- IP and Commercialization
Window modules cast with fabric formwork would be non-repetitive in their geometry and adjustable to solar conditions to reduce heat gain.
High-rise residential buildings in the Gulf region require a high standard of energy efficiency due to the unforgiving desert climate. Jason Carlow, Associate Professor from the Department of Architecture, is currently researching how improving the environmental performance levels of façade systems would lower overall energy consumption.
“I’m investigating the fabrication of reconfigurable molds for casting architectural-scale concrete panels and façade modules,” he said. “These composite textile formworks can be reused for mass production and they also have the advantages of being more responsive and adaptive to curing concrete. The use of textiles in concrete formworks brings forward new opportunities for architectural forms and for new emerging structural systems in comparison with the very rigid formworks methods employed in the industry today.”
Carlow pointed out that prefabrication of concrete façade components is not new to the construction industry. However, many building regulations in rapidly developing cities have begun to promote the use of prefabricated, factory-cast concrete construction to reduce the amount of construction waste generated on construction sites, reduce the adverse environmental impact on sites, enhance the quality control of casting work and reduce the amount of site labor.
Study models and drawings for non-standard facade and window modules developed by Carlow.
Carlow will develop material prototypes in the Fabrication Laboratory in the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) to expand on his on-going research into production methods for variable, non-standard façade systems. As part of the investigation he will visit two leading fabric formwork research centers in the UK to discuss his research and production strategies with professors and casting specialists.
“This project will create and test strategies to radically increase the flexibility and performance of building façades through contemporary design and fabrication technologies,” explained Carlow. “By integrating higher energy performance into the design of building facades, buildings in extremely hot and sunny climates would be able to drastically lower overall energy consumption. In addition, embodied energy in the construction process could be significantly reduced by the reduction of construction waste with reusable, lightweight fabric forms.”
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Interview with Fran Viselli, the owner of Bama-Bino's pizzeria.
Current events, including the #metoo movement, have increased awareness of civic responsibilities. For Becky Beamer, Assistant Professor from the AUS Department of Art and Design, and Patrick Rhodes, Associate Professor from the AUS Department of Architecture, the time to produce a documentary film on the influence of secret societies at the University of Alabama (UA) is now.
“Alabama politics are at the forefront of national and international news and central to the American national political discourse. Now is the time to reveal the secret society and the polarizing atmosphere it generates at the University of Alabama,” they asserted. “The power structure of the state began in 1901 with the constitution and continues today. Racial issues are systemic and dirty politics are the status quo. This documentary film questions these systems, the people involved and the institutions that are complicit in the inequalities and injustice."
Tentatively titled Dark Tide: Fraternities, Politics and the Secret Machine at the University of Alabama, the story unfolds through Joey Viselli, a UA student who was running for Student Government President in the early 1990s. His opponent was a member of the Theta Nu Epsilon fraternity. Otherwise known as “The Machine,” the secret society was not prepared to lose the election. Controlling the student government meant power, so pressure on its members to support their candidate was strictly enforced. Joey’s father, who owned Bama-Bino's, a successful pizza chain in the region, subsequently came under boycott, public protests and even death threats, which led him eventually to close his business.
Cameraman Wilson Weirich setting up an interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Archibald and Crimson White newspaper journalist Alecia Archibald.
“This is just one example of the power and influence of the university’s Machine and the Greek System, whose members historically go on to hold powerful appointments in the Alabama government,” said Beamer, who has worked in documentary television since 2001. “These exclusive, predominantly white male social organizations form lifelong bonds, socially and professionally. The question remains: is the Machine still “alive”?” While just two percent of the US population is involved in fraternities, about 34 percent of UA’s student population participates in the Greek System, which consists of social organizations called fraternities and sororities, or Greek letter organizations.
The documentary is scheduled for completion in 2021. Its public dissemination follows a year’s work by the filmmakers that entailed pre-production research into academic journals, newspaper clippings and regional archive libraries to build and outline the story arc of the film. They then spent the summer of 2019 and winter of 2020 interviewing the characters related to the story while shooting b-roll footage around Alabama. Since then, the professors have been involved in post-production, including editing the footage and developing the script.
With this documentary, Rhodes is broadening his research agenda of community engagement and dealing specifically with issues of social justice, with the inclusion of film-based, collaborative research. “Our main goal is to produce a well-researched and informed documentary film on the mystery surrounding The Machine and the university’s other fraternities as they relate to state politics and Alabama culture,” he said. “We intend to make an impact on the state and how its citizens view the influence of the University of Alabama on the state’s politics and culture.”
Follow the project through the website: http://www.MachineDocumentary.com
And the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MachineDocumentary/
When Ellington Properties, one of the major Dubai property developers, commissioned Assistant Professor of Architecture Juan Roldán to create a bespoke installation in one of its new buildings, he realized this was an opportunity for his students to showcase their creativity and professional expertise.
"A collaboration with a high-profile company like Ellington is a milestone for our interior design program and an incredible opportunity for our interior design students,” said Roldán. “These kinds of extracurricular initiatives allow us to transform our students’ ideas into built artefacts and tangible projects that transcend the limited drawn reality of their designs in studio.”
The installation, featuring more than 90 photographic works produced by students from the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD), was unveiled in the Belgravia II residential building in Jumeirah Village Circle, Dubai. Hamama (doves in Arabic) was created by student designers Rima Chalha, Mariam Aljuwaied, Sana Fathima and Priyanka Soni, supervised by Roldán, who also chairs the Interior Design Steering Committee at CAAD, with the collaboration of Camilo Cerro, Assistant Professor of Architecture at CAAD.
The final product has received regional acclaim, including being named Best Collaboration of the Year by Harper's Bazaar Arabia in 2020.
Selected from three proposals submitted for the project, Hamama was created using heat-moulded acrylic formed into dynamic shapes to create a multidimensional impression of a flight of doves in mid-flight and linked together to form a final structure.
The extensive design process began with hand drawings, sketch models, 3D digital modelling, parametric algorithms, and moved into mock-up modelling. Finally, a flexible system was developed out of one unit to work as part of a module of multiple sculptures to create the final dynamic ceiling installation.
Roldán said the extracurricular opportunity gave the young designers the chance to put the design principles and fabrication methods they have learned at CAAD into practice. “This is an essential part of our educational model within the interior design program at the College of Architecture, Art and Design. We design and make. This is one of our mottos and one of our most important commitments as interior design educators,” he said.
“The design commission demonstrated the many stages involved in the completion of a full-scale real project, outside of the conceptual drawings and digital renders of classroom projects. It allowed the students to expand their scope of education by practicing professionalism and teamwork and gave the students a hands-on experience that would be beneficial to them upon graduation. It also established strategic alliances with the best design professionals, suppliers, craftsmen and manufacturers in the region. This resulted in fruitful collaborations that promise a future of many more successful creative projects.”
Second-year interior design student Sana Fathima said this collaboration has given her a head start in the design industry. “At the time, I had no knowledge of how a project works in the real world and other back-of-house activities surrounding a project. However, by the end of this project, I made connections with suppliers, learned to better convey my ideas and to construct them. As Ellington Properties were interested in providing its users with a space that radiated design, we were encouraged to get as creative as we could and come up with a design that would not only grab the user’s attention but also evoke their imagination, and thus Hamama was born,” she said.
Now a proud AUS graduate, Priyanka Soni said the experience she gained ahead of her graduation prepared her for a successful professional career as an interior designer. “It was a pleasure to be involved with a client like Ellington just at the cusp of our graduation semester. Having designed conceptually over the past four years, we gained practical insight into the workings of the industry with a real site, clientele and budget,” she said.
“Belgravia II’s physical sculpture brief for the residential complex’s lobby was a beautiful landmark for a graduating student’s work to be displayed upon. The eight-month long process exposed us to a holistic design–build–deliver process. Working with a budget for the first time informed our decisions on sourcing materials and hardware from local markets. And exploring a city that we have lived in for years yielded in unexpected discoveries of shops with vendors willing to share their expertise and deal with students,” said Soni.
A weathered guard booth in need of refurbishment at the entrance of an AUS parking lot gave William Sarnecky, Professor of Practice in the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD), the perfect opportunity to put the college’s Design-Build Initiative into practice.
The initiative sees students execute full-scale architectural projects of various scales from conception to final construction. The result was the unveiling of the Tarkeeb Gate House and Garden, the first standalone, habitable structure created by CAAD students.
Led by Sarnecky and Michael Hughes, Professor of Architecture, the project was completed with the dedication and skill of faculty and students, and was made possible by contributions of time, materials, equipment and labor from several external sponsors.
“The design-build team, composed of our own architecture faculty and students, expanded the brief to include new programmatic elements, such as a shaded observation porch for the guard and a garden space with a drinking fountain to be shared by students, faculty and staff who work on campus,” said Sarnecky.
Responding to the UAE’s intense solar conditions, the Tarkeeb Gate House features a new exterior sun shade or “parasol” that was created to reduce the intensity of the sun’s effects on the air-conditioned booth and thereby reducing the demand for electrical power, while simultaneously creating a new shaded space to be enjoyed outside the air-conditioned structure.
“Over the course of the project, more than 12 people representing seven companies donated time and expertise to assist participating students as they worked from the initial, conceptual stage, through to construction documents, and finally to the full-scale construction,” said Hughes. “Along the way, our design-build students have developed collaborative relationships with craftsmen in the building industry and developed new skills by working with professionals in the HVAC, millwork, glazing and metal-working trades as well as consultants from the allied professions of engineering, contracting and landscaping.”
Taking into consideration both form and function, the parasol is composed of steel bar grate and shades an observation porch adjacent to the gate checkpoint on the north side, providing both cross-ventilation and visual access. A second, larger, shaded garden space on the south side provides respite and drinking water, and over time, newly planted greenery will provide additional shade.
Dr. Varkki Pallathucheril, Dean of CAAD, said the college’s Design-Build Initiative is a significant component of the five-year Bachelor of Architecture program offered at AUS, with the Tarkeeb Gate House and Garden providing an excellent example of its success.
“Those who are entranced by the outcome of this design-build project will likely not realize the complexities that went into making it happen,” he said.
“We had not previously attempted a project at this level of complexity and in such a prominent location. It required the support of campus authorities and our outside partners; they believed in the students' ability to pull it off. Of course, my faculty colleagues and their deep involvement were instrumental in this outcome. Ultimately, the benefit to students made all this worthwhile.”
Dr. Varkki Pallathucheril, Dean of CAAD, officiates at the opening of the Tarkeeb Gate House and Garden, February 17, 2019.
Harsh desert conditions led environmental scientists of the Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority (SEPA) to commission AUS to design and build a shelter in which they could work comfortably. The resulting “Neonomad” desert shelter and research station by faculty members and students went on to win an international award.
Guided by professors Patrick Rhodes and Gregory Spaw of the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD), a group of 34 fourth- and fifth-year architecture students worked together to find an innovative solution for expeditions across the Rub’ al Khali, or Empty Quarter—an area of more than 650,000 square kilometers of continuous desert that spans the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Yemen—while addressing the fundamental challenges of the desert environment.
“For thousands of years, Bedouins are the only known people to have successfully traversed the Empty Quarter. The first foreign explorers weren't able to penetrate it until 1931, with the first Western maps made by British explorer Wilfred Thesiger between 1946 and 1950, and since then, only a few extreme adventurers have attempted its crossing, leaving the rest of us to wonder at its edge,” explained Rhodes. “By mounting an expedition to sensitively construct and deploy a basic shelter, we hope to allow people to get a little farther out to experience a little-known people and place. Through the Neonomads design–build studio project, we hope to inspire journey and adventure.”
Initiated as part of the college’s robust architecture curriculum during the Fall Semester 2017 and Spring Semester 2018, the students designed and constructed a lightweight, sustainable, demountable desert shelter and research station for the SEPA scientists.
Over a period of six months, the students designed, prototyped, prefabricated and deployed a lightweight, basic structure programmed to provide fundamental protection from the elements, including shade, access to water, fire, light and basic communication with the outside world.
The Neonomads desert shelter and research station subsequently received an Honorable Mention Design Award by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Middle East Chapter in its annual design awards program, which recognizes excellence in architecture, interior architecture, urban design and unbuilt projects undertaken by its members.
The Neonomads project was acclaimed for its genuine program flexibility and function as an expanding, unconditioned shelter, which can serve as a self-powered, demountable research station in extreme desert conditions.
“Tracing ancient caravan routes of the frankincense trade between the UAE and southern Oman, the Neonomads structure can now act as a primary basecamp and a satellite way station outward bound into the Empty Quarter. This is the first of a possible sequence of nodes of a wider network of infrastructure designed for experiencing and exploring one of the most unique and otherworldly landscapes on the planet,” said Rhodes.
He pointed out how the project gave students the opportunity to be engaged in every aspect of the architectural process, both from a theoretical viewpoint as well as practical challenges. “Ultimately, the Neonomads project confronted CAAD students with the questions of what architecture, shelter, is at its basic core; what it provides; and how, whether or in what form it is fundamentally necessary to not just live, but to exist,” Rhodes said. “It is this approach to architectural education that continues to set CAAD apart as the leading institute for architecture in the region. It ensures our graduates have adequate training and experience to approach the challenges of contemporary architectural practice.”
The Underwood Travel System – viewing stereoviews through a stereoscope, with map and book in hand.
If you have ever used Google Cardboard with your iPhone to view 3D images, or even as a child marveled at the 3D images of a View-Master, then you can begin to understand how Victorian armchair travelers learned about exotic, faraway places through the lens of a stereoscope, their 19th century version.
What intrigued Seth Thompson, Associate Professor from the Department of Art and Design, was that while the three-dimensional images brought historical sites to life, they seemed to distort the country’s culture to fit in with the pervading colonial attitudes of the time. He explored this theory further by examining the 1905 boxed stereoview set on Egypt by Underwood & Underwood, an American publishing company founded in 1882.
The boxed set is part of a larger collection of boxed sets, the Underwood Travel System, introduced by the Underwood brothers in 1901, and included virtual tours of England, France, Italy, Greece and Palestine. The armchair traveler would place one of the 100 stereoviews, or cards with two almost identical images side-by-side—one image for each eye—in the stereoscope device and view the 3D illusion. He or she could pinpoint each site on the accompanying maps and read about Egypt’s cultural heritage and Pharaonic history in the accompanying book by James Henry Breasted. He was a noted American Egyptologist who went on to found the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago in 1919.
An Underwood & Underwood stereoview depicting the Sphinx of Giza, 1896.
“I used the framework of this ‘tourist gaze’ to investigate how the images of Egyptian sites in the stereoview sets were photographed and written about,” said Thompson. “What interested me was how the country and its cultural heritage were perceived through an outsider’s set of values at the turn of the 20th century, and the ongoing ramifications of this attitude.”
Thompson’s research led to the paper “Cultural Tourism Through the Lens of the Stereoscope: Underwood & Underwood’s Egypt, a 1905 Boxed Stereoview Set, Considered”, which he will present at the Fourth International Conference on Stereo and Immersive Media at Lusofona University, Lisbon, in September 2020.
Not every Victorian-era family could afford the “grand tour of European capitals.” The stereoscope, with its stereoviews, therefore, was much more than a novelty; it was a cultural and educational phenomenon. Thompson explored how the tourist gaze was built on a set of expectations and understandings of a culture and heritage, gleaned from travel books, paintings, photography and other media, obscuring everyday life to create contrived expectations and experiences for the consumer.
“It’s said that this staged authenticity is not static, rather it is a framework for how a tourist sees and experiences the world,” he said. “Americans have often considered France a romantic destination and Egypt an exotic one. This framework of seeing invites the question, ‘how do these constructions begin and why?’”
An Underwood & Underwood stereoview of the pyramids at Giza, 1904.
Two primary bodies of writing seem to have shaped the West’s understanding or gaze of Egypt in the 19th century and beyond. The first, the Institut d’Egypte’s Description de l’Egypte (1809–1822), was the result of an expedition led by Napoleon Bonaparte between 1798 and 1801. More than 2,000 scholars, scientists and artists contributed to the 20-volume work, considered the cornerstone of European knowledge of Egypt for nearly half a century. The other was the work of British Orientalist Edward William Lane, Manner and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (1836) and his annotated translation of the Thousand and One Nights (1839–1841).
At the beginning of the 19th century, the French and English assimilated the achievements of ancient Egypt into Europe’s heritage because of Egypt’s contributions to Greece and Rome. The Victorian tourists subsequently set the contemporary Egyptians aside from those of the past, treating them as “curiosities.” Thompson believed that the stereoviews of Egypt in the boxed sets would not only reinforce this tourist gaze but also document it.
The picturesque scenes in the stereoviews depicted the ancient monuments untouched by modernity, and Breasted’s book inferred that life had remained relatively unchanged for the past 5,000 years for the Egyptians, except for language and religion shifts. Breasted believed that not only was there a distinction between the people of ancient and contemporary Egypt but also that the latter should be considered inferior to their ancestors.
“While the Underwood brothers’ Egypt boxed set presents novel documentation of Egypt at the turn of the 20th century, it follows in the footsteps of other cultural products that perpetuate the Orientalist gaze and reveals the complex cultural relationship between Egypt and the West,” Thompson pointed out. “Therefore, the boxed set should be perceived, in part, as a cautionary tale for how to approach future cultural heritage representation projects.”
The harem windows in the court of a wealthy Cairene’s house, Egypt, 1896.
Entitled “Where do the Twigs go?”— an image for the project commissioned by Dubai Design Week in 2018 to build a series of walls using paper pulp as a primary material.
Climate change challenges have led Faysal Tabbarah, Associate Professor in the Department of Architecture, to explore the new avenue of “architect as material developer” in devising sustainable materials for construction.
In researching, prototyping and analyzing the architectural potential of recyclable, environmentally friendly, sprayable, fibrous materials, he used pulped paper from old newspapers as a material for building construction beyond its typical usage as insulation. “As a result of my ongoing research in this area for some time, I was commissioned by Dubai Design Week in 2018 to build a series of walls using paper pulp as a primary material,” said Tabbarah. “It worked as a proof of concept to show that this kind of material could serve to augment or replace current materials that have a high environmental cost.”
Tabbarah pointed out that exploration of “architect as material developer” is increasingly relevant in contemporary architectural research going on in MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab and in the Institute of Computational Design and Construction at the University of Stuttgart.
Sustainable pulp is also becoming available for commercial use, such as eucalyptus tree fiber being used in the making of shoes by the Allbirds shoe company. Tabbarah has been working with the Sharjah-based environmental management company Bee’ah, which supplied him with plant material that the pulp material was sprayed on. “Previously, I worked with Bee’ah on exploring the architectural use of crumb rubber from the pulverizing of old tires, which culminated in a new approach to binding the rubber to give us a new material from which to design and manufacture furniture.”
Tabbarah will spend time away from the classroom working on a project comprising the building of walls, approximately 350 sqm, made of steel, reclaimed timber and paper pulp. He will then carry out scientific tests on the walls to see the effects of water, heat, compression and other factors in collaboration with colleagues in AUS’ Department of Mechanical Engineering.
“I will also spend the time exploring the relationship between sustainability, regional architectural discourse and the construction industry in the region, which connects with my teaching activities,” explained Tabbarah. “I intend the work to inform my development of courses in the design studio on sustainability and material development, which will open the door for cross-disciplinary research across architecture, engineering and construction, giving AUS students the opportunity of developing their ingenuity.”
Jazirat Al Hamra Fort in the Old Village
Al Jazirat Al Hamra Old Village, an abandoned village in the nearby emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, is the focus of an ethnographic study of life in the UAE before the discovery of oil in the early 1960s.
Zlatan Filipovic from the Department of Art and Design and Dr. Suheil Dahdal from the Department of Mass Communication will use virtual reality (VR) platforms and location-based augmented reality (AR) experimental technology to document the oral history of the former residents and virtually recreate the historical buildings as they were at that time. “We want to capture the pre-1948 era of the UAE while it is still fresh in the minds of the original village inhabitants in order to provide a reference for future generations,” said Filipovic. “Using an immersive medium such as VR will help connect people in the UAE with their heritage and give them an effective way of re-imagining their history.”
Jazirat Al Hamra had been inhabited by the Al Zaab tribe. Their leader, Rajib bin Ahmed Al Zaabi, was one of four independent signatories to the original 1820 treaty between the Trucial States and the British government. The tribe had livestock and tended palm tree groves in neighboring Khatt, and maintained a fleet of some 25 pearling boats, the principal source of income for the tribe until the crash of the pearl market in the 1920s. In the late 1960s, some 2,500 residents closed up their homes and went to live in Abu Dhabi, where a suburb is named after them.
Point cloud visualization: a location-based overlay of the segment of Jazirat Al Hamra Fort
In recording the history of Al Jazirat Al Hamra, Filipovic and Dr. Dahdal are exploring the process of creating alternative modes of viewing historical sites. They will eventually build a database on the value of using new AR technology to document oral history, as well as on the process of creating an experimental AR location-based project. “Collecting oral histories and finding the ways of presenting this information in an interactive, audio-visual form is our goal,” said Dr. Dahdal. “This process will include producing a range of digital surveys of the village topography and researching the already collected data from the UAE’s National Archives in Abu Dhabi. We will then select individuals for interview and film them as they take us on a tour through the village.”
They are working with Fouad Bleibel, Project Manager and Design Team Lead at the Ministry of Public Works, in connection with the Department of Antiquities and Museums in Ras Al Khaimah, as well as Maitha Salman Al Zaabi, Head of the Oral History and Genealogical Studies Section in the National Archives. They are also collaborating with Felix Beck from New York University in Abu Dhabi.
3D model reconstruction using photogrammetry of Al Jazirat al Hamra watchtower, known as the Tower of the Owl
“AR technologies are normally based on the ‘image tag’ or ‘location-based’ overlay presentations, which means that the existing buildings are shown overlaid with an image of how the buildings had been in the past,” said Filipovic. “We are researching both of these methods and also considering how the VR segment will enable the use of the storytelling elements.”
The story of Jazirat Al Hamra will be presented in a VR environment using head-mounted displays, and they hope to set up their experimental, location-based VR installation as part of a visitor center experience in one of the two museums currently in development at Jazirat Al Hamra.
Al Jazirat Al Hamra Old Village
Central Saint Martins students taking part in the Living Legacies workshop.
The design management major at AUS incorporates creative, entrepreneurial and communication elements, which Associate Professor Kathryn Best of the College of Architecture, Art and Design has been keen to develop further in her collaboration with Central Saint Martins (CSM), part of University of the Arts London (UAL).
CSM students in the Master of Arts in Applied Imagination in the Creative Industries program took part in Best’s pilot research project Living Legacies earlier this year, which explored the use of creative thinking through the prism of cultural identity. The pilot aimed at engaging students in considering what kind of cultural legacy they wanted to leave behind in the world.
“We think of cultural heritage as being in the past,” said Best, “yet how we exist today—our habits, possessions and environment—will leave behind a clear message about our values, identity, culture, heritage, creativity and enterprise—how we lived and worked and what we valued—to future generations after we are gone. Living Legacy is about thinking about the future now. We can take steps in the present to actively create an inspired contribution or way of life that we want leave behind for future generations—our very own living legacy, if you will.”
She pointed out that design is culture. “How we do things and how it fits on an individual level, as well as how it relays a message on a cultural level, is of great interest to me in teaching design management at AUS,” she said. “This imaginative MA program is typical of Central Saint Martins and encourages students to affect change in society and enterprise by developing and applying creative thinking and iterative testing in the setting up small businesses. Engaging with cultural capital and creative interventions became a way to imagine and test how culture, values, heritage, destiny and legacy could be used as a catalyst for design ideas and innovations, and how design innovation could be used to reinvigorate the idea of cultural heritage.”
Students enjoying the workshop presentations.
The Living Legacies pilot project entailed a workshop at CSM in London over a week in April where the students presented a small enterprise idea incorporating their own values and cultural identity. One student was a working mother who wanted to start her own Indian food business with the new angle of running supper clubs within her community; another, a woman of Thai and Macau heritage, presented her project on bullying using her own experiences, in an effort to address it community-wide. They presented a three-minute synopsis of their project to Best and her colleagues at Central Saint Martins—Amanda McGregor, Richard Reynolds and Ritchie Mancu—who assessed each potential small business concept and provided feedback on its viability.
Best pointed out that Sharjah is also a perfect location to test the idea of living legacies and cultural heritage in conjunction with creativity, design, innovation and strategy. “With the recent awarding of UNESCO Creative Cities Network status, Sharjah has been recognized for its innovative practices and efforts in championing sustainable development actions that directly benefit local communities,” she said, citing a recent article in the local newspaper Khaleej Times, describing how Sharjah has had a decade-long emphasis on bringing generations closer to their heritage and national identity and carefully nurturing its human capital, and includes an observation from Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohamed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, who says: “The products of a nation’s creative industries are what shapes a people’s collective identity. Moving into a future without knowing who we are, where we come from—without being rooted in our authentic identity—will not bear any fruit.”
Best is now studying the results of the Living Legacies pilot project, as they will inform the content within courses in the design management program at AUS: two on innovation and strategy and one on design thinking. “Design management is part of the creative industries, the second biggest industry after financial services worldwide. I hope that AUS graduates will benefit from this Living Legacies project to help unlock ideas and promote innovation in myriad other industries, such as business, culture, architecture and education; that would be my living legacy!”
Mapping out a Living Legacy
Professor Dougan demonstrates attaching a handle to a mug at a workshop at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, during his sabbatical.
While conducting a drawing course for students from the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) on a study abroad course in Italy during the summer of 2018, Professor Brian Dougan began expanding his working knowledge of ceramics. As the drawing group marveled at the Italian architecture and the many museums, Professor Dougan studied Italian ceramics in preparation for spending his sabbatical creating pottery, as well as teaching the Introduction to Pottery that he developed and has taught for many years.
“For the past 15 years, I’ve conducted a summer drawing course in Italy for AUS CAAD students as an expansion of the drawing curriculum on campus,” said Professor Dougan. “I like to refer to drawing as seeing. It’s a confrontation with reality, supporting awareness. Drawing is important for everyone because it is a human endeavor and it helps designers to both visualize and generate ideas; it’s an informative activity.”
A taste of a production of quantity; several examples of a batch of over one hundred similar jars.
oncluding the summer drawing course, Professor Dougan visited the International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza and the Museo Regionale Della Ceramica di Deruta. He went on to work with ceramics specialists in two Italian studios in Umbria: Ceramiche Artistiche Giallletti Giulio S.n.c. in Deruta and Terrecotte Fabio Fattorini in Ficule, exploring the Italian methodology to inform his own pottery production.
Professor Dougan spent his sabbatical working in a private studio in downtown Westerly, Rhode Island, as well as in collaboration with a local pottery collective called Small Axe Productions, designing and working with both earthenware and stoneware clays. “Besides working in two different pottery studios and firing two radically different kilns, the sabbatical gave me the opportunity for supplemental activities that bolstered my creative spirit,” he said. “The opportunity to invest time in the studio over a period of almost five months had a large impact on my skill level working with clay. The sabbatical provided an uninterrupted focus to follow a process that only time can provide.”
He also conducted a pottery production demonstration in December for Fine Arts students at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which he said was quite helpful in relation to his teaching of the Introduction to Pottery course offered as a major elective to all students in the College of Architecture, Art and Design.
Professor Dougan presented a paper on teaching analytical drawing at the 107th Annual Meeting of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Black Box conference in Pittsburg, PA. During the winter holiday season, he participated in the sales event Potters of Newport County and Friends in historic Newport, Rhode Island. Professor Dougan currently exhibits his pottery locally at the Mleiha Archaeological Centre and at the 1971 Gallery gift shop in Sharjah. In the US, he is represented at the Fantastic Umbrella factory in Charlestown, Rhode Island.
An example of a female ablution unit designed by interior design students Mariam Al Juwaied, Sana Fathima and Dana Tamimi, showing a storage area for abayas.
An ablution unit model with recommended dimensions
When architecture professor Dr. Ahmed Mokhtar published an article in 2002 calling for better design in ablution spaces in mosques, little did he realize the scale of interest it would generate.
In an extension of his teaching and research work related to the technical aspects of architecture, he later published a booklet on guidelines in designing the ablution spaces, in terms of hygiene, safety and comfort.
While he is reluctant to call himself a pioneer, Dr. Mokhtar is pleased that his guidelines, which he incorporated into his classroom teaching, is being realized through AUS graduates, who are now making an impact in architectural practices in the UAE and around the world. “Aspects of my research also drew the attention of the Abu Dhabi authorities in the late 2000s, which led to the guidelines being integrated into the Abu Dhabi Mosque Development Regulations,” he said. “The guidelines are now followed in many construction developments in the UAE, and queries come in constantly from the US, the UK and recently even Kazakhstan.”
The guidelines clarify the concept of a clean zone in designing mosques and prayer facilities in public buildings, emphasizing the need to have the ablution space within the clean zone and not outside it, as it is commonly the case. They show the individual ablution unit models and the dimensions required in making them comfortable and safe to use. Appropriate floor and wall coverings, along with suitable faucet types, are also advised.
Dr. Mokhtar is now developing guidelines for the female side of prayer areas, including ablution spaces, especially for public places such as shopping malls. They include the provision of cupboards for storing abayas and bags, as well dimensions for "parking slots" for baby strollers. “As the female prayer areas are separate to the men’s, where the Imam leads the congregation in prayer, closed-circuit TV and speakers are really needed to allow the female worshippers to follow the Imam,” he said.
Dr. Mokhtar worked also on design strategies to reduce the energy consumption of this building type. “Historically, mosques have high ceilings, which are useful in keeping the building cool when occupied by large congregations, and this high ceiling design continues today for other architectural reasons,” he explained. “However, air conditioning is frequently fitted into these high ceilings, when it would be far more energy-efficient if positioned lower, closer to the occupants’ level. Using fans at this level, which move the air horizontally, also helps keep the occupants cool.”
In another effort to reduce energy consumption in mosques, he advised keeping a small, enclosed area cooled for daily prayer use, and then cooling the greater part of the prayer area on Fridays or feast days when a larger congregation is expected. “I would also like to see better fire safety measures in mosques,” he said, “Something as simple as refitting main doors to open outwards for rapid evacuation would be a small but significant improvement.”
During his sabbatical, Dr. Mokhtar developed a patent for “a completely new ablution unit.” It’s still in its initial stages of evaluation, but will no doubt spark the interest of his fellow architects worldwide in the years to come.
The most famous street in the camp is known as the "Champs-Élysée," with restaurants, clothing boutiques and bicycle repair shops.
Going out of your comfort zone is the accepted norm when undertaking research, whether experimenting with compounds in the lab, or surveying an unknown environment in the field. For AUS professors Kimberly Gleason and Becky Beamer, going out of their comfort zone meant exploring this very experience among refugees in Jordan’s Zaatari Camp. Surprisingly, early results of their research show a higher level of coping and thriving than expected.
The Zaatari Refugee Camp, established in 2012 by the United Nations in conjunction with the Jordanian government, is home to some 80,000 Syrian refugees in temporary housing. Despite the environment, its inhabitants have built a self-sustaining community, setting up businesses ranging from convenience stores to beauty salons and bike repair shops.
“As a finance professor, I was intrigued by reports of how people had developed this unique ecosystem, after enduring brutal conditions to escape the conflict in their home country,” said Dr. Gleason. “I wanted to find out how they managed to cope so well when studies show that similar camps across the globe fare far worse.”
Dr. Gleason set about applying for permission to travel to the camp in early 2019 to talk to the refugees. “Finance research typically entails analyzing stock market and company reports, so this was my first time in the field, interacting with real people as we asked questions and collected data for our survey,” she said. “Seeing their business first-hand, I was interested in how human capital encouraged their entrepreneurship.”
Beamer takes a panoramic shot of the camp, home to some 80,000 Syrian refugees.
She explained that human capital entailed both family knowledge of business and skills, and psychological capital or psycap. “Psycap is known by the acronym HERO, which stands for Hope, Efficacy, Resilience and Optimism, an innate ability to overcome adversity and persevere while remaining optimistic.”
Documenting the survey among the refugees through film was a new experience for Becky Beamer, Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Design. “I usually work in the field along with a translator on projects specific to documentary production. However, in this case, we incorporated set survey questions within the short amount of time allowed. While the production constraints were substantial, they were offset by the welcome we received from the community.” The experience will inform her teaching of filmmaking to students, taking them from concept to post-production, and will focus on the realities of problem solving.
The researchers conducted a validated written survey among some 150 camp inhabitants to assess the measure of psychological capital, asking them about their access to capital, whether they had family support in Jordan and other related topics. Their documentary recounts the stories of business owners: one set up a coffee and spice shop; another, a taxi driver, sold his taxi to set up a clothing shop; one woman began styling hair and now runs a beauty salon, as well as teaching young people the trade so that they can set up salons themselves.
Female entrepreneurs take the survey on their efforts to open businesses in the camp.
Dr. Gleason is finalizing the survey with the help of her students, who work in translating and coding the data for a comprehensive analysis. Results so far show that the refugees display very high levels of psycap, relative to other studies. “They see themselves as role models who give value to their own community and society at large, as well as contributing to the Jordanian economy.”
Zaatari Refugee Camp is Jordan’s largest and currently the country’s fourth largest city. Dr. Gleason was struck by the fact that the Jordanian people have exhibited an unusual willingness to accommodate the Syrian migrants, relative to some countries in the West, despite the severe resource constraints they face. Jordan has permitted a number of Syrian refugees to enter the local Jordanian job market, with His Majesty King Abdullah being quoted as saying that he hoped each job opportunity for Syrian refugees in Jordan would ultimately provide five job opportunities for Jordanians. “We hope that our survey will reveal the factors related to effective economic development by refugees, so that they can be seen as a source of economic support to their host countries, rather than just a burden.”
The researchers expect to publish the results of the survey this fall, while acknowledging that the documentary will have a broader impact through the cumulative effects of social media. “We are also working with a French NGO [non-governmental organization] which has contacts with policy makers in Europe,” said Beamer. “Our mission is to disseminate the results to a larger audience to bring about awareness of issues related to a model of sustainability within refugee communities and the psychological capital of the entrepreneurial residents."
The documentary Psycap can be viewed on YouTube: https://youtu.be/SxKnJZQ6F2Q