq is currently working as an architect at RSP Architects’ Design Branch in Dubai. Alongside her work as an architect, she has also established her own product design brand, the Eman Shafiq Design Studio, an exploratory interdisciplinary platform for design and material development.
“It was great to work on a project that allowed us to collaborate with the university. We wanted a result that would grow with time and commemorate the university’s history. We also wanted a park that would celebrate education and show the role AUS has played in our careers. Sharjah has always invested in education and culture, especially where its own youth are concerned, and this is embodied in the park,” Shafiq said.
Suresh is currently practicing as a junior architect at RSP Architects. She is keen on taking an investigative route in her design, informed by history, context and technology, to form narratives that drive her design proposals. Her interests lie in research-based critical architectural proposals that follow a multidisciplinary approach.
“The architecture program at AUS helped us to think of the different factors that must be considered for a project like the Gratitude Park. Something we took from CAAD for this project is the design methodology, thinking about the concept, the proposal and materials. CAAD also helped us to think sustainably, and were therefore careful in how we chose materials and the landscape for the park,” Suresh said.
While visiting AUS, His Highness also inaugurated the Recognition Wall, which acknowledges major supporters and contributors to AUS’ educational mission.
The architecture program at AUS provides world-class credentials for students aspiring to become innovative and sustainably-aware architects. For more information, see www.aus.edu/caad/department-of-architecture/bachelor-of-architecture.