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Regional architecture and design awards are catalyst for graduate success
For UAE-based architects and designers, the month of November offers significant opportunities to gain exposure within the growing pool of regional talent. Events such as the the inaugural Sharjah Architecture Triennial (November 9–December 21), Dubai Design Week (November 11–16), and Abu Dhabi Art (November 19–23) provide strong platforms for young and talented designers to compete for recognition and gain a strong foothold in the highly competitive design industry.
Students, faculty and alumni of the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) at American University of Sharjah (AUS) continue to take center stage at these events being recognized annually for their work in the areas of architecture, interior design, multimedia design, visual communication and design management.
Since 1997, CAAD students and alumni have established a reputation for their outstanding design work and professionalism, with this year being no different. Visual communication senior Tala Khalil, mentored by Assistant Professor Hala al Ani (visual communication) showcased her work in the exclusive Global Grad Show at Dubai Design Week among the world’s top design students’ work; architecture majors Mohammad Samara and Dania Darra, mentored by Assistant Professor Juan Roldán (interior design), took this year’s Abu Dhabi Art Pavilion prize with their concept “Tamazoj”; and multidisciplinary group Falwah Alhouti (visual communications), Ibrahim Abdellatif and Omer Al Raee (architecture), also mentored by Assistant Professor Juan Roldán, unveiled their work selected for the highly coveted Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award ahead of this year’s Abu Dhabi Art festival at Manarat al Sadiyaat.
The impact of awards such these can be seen in the success of previous CAAD winners, who have gone on to work with leading regional and international architecture and design firms, further their studies at some of the world’s top design institutions, and make significant contributions in their various fields of design with a strong UAE focus.
AUS alumni and Saudi-born architects Nada AlMulla and Salwa Al Khudairi were winners of both the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award in 2015 and the Abu Dhabi Pavilion prize in 2017. After working for firms in both Saudi Arabia and the United States, AlMulla is pursuing graduate architectural studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), while Al Khudairi has received regional acclaim for her exhibited design pieces and works as an architect with Dubai-based firm T.ZED.
“The award was our first opportunity to realize our ideas and test designs in the real world. It was an introduction to understanding our ability to create things, which I think had a strong impact in our growth as designers,” said AlMulla.
CAAD alumni Khalid Al-Tamimi, Mohammad Abualhuda and Ghanem Younes were winners of the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award in 2017. This set the stage for their successful participation in a wider range of regional and international competitions and internships, including the UAE National Pavilion in the 2018 Venice Biennale.
“The exposure and learning experience my teammates and I received—from the application to the fabrication of our pavilion—for the Christo and Jeanne Claude award opened a lot of doors for us. It was an eye-opening experience that motivated me to continue forward and seek new opportunities and to not be afraid to try to participate in and apply to various programs. Ever since the award I make sure to keep myself involved in extracurricular activities outside of work,” said Al-Tamimi.
Now working with global architecture, planning and design firm CallisonRTKL, Al-Tamimi has more recently received recognition for his design of his “Fayyd” fountain, which won the 2018 Urban Commissions design competition by Art Dubai Group, Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, and d3.
Mohamed Abualhuda has also continued to be an active contributor to the design landscape of the UAE, spurred on by the initial momentum of the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award.
“The value of the award is not in its financial compensation but the priceless learning experience of researching, composing and executing art. It has been a hungry pursuit of excellence ever since. Every opportunity I embark on becomes a personal challenge to excel and achieve, a mindset that I apply to my professional career as a designer,” said Abualhuda.
“In 2018 I joined EX, an innovative boutique developing company founded by Emaar to challenge the development industry in the region. Carrying forward the academic rigor I had at AUS, I dedicate time after work to research design and participate in different events and competitions. Along with my colleagues, I have exhibited works in Art Dubai, Sikka Art Fair and, most recently, Amman Design Week,” said Abualhuda.
CAAD alumni have maintained strong connections with their fellow graduates, forming a global community of design professionals.
For the past three years, Palestinian Al-Tamimi and his fellow alumni Tigran Kistandyan from Armenia and Iraqi-born Farah AlKhoury initiated Bites of Architecture, a platform for the critical discussion of architecture in the UAE. The discussion group is open for all people of all backgrounds and aims at discussing architecture theory in bite sizes in the context of the UAE.
“It was an opportunity for us to explore the academic side of the field while being practicing architects, as well as to learn more about our field from a different perspective,” said Al-Tamimi.
The architects have continued to make an important contribution to the architectural discourse in the UAE, with Al-Khoury now serving as Project Coordinator at Sharjah Architecture Triennial and Kistandyan working for Sharjah Art Foundation after completing his Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design at Columbia University in the USA.
“The CAAD community is a tight knit one. On a professional level, this community has proven its value to the local field with many offices desiring the skill sets that many CAAD students acquire and possess during their years at AUS,” said Al-Tamimi.
“Where I work, CAAD alumni make up at least 10 percent of the total workforce, which is a testimony to the school’s program and its focus on equipping its students with the sufficient skill sets to contribute to the local architecture scene,” he said.
For Abualhuda and his fellow alumni, the ongoing influence of CAAD on his outlook as a professional in architecture and design is immense.
“The world is no longer looking for only certificates and degrees from prestigious universities, but for the innovative contributions of the student when attaining these degrees. That is why I am very grateful for the education and opportunities I received at AUS,” he said.
“The education at AUS is not only about what happens in the classroom, but most importantly what happens outside, and that is what makes it a special one to the professional arena. It involves not only undergoing midterms and reviews, but also engaging in day-to-day discussions, fabricating creations, exploring unusual things, traveling to new places, all of which flow into a discipline for learning and application, a contributive mindset to change the world,” said Abualhuda.
To learn more about the College of Architecture, Art and Design at American University of Sharjah, visit www.aus.edu/caad.