Projects from AUD architecture grads tackle social issues in the UAE

American University in Dubai architecture graduates tackle social issues in the UAE

Fifteen architecture graduates from the American University in Dubai (AUD) present work addressing the living and working conditions of local labour workers and other pressing social concerns in this Virtual Design Festival school show.

The projects represent the final outcome of the Architectural Design Studio X part of the BArch course at the AUD's School of Architecture, Art and Design (SAAD).

A jury of international experts, as well as the wider AUD community, voted on the students' work, handing out awards in a series of categories including sustainable and innovative design.

Bachelor of Architecture, American University in Dubai

University: American University in Dubai
Course: BArch (ARCH502)
Studio: Architectural Design Studio X
Tutors: Anna Cornaro, Abdellatif Qamhaieh and Takeshi Maruyama

Course statement:

"This is a final capstone course in which students implement their thesis research by developing a project that incorporates all the principles of design, demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of architectural design and evidence of professional capability.

"The final outcomes of the course are exhibited in a senior showcase, where a jury of experts is invited to vote. The 2020 Architecture Senior Showcase took place online between May 1 and May 3.

"A jury of 50 international experts, coming from the industry, academia and press, voted on the projects, declaring a first, second and third place as well as honourable mentions and design awards.

"Another series of awards involved the local and global community, including professors, alumni, faculty members and students, who voted directly on social media."

Projects from AUD architecture grads tackle social issues in the UAE

First place: Cohesion Labor Community Hub by Maya Roufail

"The project targets the alienation of the labour community from the city and the modern cosmopolitan society of Dubai. It is designed for a site centred between some of Dubai's earliest industrial districts – the Al Qouz industrial areas one to four.

"The project proposes reconnecting the four plots divided by the road intersection to create a floating frame that fosters integration, communal coherence and empowerment among the labour workers.

"The design reflects the character of the industrial context and the relationship between the four plots. It aspires to improve the wellbeing of the existing labour community by incorporating spaces for working and co-working, self-development and free time as well as a larger mosque."

Maya Roufail
Project website:

Projects from AUD architecture grads tackle social issues in the UAE

Second place: Coalescence by Nour Rouhana

"The project is comprised of multiple masses inserted into the Dhayah mountain. These are designed to house different heritage activities such as pearl diving, bird watching and mountain climbing to rejuvenate the past and surface it back to our present and future.

"The masses blend seamlessly into the topography while adding an element of linearity to the mountain’s geometry. A facade treatment of louvres and Corten steel is applied to give the illusion of lightness and camouflage the facade.

"As visitors travel upwards, the views continue to change from one landscape to another. Eventually, the journey leads the visitors to the top, where the forts stand tall overlooking the city."

Nour Rouhana
Project website:

Projects from AUD architecture grads tackle social issues in the UAE

Third place: The Spaces In Between by Munira AlMulla

"Dubai's fragmented urban landscape has interrupted the connection between the built environment and the human soul.

"The rise of suburbanization has led to the abandonment of human-scale architecture and residents are in need of communal spaces. The lack of proximity between residential zones and public spaces has led to detachment, isolation and lack of walkability.

"As a response to those urban and social concerns, this project aims to revitalize Dubai’s neighbourhoods by using alleyways and other in-between spaces to create community hubs."

Munira AlMulla
Project website:

Projects from AUD architecture grads tackle social issues in the UAE

Honourable mention: Resonance by Chaza Myriam Sandouk

"As the youngest child in my family, I developed a passion as a pianist to stem my loneliness. I believe that sound has an effect on humans on a spiritual and physical level. Hence, I decided to create an educational music institute.

"This project consists of four buildings divided into four functions – music, dance, art and common space – on top of several outdoor meditating spaces. Its shape was formulated based on sounds recorded in Dubai, from higher to lower frequencies.

"The roof consists of openings inspired by the pattern of the desert flower hymenocallis, which create a pattern of lights and shadows throughout the interior. The journey inside is intended to make people feel and see the sound rather than hear it."

Chaza Myriam Sandouk
Project website:

Projects from AUD architecture grads tackle social issues in the UAE

Honourable mention: Flare by Abdelazim Abdelmoaty

"Dubai is a prominent and notable city that has great cultural values and raw resources. Through increased globalization, Dubai has transformed itself from being a fishing village to a modern metropolis.

"This has caused Dubai to lose its cultural identity. Despite being a global city with a huge economy, Dubai is also more dependant on the import market of the fishing industry than the export market to fulfil its requirements, which can cause an economic deficit.

"As a response to this dilemma I designed a fishing cultural centre, which would incorporate fish farming, entertainment and exhibitions. The aim is to solve the social, environmental and economical problems of Dubai in relation to the fishing industry."

Abdelazim Abdelmoaty
Project website:

Projects from AUD architecture grads tackle social issues in the UAE

Innovative Design Award: The Nexus by Pouyan Mohammadi

"Nexus is a vision of humanity's lifestyle in the future. It emphasizes the integration of new technologies and explores how our transport system and homes could and should look.

"It not only improves the walkability of the city but also encourages people to use fewer cars. The project takes the evolution of living one step further and makes it more suitable to interact with the economy and time.

"Nexus was designed from the bottom up to target the basic needs of human beings and improve their daily lives. And it started as a project for every city."

Pouyan Mohammadi
Project website:

Sustainable Design Award: Botanica by Mohamed ElKasery

"Botanica is a sustainable agriculture centre, which teaches people how to grow their own food. It is an innovative design proposal that fuses urban farming with education.

"The agricultural sector in the UAE is undergoing rapid changes. In order to use minimal water, modern irrigation systems and hydroponics are being increasingly employed. Farmers are decreasing in numbers, leading to a lack of organic food.

"The concept design is inspired by elements of nature and turns the UAE’s characteristic sand dunes into green space. The project will have a social, economic and environmental impact on the UAE by providing the country with a sustainable farming solution."

Mohamed ElKasery
Project website:

Cultural Design Award: Marsa Alsahil by Obaid Salim AlSuwaidi

"Between the 1960s and 1970s, architecture in the UAE was reflective of bedouin, Islamic and Arabic culture and traditions. But with the onset of globalization, Dubai was transformed into an urban, westernized city.

"This project is located on the Dubai Creek, which was once home to many neighbourhoods. It proposes a new type of housing community, which integrates the old Emirati neighbourhood style with elements of traditional typology and architecture.

"Emirati architecture, which places importance on the environment, weather and socialising, is slowly fading. This structure foregrounds these elements and brings back the essence and the feeling of being in an old Emirati neighbourhood."

Obaid Salim AlSuwaidi
Project website:

Community Design Award: Plug-in(s) by Nourelein Mohamed Amin

"Living in a shared dwelling is common among low-income workers around the world. It allows them to share facilities like kitchens, bathrooms and living rooms for a minimal cost. But often, these set-ups are classified as a type of informal housing.

"The aim of this project is to suggest a solution to this informal housing problem through a new housing typology. This combines the concepts of modularity and co-living in the hopes of creating a flexible co-living community that contributes to its neighbourhood.

"The typology relies on three main design concepts – modularity, flexibility and temporariness."

Nourelein Mohamed Amin
Project website:

Faculty & Alumni Award: XYZ Connect by Christine Guirguis

"Connectivity is the primary way to reverse the social isolation experienced daily by the elderly. Nursing homes and retirement houses are often clinical and dull spaces where the ageing population is sent to wither away.

"The purpose of this project is to create a new typology for buildings, which improves the quality of life of the elderly while confronting the social taboo of traditional elderly homes.

"The project combines the typologies of assisted living, adult daycare and intergenerational spaces. It is located centrally, near educational zones and creates a hub of activities for different ages while establishing the facility as a place to volunteer and visit."

Christine Guirguis
Project website:

Professor Award, Dr. Anna Cornaro: Re-cultivate by Nada Yousif Husien

"The heritage and identity of the UAE lie within its historic roots in agriculture. But recent architectural developments have seen the roots harvested without re-cultivation. The shift towards sustainable agriculture can enrich and bring back this heritage to the community.

"Giving the urban community the opportunity to harvest and cultivate its own food will enrich their bond with the city. This connection is enhanced through programmes and activities that involve daily, physical farming practices such as cultivating vertical farms, gardens and private orchards for the residence.

"Connectivity is essential, providing public spaces for cultivating interactions and leading to a more diverse and successful agricultural community in the existing neighbourhood of Al Karama."

Nada Yousif Husien
Project website:

Professor Award, Dr. Abdellatif Qamhaieh: Rooted by Aisha Ibrahim

"My proposal is to design a mangrove conservation, research and visitors centre. The aim of the project is to raise awareness of the important benefits of mangroves, to protect the species that live within it and to research innovative solutions to help them repopulate.

"The building's form is dictated by the need to protect the site from noise pollution while keeping the integrity of the site through the use of simple geometry."

Aisha Ibrahim
Project website:

Professor Award, Dr. Takeshi Maruyama: Cloning by Hassan Bacha 

"From the river in the sky above the Amazon to dust, diatom algae and the ice glaciers – these are the secrets to our oxygen supply. The desert we began in is the very one that ended up in the Amazon, showing how everything is linked and comes full circle.

"The main objective of the project is to design a replicated atmosphere space that is a clone of the outer-space atmosphere and environment. This will allow us to explore and experiment with its effect on building structure, materials and plants."

Hassan Bacha
Email address:
Project website:

Architecture Students Award: Vertere by Sandi Boutros

"The concepts of introversion and extroversion are also found in architecture. Vertere is an expression space that gives space for introverts and extroverts to share their ideas, express themselves, enrich society and form a hybrid connection among them.

"The concept is formed by studying the characteristics of introverts that are simple, pure and unique whereas extroverts are bold, expressive, outgoing and exposed. These traits characterize the project language of solid masses with exposed structures.

"Adaptable spaces, workshops and expression spaces allow the project to accommodate and adapt to different cultures and backgrounds."

Sandi Boutros
Project website:

People's Choice Award: Plug and Play Design by Faisal Al Abdulrazzaq

"With this project, I intend to change the way Kuwaitis purchase their first house.

"I've solved multiple problems that every Kuwaiti faces. Firstly, I created a way for them to be able to afford a house with only the amount that is handed to them with the housing loan from the Public Authority of Housing Welfare.

"I also created a house that can be expanded in the future if the family has more children."

Faisal Al Abdulrazzaq
Project website:

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