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

Architecture and Graphic Design Students “JAM”

Come springtime, architecture and graphic design students strut their talents and skills in the department’s annual exhibition.  May Farah discovers projects that embrace creativity, intelligence, and care for community.

On one wall, stretching from the floor to well above eye level, hung a large drawing carefully detailing war-damaged buildings in Beirut. Nearby, occupying an equally generous chunk of wall space, was a study charting the lack of public toilets in the Beirut Central District, more commonly known as downtown. Other walls revealed similar public concerns and curiosities: how once traditional neighborhoods—in this case, Ain Al-Mreisseh—were losing their identity owing to demographic relocation; the value of a rehabilitation center and its services for the community; and the continuity of tradition in an intricately detailed  sketch of a typical Lebanese house in the hills of Douma.

What brought these projects together, along with dozens of others that were mounted on two floors of common space in the Architecture and Graphic Design building, was the annual student exhibition, which took place over a one-week period at the end of May.

Endearingly—and officially—called JAM, the exhibition has been held every year since 1996. For the architecture and graphic design students of all grade levels, it is no less than an exciting end-of-the-year “jam session” made up of representative examples of the variety of projects produced that year. In sum, it is an impressive display of natural talents, strengthened and enhanced by the valuable tools of knowledge and skills acquired at AUB.

“The topics in the exhibit are varied. Some are projects that deal with sustainable development; others address the rehabilitation of old areas and other interesting and pertinent subject areas,” explained Howayda Al-Harithy, the chair of the Department of Architecture and Graphic Design. “The objective of JAM is to communicate what we do to other AUB students, faculties, and departments, as well as to other universities, professionals, and the community.”

The projects on display represented work completed by students in the core design studio classes in both graphic design and architecture. Because there are over 200 students enrolled in those courses—a number greatly exceeding the wall space available to mount all the projects—two or three projects were selected from each course for display in JAM. About three months before the exhibition, a committee made up of the chair, faculty members, and students from both majors, began deciding on the entries and finalizing all details for the exhibit. This included having the students complete production of the work to be exhibited, as well as design and oversee production of the posters for the event.

“This is not a competition,” said Al-Harithy, who was quick to praise the many “outstanding students” the department attracts each year, many of whom go on to attend top-notch graduate schools in the United States and elsewhere. “The selected works were not necessarily the best, but they were representative of each course.”

The projects, which differed depending on the studio course, are all based in reality, insisted Al-Harithy, noting that the addition of more display panels each year means that more and more projects are being exhibited. “It’s crucial to train our students to be creative with narrative and also to be restrictive as well, so that they learn to deal with the outside work world,” she said, adding that because two or three faculty members teach each studio course, students are offered different methods of approaching similar topics. “This is important to generate debate,” Al-Harithy stressed. “Our students are shown different possibilities, so they can then decide on their own on how to present their projects.”

From the graphic design student’s initial idea in the production of a book cover to the architectural student’s conceptualization and documentation of a theme, the work is all about visualizing an idea and turning it into a real project. At the exhibit, the participating students were on hand throughout the week to talk to visitors about their work, about the origin of their ideas, and about the process of arriving at the final stage.

The students are free to choose virtually any topic to work on, as long as the proposal they submit outlines what they are doing and how they plan to go about doing it, including the research component. The emphasis is on the design process, remarked Al-Harithy, and ensuring that the process is firmly grounded.

For his final fifth-year project, Rabih Ghanem translated his longtime passion for shoes into an efficient and elaborate shoe factory. “The story is about my obsession with shoes,” he acknowledged, as he pointed to the drawings on the wall illustrating the various stages of his vision. “I used to design shoes for fun as a kid, so I developed the idea for my thesis project.”

For his modern-day shoe factory, Ghanem extracted elements from the popular children’s story, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” He said he went back and looked at the book, drew his own story, and eventually developed it into an architectural drawing book that included his thesis, along with substantial research and information on factories. “At the beginning of year, we are required to submit our proposal for our thesis project,” explained Ghanem. “If it’s accepted, then we begin the research and drawings needed to prepare a document.” During the second semester, students produce the final drawings and three-dimensional models. “At that stage, we materialize it into a building,” he added, “or into 3D models that demonstrate all parts of the building, which actually has to work.”

Hosani Auji’s fourth-year graphic design project involved choosing the location for a retail outlet, whether it be a toyshop, a boutique, a gallery, or even a theater. For such projects, students are required to design an entire corporate identity, including a logo, stationery, signage, and so on. “We had to show how exactly our signs would look in the place we had chosen,” said Auji. His project envisioned a multi-purpose studio called Jack’s, which was aimed at attracting the country’s youth by showing films and spotlighting upcoming bands.

Auji’s stark black and white studio included a theater, which he described as “a place where you could go see the best of old creepy film noir,” and a bar that served drinks and snacks where the young could hang out. “It was a semester-long project, but we had to present a different part every week,” he said. “It was all imaginary, but to make it more real, we chose an actual location so that we would know the space we were working with.”

For second-year architecture student Halim Khoriaty, his focus was the re-designing of an actual underground hospital that was built in Khiam, just outside Beirut, during World War II. “Since it was entirely underground, the hospital was protected and survived the Lebanese civil war as well,” said Khoriaty, whose vision for the hospital was to turn the space into a museum dedicated to World War II.

In his design, Khoriaty divided the actual space into two separate, yet layered and overlapping, areas.  One area was given over to private spaces, where the administration and other workers maintaining and protecting the exhibit would be located. The other area consisted of public spaces, such as the entrance, outdoor seating areas, seminar rooms, and the cafeteria, which were located over the private spaces and actually invaded them. “To reach the public spaces, people would go down through shafts that penetrate the private spaces,” he explained, noting that the lines between the two were therefore ultimately blurred.

From one panel to another and one wall to the next, the dozens upon dozens of projects demonstrated the creative and elaborate work of AUB’s architecture and graphic design students. Many of the projects—such as the proposed rehabilitation center, which provided research data on what such a center was all about, what it needed to do, how big it would have to be, the number of beds, and so on—were very conscious of the country’s current needs.

“The research undertaken by our students is a rich resource,” commented Al-Harithy, noting that much of it is documented and kept in the department’s archives. “These projects help raise awareness as to what we do in the discipline of design, from building a project to conceptualizing a product and creating its design elements. The process itself is the focus. So, it’s not so much design-oriented as process-oriented, including all the social, economic, and cultural considerations involved ,” she said. “We try to make our students actively exercise their intellectual capacities.”