Summer 2004 Vol. II, Nos 3 and 4
 From the Editors
 To the Editors
 AUB News
 Campaign Update
 Behold Beirut Architecture’s
 New Frontier
 The Post-AUB Architectural Life
 An Exact Type
 Architecture and Graphic Design
 Students “JAM”
 Shaping the Landscape of Lebanon
 Blueprint in Action
 Commencement 2004
 Honorary Degrees 2004
 Young Lebanese Musicians Learn
 Lessons from the Master
 More than a Stamp of Approval: AUB
 Receives Accreditation
 Alumni Profile
 Alumni Activities
 AUB Reflections
 Class Notes
 In Memoriam
 Previous Issues

The Post-AUB Architectural Life

Four recent architecture graduates talk with MainGate Coeditor Lynn Mahoney about their professional lives and experiences.

Designing in Dubai
Michael Habib (BArch ’98)

“I am at a phase in my professional life where I might choose to pursue fields of interest that will have more to do with planning opportunities,” explains Michael Habib from the American University in Sharjah, where he is part of the Office of Campus Development and is pursuing a master’s in urban planning.  Habib, who grew up in Dubai and has worked there as an architect since graduation, now deals with design coordination of new buildings at the Sharjah institution. His projects range from planning a library, signage, and faculty housing to designing a student center, leisure facility, and bicycle racks. The young architect, who cites the late Alvar Alto as inspiration, is enthusiastic about the opportunities in the Gulf. “The region has started implementing works of signature architects, which I hope will expose the public to what is possible and make people realize that similar talent does exist locally,” he says. “At the same time, we are witnessing many cases in which international firms have been imposing alien ideas, conceived in remote offices around the world. And open debate on the validity of such projects has been giving the public a say in assessing architectural developments.”

Environmental Design
Anis I. Abou-Zaki (BArch ’99); (MSc ’02, University College,

“Sustainability is an increasingly important issue worldwide, especially with problems of global warming. Buildings consume around 50 percent or more of total energy consumption,” explains Anis I. Abou-Zaki from London. “Environmental awareness in building and master planning can have a strong impact on reducing, if not solving, the problem.” Abou-Zaki certainly is an expert on this. He received his master’s in environmental design and engineering from University College, London, in 2002 and works at one of the leading international firms in the field, London-based Battle McCarthy. He is responsible for assisting clients in designing low-energy buildings by creating a high-quality internal and external environment with a minimal use of energy and resources. “This is achieved by maximizing human comfort with low running costs and energy consumption,” he explains. Projects he has participated in include the Freedom Tower in New York and the Pribinova Riverfront master plan in Slovakia.

Abou-Zaki regrettably concedes there are almost no environmentally responsive buildings and master plans in the Middle East, but points out that the old architectural styles utilized many interesting environmental features, such as evaporative cooling and shading solutions. “Lebanon benefits from a perfect geographical location, typography, and climate that could make the country a leader in environmental design, resulting in huge reductions in energy consumption, decreased dependency on fossil fuels, and less pollution. This would ultimately yield a stronger economy and a better environment.”

On Architectural History and Theory
Fakhry Akkad (BArch ’03)

As a master’s student at the prestigious Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, Fakhry Akkad specializes in architectural history and debate. “The Histories and Theories of Architecture program at the school deals particularly with 20th century architecture and traces the work and rhetoric that has shaped it,” he explains.  His dissertation is intriguing: “I am investigating city authorship in the 1970s through the works of a novelist, an architect, and a filmmaker.” Cutting-edge scholarship seems to be Akkad’s trademark, as his final AUB architecture project questioned the role governments have in shaping the built environment and the strong influence of the private sector in architecture. He looks upon architecture in the Middle East with some skepticism: “Scores are settled in the architectural arena. Architects, clients, and authorities are in a cultural limbo—where they have grown an affinity to anything they regard as ‘local’ and an aversion to anything ‘imported.’”


Akkad, who intends to go on for another master’s in design, is taken by London’s vibrant architectural scene. He considers his future: “I would like to open my own practice one day, but am keen on pursuing a parallel career in academia. I believe both professions are dialectical.” This dual approach may have been nurtured at AUB. “The chief advantage of AUB’s curriculum is that it stretches a student’s horizons by providing a rich interdisciplinary education that exposes the possibilities of tailoring the architectural field to fit one’s own interests.”

From Beirut to Boston to Beijing
Hiba Bou Akar (BArch ’00)

Hiba Bou Akar juggled time zones and an intensive workload this summer: “I am participating in a five-week workshop in June and July that involves exploring the urban context of Beijing and Shanghai, studying old Chinese architecture as well as modern, while undertaking an urban design project that addresses the urban void created by Beijing’s newly developed light railway, which is part of the city’s planned transportation network.” Being busy is nothing new to Akar—she is currently a candidate for a master’s in urban planning in the International Development and Regional Planning Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.

She arrived at MIT in 2003, having gained substantial hands-on training as an architecture consultant to AUB’s Facilities Planning and Design Unit from 2002 to 2003. “At FPDU, we worked as a team on the implementation of the Campus Master Plan through developing the projects in response to the needs of the AUB community. This entailed initiating dialogue between the different entities involved in decision-making and transforming the different concerns into urban policies and architectural guidelines that responded to the University’s vision and that of the community,” she explains.

Akar also had the experience of working as a consultant with Beirut-based Bawader Architects, where she participated in the design of several projects, such as the master plan for the Hariri V Exemplary School complex and the Baalbeck Public School, as well as in surveying the Hammoud Hospital in Saida. Additionally, she was part of the local team that worked with ARS Progetti on developing a tourist and cultural urban scheme for the city of Baalbeck. 

Urban planning appears to be Akar’s greatest passion. Her research is focused on urban policies and architecture design alternatives that address issues of informal settlements and low-cost housing. “In January 2004 I traveled to Laos and worked on informal settlements and urban villages there,” she explains. “The connection with the local people, as well as with NGOs, was an invigorating personal and professional experience.” Hiba looks forward to returning to Lebanon, with the aim of working on the development of housing projects for lower income groups.