Today, the role of an architect extends far beyond creating aesthetically pleasing structures. They are at the forefront of the green building movement, integrating sustainable materials and energy-efficient designs into their projects. Rather than contributing to urban sprawl, they are repurposing existing structures for new functions, minimising the need for additional resources and energy. What’s more profound is that they are contributing to the development of sustainable cities — prioritising pedestrian-friendly designs, green spaces that boost well-being and ensuring efficient public transportation.
Hence why beyond the conventional confines of design and aesthetics, architecture degrees are fast becoming catalysts for change. These are more than just paper qualifications but a crucial means to solving complex problems that span everything from environmental sustainability to social inclusivity.
The architects these universities aim to produce go beyond the traditional boundaries of their profession, recognising the interconnectedness of the built environment with broader societal and environmental issues. Armed with a holistic understanding of the world’s challenges, graduates from these institutions are poised to revolutionise the way we build, live, and interact with our environment.
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Situated in a globally influential Bi-city region, the School of Architecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) offers students the chance to explore the socio-spatial challenges of a rapidly transforming urban landscape of Hong Kong and Shenzhen. From dense high-rise districts to tropical country parks, over 200 islands, and heritage sites, this is a vast living laboratory of diverse architectural contexts.
CUHK’s MArch is the second part of a two-degree sequence in professional architectural education. Source: The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Location aside, the school also stands out for its dedicated infrastructure. Housed within CUHK’s expansive, green 138.4-hectare campus, it is the only division of its kind in Hong Kong with a purpose-designed building solely devoted to the study of architecture — the 7,700-square metre facility provides students with unlimited access to state-of-the-art resources and a conducive environment for an impactful education. The school operates within the Faculty of Social Science and is uniquely positioned to address issues of Asian urbanism, drawing students passionate about driving social and environmental change.
For aspiring undergraduates, the Bachelor of Social Science (Architectural Studies) provides a solid foundation, instilling creative skills for crafting solutions that seamlessly blend cultural nuances, physical contexts, and cutting-edge environmental technologies. It’s an effective pathway to the School of Architecture’s accredited Master of Architecture (MArch), which prepares students for advanced research, design thinking and speculative spatial practices. Its aim is to evolve learners into leading architects at the heart of social, urban and rural innovation to create solutions for environmental challenges. The Master of Science in Urban Design is just as impactful, a gateway to mastering the art and science of creating vibrant, sustainable, and socially just cities.
All three programmes are accredited by local and international professional institutions. In true CUHK fashion, all three programmes emphasise small group settings, community engagement, and close ties to the booming industry of architecture, offering students unparalleled opportunities for professional and personal growth.
Students at the Department of Architecture in ETH Zürich (D-ARCH) in Switzerland are designing for a different world. Guided by high-quality teaching and informed by research, they are exploring the issues of future cities, energy, climate change and sustainability – and putting their own stamp on them.
The Department of Architecture of ETH Zürich is currently home to 2,120 students. Source: ETH Zürich
Faculty here are diverse and highly skilled, with expertise ranging from the development of new construction systems to conservation, from the use of robotics to historiography and sociology. Working in close proximity with students and with the protection of academic freedom, they encourage students in both bachelor’s and master’s programmes to join the search for creative solutions in the field of tension between construction, the satisfaction of living and working needs and the preservation of a livable, designed environment.
The institutes of D-ARCH are: Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (GTA), the Institute of Technology in Architecture (ITA), the Institute of Historic Building Research and Conservation (IDB) and the Institute of Landscape and Urban Studies (LUS). Within each lies many opportunities to excel in teaching, learning and research.
Each is closely linked with the design studios through the interdisciplinary definition of task, with research findings funnelled into teaching. Further collaboration with other divisions of ETH Zurich – such as the humanities, social and political sciences, as well as the material, environmental and engineering sciences – complement this.
The University of Melbourne
Located in Australia, The University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning is producing the next generation of architects through a multidisciplinary approach that allows them to become innovative leaders in the field.
The Faculty’s multidisciplinary approach prepares students to advance into the world as leading, adaptable professionals in their fields. Source: The University of Melbourne
For example, Bachelor of Design students are given the flexibility to combine in-depth study in a particular area with subjects from other disciplines in design. Master’s programmes equip students with knowledge across a wide range of disciplines and practical learning opportunities to apply real-world knowledge.
The faculty also has a strong international reputation for graduate research, where students and professors focus on the latest debates and engage with industry professionals, policy-makers and the community in analysing and solving complex problems in architecture.
The National University of Singapore (NUS) is a leading global university based in Asia, powered by a mission “to transform the way people think and do things through education, research and service.”
In the QS World University Rankings 2023, the NUS Department of Built Environment is ranked seventh. Source: National University of Singapore/Facebook
Its School of Design and Environment (SDE) stands apart with its diverse offerings in two departments — Architecture and the Built Environment — and one division — Industrial Design. Since its inception, SDE has remained the sole faculty in Singapore to provide a comprehensive and integrated approach to teaching and research across various disciplines, including architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and design, project and facilities management, building performance and sustainability, as well as industrial design.
“We provide world-class multi-disciplinary graduate-level courses and research programmes related to design and the built environment,” says Professor Wong Nyuk Hien, Vice Dean (Research), School of Design and Environment.
An analysis of the role of architecture and urban form in the Israel-Palestine Dispute as intimated in this new edition of Eyal Weizman’s book (cover picture below) is reviewed in a Greater Kashmir post.
The opinions expressed within reflecting the author’s views and position on the issue are shared by more and more greater numbers. Let us see what’s it all about.
The above-featured image is for illustration and of Architectural Review showing Roads often highly fortified and for use by Israelis only, such as this section known as the Tunnel Road – or also the Apartheid Road – near the settlement of Gilo, under construction last year. Credit:Yonatan Sindel / FLASH90
The relationship between political will and the built environment is conspicuous and stands out most in turmoil-laden geographies. Architecture, beyond its primary function, can be perpetuated as a tool for occupation and dominance. Hollow Land, a book by Eyal Weizman published in 2007, navigates through the later proposition. Weizman has been an outspoken critique of Israel’s policies its occupation of Palestine and has written widely on the geopolitics of the Middle East.
The author’s pedantic observation of Israel-Palestine dynamics puts into the narrative what is otherwise obvious but seldom talked about in the dominant power narratives. Describing architecture from a unique vantage point, the book draws unprecedented insights into the arena of built environment. The text strongly argues and establishes architecture as an instrument to control occupied territories, instill fear among Palestinians and facilitate illegal usurping of natural and physical resources.
The book specifically takes on architecture as an expression of occupation. It explains with precise detail the role of apartheid wall; a 100 km long and 13-meter-high edifice separating the Palestine and Israel, case of illegal settler colonies, constant invigilation of Palestinian lands through panopticon watch towers, in addition to architectural elements like color coding, detail of cladding and other features pertinent to domain of urban structure.
From demographic prism, the book discusses Israel’s intrusion into Palestinian cities and intentional changing of urban population thresholds to declare scarcely populated settlements as ‘towns.’ Wiezman sees geography, apartheid policies, and politics of domination buttressing each other. Each of the physical element on the ground, he argues is ‘there to express something, it’s just that we need to decode it.’
Architecture reverberates beyond its primary function. Weizman quotes from Lahav Harkov, a retired Israeli general about Israel’s becoming of ‘world champions of occupation’ and alluding that occupation is ‘an art form’. Over the years, Israel’s domination of territory in Palestine areas as demarcated by blue line drafted by the United Nations in 1948 has been constantly modulated and abused by Israel.
Palestine as of today is constituted of three areas: East Jerusalem, West Bank, and the south-west Gaza Strip bordering Egypt. First two were part of conflict from the start whereas the Gaza Strip came under the purview of domination lately in 1967 following the Six-day war. Israel not only successfully thwarted the conglomeration of Arab opponents but also won territory more than it originally had before the war.
The idea of Israel as land of Jews is based on idea of ‘people without land’ in first place. Not is that proposition unethical because it was realized at the cost of throwing out the local Palestinian inhabitants from their land, but also it is based on doubtful historical justification. Palestine as a geographical entity with local inhabitants precedes the advent of Judaism as socio-religious unit. Historical references of the region date back to 12th Century BC during the time of Egyptian King Ramesses II. Later figures like Herodotus, Aristotle, Ptolemy also wrote about Palestine. Nur Masalha’s book, Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History documents the topic is methodical detail.
The art of apartheid, Israel orchestrates in controlling the Palestinian lands is played out at three levels: the subsoil, the surface, and the air. Palestinian territories reserve the compromised sovereignty only at the surface level whereas the subsoil and air are controlled by the Israeli government resulting in a vertical apartheid. Oslo Accords of 1993 argued for the case that Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem should be connected by road, usually by flyovers surpassing the Israel land below. Projects of such nature would directly connect the masses of Palestine and the flyovers itself would act as facilitators. Israel, however rebutted the idea citing security issues. It remains ironical given how the Israel has constructed thousands of kilometers of road network, both above surface and underground disregarding sovereignty of Palestine.
Dozen tunnels cut through hollow lands of what was once Palestinian farmlands. The roads cut across Palestinian territories and decrease the commute time of Israeli citizens. The constructions are usually aimed to proselytize into Palestinian lands and at the same time to connect mainland Israel with illegal settlements. Israel under the policy of ‘Metropolitan Jerusalem’, enshrined in policies of government mandates Israeli authorities to expand the capital territory far and beyond and in the process engulfing Palestinian lands into its jurisdiction fold.
Settlements are the most aggressive tool used by Israel to induce control to grass root level in West Bank and Gaza Strip, where they permeate almost every tract of land, and the way they are planned in midst of Palestinian towns makes the local Palestinians vulnerable in many ways and at the same time enabling Israel to control more effectively. Ariel Sharon in 1998 remarked what could be attested as the policy of Israel since then; ‘to move, run, and grab as many hilltops as we can.’ It usually starts with the placement of few mobile containers on hilltop until it is captured in its entirety.
Language and Form of Design
It’s surprising how a building material can convey the language of occupation. Throughout its glorious as well as confrontational history, Jerusalem houses architectural sites of importance to Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions. Although the style may differ for each but there is a common denominator: the Jerusalem stone. The yellow tinted stone is available in abundance in and around the region.
When British colonized the Palestine in 1918, the aesthetically sensitive British builders saw the neglected plight of its cities. To them, the built form was mix of congested and haphazardly built houses lacking any sort of unifying appeal.
Determined to find a solution to the Jerusalem’s ‘overcrowding and unsightliness’, the British colonel Ronald Storrs invited influential British engineer, William Mclean to draw a development plan. He instructed to dismantle shackles and old torn out buildings. In the process, the British designers designated Jerusalem stone as mandatory cladding stone in order to achieve the ‘biblical outlook’. For Storrs, stone embodied biblical tradition and ‘Jerusalem literally a city build on rock’. Decades later the same archeological tradition and Jerusalem stone was invoked by the Zionist regime for propagandist purposes.
The 1968 Master plan of Jerusalem, keeping up with the earlier development plans singled out Jerusalem stone’s ability to render a ‘holy city image’ to occupied areas of extended metropolitan areas of Jerusalem. In course of time, certain planners and architects did stand up to challenge this notion due to the emergence of high rise and rising prices of stone but the Israeli government subdued all such voices. In last few decades, Israel’s builders have come up with affordable ways to just put 6-centimeter slates of stone instead of wholesome masonry but nonetheless the stone on the exterior remains the standard.
Topography has also had a huge influence on the occupation. Israel usually places its settlement colonies on the apex of hills. It helps the IDF to patrol the surrounding areas with three sixty degrees vigil. This principle is vividly explicated by the settlements. Apart from stone cladding, the law mandates the settlement buildings to have red colored roofs to help differentiate in case of air raids.
Israel has induced a sort of gentrification effect in Arab neighborhoods which eventually increases the property rates causing Palestinians to retreat to areas beyond ‘metropolitan Jerusalem’ which by law is a condition for Palestinians to acquire citizenship.
Once out of Jerusalem, these people are vulnerable to various kinds of human rights violations.
There are also efforts to constrict physical expansion of Palestinian urban areas. For example, the neighborhoods of Ramat Eshkol and the French Hill north of the old city were laid out to form an elongated arc that cut the Palestinian neighborhood of Shuafat from the Palestinian old city and the neighborhood of Seikh Jarah, which previously comprised a continuous urban area.
Appropriating the Archeology
Archeology possesses the power to dismantle whatever is seen as ‘non-original’. The Maghariba quarters and African quarters were razed overnight by Israel just after the 1967 war ended. David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel claimed in his memoirs that the Jewish right over Palestine is based on digging soil with our own hands. What he said referred to two practices that would establish and demonstrate Zionist right to the land.
Wherever the Zionists found traces of Hebraic past, they first reverted the names of places followed by demolition of whatever stood on it. Thousands of houses belonging to Palestinians were razed on the same principle. A year later after the 1967 war, Israeli government invited elite planners and architects from across the world for the cause. In one such project to revive the Hebrew past, Architect Louis I. Kahn was commissioned to construct Hurva synagogue on the same design it had existed before going into ruins. Somehow the project couldn’t find the light of the day, but several other projects returned to liveliness.
Resources and Amenities
Land presently under Israel lacks the natural reserves to sufficiently supply water to its residents. The mountain aquifer’s that supply 80% of the water into Israel are in West Bank. Israel cites Hebraic past disputing any authority of Palestine over the resources. Ironically the water, as well as the stone, is extracted from Palestinian lands and for compensation the Palestinians are returned with sewerage that Israel flows downslope to valleys around the West Bank hills. This has resulted in a health crisis for Palestinian people.
Over these years the number of settlers sit at a staggering number of around 7,50,000. The official policy asserts the ratio of Jews to Muslims kept at 78:22 but the actual numbers have always remained more than 22 percent for the Muslim population because of reasons like birthrate and dense neighborhoods.
The Palestinian neighborhoods like Muslim Quarters house at least twice the people of its capacity. The reason for over densification of the Muslim neighborhoods can be reasonably attributed to Israel’s vindictive razing policy which specifically target Muslim houses.
Unemployment is rampant and healthcare infrastructure in the state of no-existence. Palestinians have not only been snatched of their rights but they have also been made dependent at every conjecture.
Palestinians are queued like herds to enter premises which belong to them. In Palestine, violence is perpetuated with the help of architecture. The crime began on drawing board itself and as Weizman remarks, ‘It is architecture only that can rise above this.’
The author is an Urban and Regional Planner and alumnus of CEPT Ahmedabad.
Since the beginning of civilization, buildings have served as humanity’s stamp on time. From Neanderthal caves and exquisite hammams, to the boundary-pushing buildings in the Middle East, architectural innovations capture the zeitgeist; embodying the hopes and ambitions of the moment as well as the underlying technological prowess that points to the future of our built environment.
Backed by a searing ambition to fashion a new image for the region (and in many cases, funded by the deep pockets of sovereign funds), buildings in the Middle East have, in the past 15 years, achieved the impossible: They have quite simply raised the bar for architectural and structural innovation around the world. The journey hasn’t been without criticism: design purists have nicknamed region an architect’s Disneyland and eyebrows have been raised about the Middle East ‘buying’ design cred. And whilst that is true to a certain extent, it is also offering designers from around the world the infrastructure – and the funding – to imagine future icons.
The architecture and construction industry has undergone a transformation with the integration of various digital tools, now indispensable to the design process. The welcoming of technologies has effectively streamlined operations, enhanced efficiency, and elevated design quality. This digital shift, however, has resulted in a digital divide that goes beyond accessibility to tools and software. It also encompasses the crucial aspect of integrating traditional and indigenous communities into the urban development landscape. Can advancing technology support the growth of vernacular architecture? Can indigenous building practices find a place in the vision for a digitalized future?
An industry traditionally slow to adopt technology has been revolutionized primarily with the introduction of computer-aided design (CAD) software. Digital tools have enabled architects to create more precise, efficient, and sophisticated structures, opening doors to new avenues in construction. While large construction companies leverage advanced technologies like drones, 3D printing, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices to enhance project management and efficiency, there is a glaring digital divide. This divide leaves indigenous construction practices and vernacular techniques lagging behind in the march toward a digital future.
Tools such as Revit, AutoCAD, and Rhino have greatly facilitated digital architectural design and visualization. These tools, however, are tailored for the construction of modern buildings using industrialized materials, rendering them less conducive to the unique material compositions crucial for indigenous construction, like clay, grass, rice husk, and earth. Numerous communities worldwide rely on self-sufficiency in building and expanding their structures, making them vulnerable to the digital gap. Changing building regulations and the lack of access to digital tools force them to depend on external consultants for their design and construction needs. The challenge lies in the complex endeavor of harmonizing traditional vernacular construction with modern technology.
Locally sourced, eco-friendly materials are fundamental to vernacular architecture, but they often fall outside the purview of Building Information Modeling (BIM) due to its standardized material database. Vernacular construction relies on unconventional, region-specific materials not readily available in BIM libraries, requiring custom entries and specialized knowledge for inclusion. The informal, non-standardized nature of vernacular construction knowledge further challenges BIM, which thrives on data-driven precision. To support vernacular architecture, tools need to evolve to become more inclusive, providing user-friendly options for material integration. Consequently, construction projects in rural regions may find digital tools ill-suited to their needs, potentially estranging vernacular expertise in an increasingly digital world.
Analyzing structures constructed through indigenous and vernacular techniques using digital structural analysis tools presents challenges. These methods frequently involve non-traditional materials and construction techniques that do not easily align with standardized digital modeling and analysis software. The intricate, context-specific nature of many indigenous structures resists simple digital representation, complicating the creation of precise models. The absence of formal architectural plans and reliance on local knowledge, often not comprehensively documented, further obstructs the effective application of digital structural analysis.
Vernacular constructions offer significant environmental benefits, including energy efficiency, passive heating and cooling, and the use of local materials. Traditional practices reduce carbon emissions, enhance indoor air quality, and utilize efficient thermal mass properties. Conventional rating systems like LEEDmay not accurately gauge the eco-friendly aspects of vernacular architecture, as it is designed for industrialized construction methods. Integrating vernacular structures into these frameworks demands adaptation and innovation in digital analysis.
A careful blend of tradition and modernity can have a significant impact in terms of sustainability. Vernacular construction harnesses available resources to not only create structures rooted in their context but also minimize the ecological impact of the construction. To bridge the digital divide, preserving traditional craftsmanship while integrating digital technology is essential. Initiatives like 3D-printed adobe structures and passive strategy analysis have emerged, emphasizing digital construction while safeguarding cultural identities. Bridging this gap necessitates a participatory approach and local expertise. Architects should engage with communities, integrating their wisdom into digital processes to enrich design and preserve vernacular knowledge.
The digitization of indigenous construction methods is essential to foster inclusivity in a shared vision of the future, preventing the alienation of local communities from the evolving built landscape. Democratizing technology ensures that everyone plays a part in shaping this future, resulting in regionally tailored design and construction. Acknowledging the architectural industry’s impact and avoiding exacerbating the digital divide is crucial. Digital tools should empower people to design according to their needs rather than conforming to tool limitations. For Indigenous nations, technology can offer a path to exercise sovereignty and celebrate their unique cultural identities.
Driven by its purpose to build progress for people and the planet,Holcim is decarbonizing building, while improving living standards for all.Holcim empowers architects and developers across all regions to build sustainably. This series explores how cities of the future can be low-carbon, circular and resilient.
A certain Patrick Soriano appears to be Dazzling Dubai with his designs. He is a Filipino architect who has climbed up the Gulf ladder of success to become one of the few deciders of that Gulf country’s built environment shaping . . . Let us see how.
The above-featured image is of Patrick Soriano at the 2023 UAP Dubai Design Awards. PHOTO FROM PATRICK SORIANO’S LINKEDIN PAGE
The road to Dubai for architect Patrick Soriano, recently named the Global Filipino Architect of the Year in the 2023 UAP Dubai Design Awards, began with a piece of paper and pencil and a fascination for superheroes.
As a 9-year-old, he remembers attempting to draw his favorite superhero in an action pose and being very pleased with the outcome. From then on, Soriano fell in love with drawing. As a high school student, he developed an interest in architecture and devoted his spare time to exploring and looking at buildings around the neighborhood. He started teaching himself to draw every building in sight.
When it was time for college, he knew exactly what he wanted to do and that was to become an architect.
“As I grew older, I realized that the built environment has a profound influence on our lives, and I wanted to be a part of shaping spaces that not only captivate the eye but also enrich the human experience,” Soriano shared. “Landscape architecture offers a unique blend of artistry, environmental stewardship, and community enhancement that resonates deeply with me.”
Soriano earned his Architecture degree from the Far Eastern University.
Immediately after graduation, he landed a job in Doha, Qatar. He moved to Dubai, UAE, in 2008 and spent six years with the firm WoodBagot. In 2014, he went on board at Perkins+Will, where he met his mentor, Steven Velegrinis, who, at the time, was the head of the firm.
“He taught me to value the environment,” Soriano said of Velegrinis, “and how the public spaces are for everyone to enjoy and experience.”
Velegrinis, who is now Design director for Gensler Middle East’s Cities and Urban Design practice, in his endorsement of Soriano for the UAP award, wrote: “Amongst the design professions, curiosity is one of the most valuable qualities for a designer to have. Patrick Soriano — or Super P as I call him — is an exceptional example of the creative power of curiosity. Patrick’s sense of curiosity expresses itself as a sense of adventure in his design projects, driven by the absolute certainty that there is a better, more buildable way to deliver complex design projects from the scale of a single building to that of an entire city. ”
In 2018, Soriano became Associate Landscape Architect at Aecom where he had the opportunity to work on many big-ticket projects. Aecom is an international infrastructure consulting firm involved in transportation, buildings, water, energy and the environment.
In March of this year, Soriano joined Emaar, the real estate conglomerate behind the iconic Burj Kalifa, Dubai Mall and Dubai Fountain, assuming the role of Landscape Design Lead and overseeing all its landscape projects.
“I collaborate closely with the development manager to ensure timely project delivery and a positive customer experience. Additionally, I work in close coordination with the site team to ensure that projects meet high standards and align with the intended design.”
At 41, Soriano’s portfolio is impressive, with many high-profile projects that are changing the landscape of Dubai.
Dubai is indeed an exciting place to be in for any architect. One of the wealthiest cities in the world, it is regarded as a major crossroads and entrepot of the Middle East, a melting pot of cultures with a large expatriate community that includes Filipinos.
“The city boasts an impressive skyline featuring some of the world’s most iconic structures,” Soriano said. “Architectural practice in Dubai is dynamic and diverse, with a focus on innovative designs that combine aesthetic appeal with functionality. The city is a hub for architectural experimentation, pushing the boundaries of engineering and design.”
Soriano added that Dubai’s rapid urbanization and ambitious construction projects attract architects and design professionals from around the world.
“The city offers a unique canvas for architects to showcase their creativity and contribute to transformative projects. Additionally, the tax-free status, cosmopolitan lifestyle, and opportunities for professional growth make Dubai an appealing destination for architects seeking to advance their careers.”
According to Soriano, the UAP-Dubai is an important presence in the city. The community fosters a supportive environment, where architects can network, collaborate and share experiences, Soriano said. “Filipino architects play a role in shaping Dubai’s urban fabric and contributing to its architectural diversity.”
Soriano considers himself extremely fortunate for having the opportunity to work with a team of exceptional professionals in the Middle East. He said, “We share the same vision and passion for creating spaces that enhance the human experiences, celebrate culture, and contribute to sustainable development. As architects, we have a responsibility to shape our built environment with sensitivity, innovation, and a deep understanding of the communities we serve.”
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Earth has been used as a building material for at least the last 12,000 years. Ethnographic research into earth being used as an element of Aboriginal architecture in Australia suggests its use probably goes back much further.
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