GUtech will hold an International Symposium on Contemporary Earthen Building

HALBAN GUtech is pleased to announce the 1st International Symposium on Contemporary Earthen Building in Oman to be held at GUtech on 10 and 11 February. Registration is now open.  “Our upcoming symposium aims to be a platform for an informative exchange. It is the first event in a larger initiative on Earthen Building in Oman which was recently launched at GUtech to create awareness about earth as an abundant, sustainable and beautiful building product,” said Assistant Professor Wayne Switzer from the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD) at GUtech. “Earth is a material with deep historical relevance in Oman. Yet, despite the countless examples of earth buildings in the region, it is hardly discussed, let alone permitted, as a material for present-day construction. This despite the proven benefits to air quality, recyclability and low-embodied energy,” said Prof. Wayne. The first day will feature presentations from experts, roundtable discussions, and critical reflection. The second day will feature hands-on demonstrations and a participatory workshop.

The Symposium will include architects, governmental officials, and industry partners who will have the opportunity to discuss the potentials for Earthen construction to enable a healthy, sustainable building industry. “Guest experts from Germany, Spain, and Belgium will be on hand to demonstrate and present how these techniques are already being implemented and regulated,” said Prof. Wayne Switzer.

For more information and to register for the Symposium please visit: https://ebi.gutech.edu.om or follow us @ebi_oman

UPAD students study circular construction and examples of revitalization in architecture

HALBAN Sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), a group of 15 students from the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD) recently travelled to Europe to study the potentials of reusing or revitalizing existing architecture built in Europe. The group led by Assistant Prof. Wayne Switzer, visited metropoles like Berlin and Brussels as well as smaller German cities like Cologne, Düren and Aachen. “Our students were encouraged to think in a circular, rather than linear way.  We identified and visited not only buildings but also architectural practices which are engaged in resourceful design to minimize waste and embrace historical change,” said Assistant Prof. Wayne. At GUtech’s German partner-university RWTH Aachen University, the students were involved in a three-day workshop along with Master students from the chair of Cycle-Oriented Construction, Department of Architecture. During this collaboration, the students experimented with natural substances such as reed, hair or clay as a building material, which reinforced creative solutions when regarding the sustainability of buildings. “No buildings ever disappear, rather they are either disassembled and re-used or they become someone else’s problem, in the form of waste,” said Assistant Prof. Wayne.  “It was great for us to see all the buildings in reality that we have been studying since the first semester. Every day we visited a different place. This widened our perspectives on the architecture and on sustainable construction,” said Noorayn Al Busaidi, 4th year UPAD student.

In the German capital Berlin the group visited a number of old and new buildings including the ‘House of Statistics’ (in German: ‘Haus der Statistik’), a multi-purpose building in the central district of Mitte that was used as the State Central Administration for Statistics of the GDR. A community action group that includes politicians, city planners and architects have regenerated the buildings that have been empty for over a decade. Now concerts, experimental theatre and exhibitions are conducted there. The group also visited the ‘Chapel of Reconciliation’ (in German: Kapelle der Versöhnung) built on the grounds of the former path of the Berlin Wall using earth from the very site of a formerly demolished church. In Brussels, the group met with a group of architects called ‘Rotor’, who sell salvaged building components and also reclaim buildings that are not used.

The group of students will exhibit their work and findings of the excursion during an exhibition held at GUtech’s architectural studios, from the 1st of January onwards. The exhibition will run throughout the semester.

(c) Text & Photo: Dr. Manuela Gutberlet and Prof. Wayne Switzer

 

Creating Cardboard Structures: An Interaction between Sculpture & Space

As part of the course ‘Introduction to Project Design’, students of the 1st year, BSc Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD), have created cardboard sculptures and displayed them on campus. “During our course, the students learn about proportions, colours, materials, scales and textures. Each student has to design a sculpture by using folding techniques. The last project is teamwork which is more challenging as the students have to design and share ideas in a group,” said Associate Prof. Gazmend Kalemi, UPAD Department.

“In the beginning we had a paper model. Now a 1:1 model made of three layers of cardboard was produced. We have worked on the final sculpture for three days,” said Amna Al Balushi, UPAD student. She worked along with seven fellow students on her structure. Another sculpture entitled ‘The Golden Gangway’ was designed by a group of students as a walkway and set-up outside the lecture hall building. The students perforated the cardboard designing Arabic calligraphy within the sculpture, creating light and shadow effects.

“The Quads” is the theme of another structure shaped like large triangles. “We tried different angels. From each side it looks different,” said UPAD student Al Gawaris. Another structure resembled white, empty pages that are waiting to be filled. “We wish to create space for thoughts. These pages show that the longer we study the more knowledge we accumulate,” said Bushra Al Mukhaini. “I am impressed with the students’ ideas and their projects. Their visual concepts are clear and strong,” said Prof. Gazmend Kalemi.

GUtech Commemorates 7th Anniversary of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Visit

The German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) commemorated on Tuesday 24th December the 7th anniversary of the visit of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said to its campus.

The 24th of December marks the private visit of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said to GUtech campus in Halban. The commemoration of the private visit of His Majesty is annually observed by GUtech community. Students and staff remember the day to reflect on the importance of the visit in GUtech’s history and on the vision of His Majesty the Sultan for Oman’s academic and research development.

In the late afternoon of December 24th, 2012, the founders of GUtech and members of the rectorate welcomed his majesty to GUtech campus and its facilities, few weeks only after its opening.

In visiting GUtech campus and meeting the founders and the rectorate, His Majesty confers upon it an unusual distinction. “We welcome His Majesty’s private visit to GUtech campus as a gracious expression of his trust in our university and a vital catalyser enticing us to work harder and faster for further progress” proudly declares Dr Hussain Al Salmi, Deputy Rector for Administration and Finance.

The significant and ever-lasting contributions His Majesty has made to Oman and to the lives of its people are universally known; not less impressive than the wise introduction of far-reaching reforms which has promoted the development of the education system, and the prosperity of the country in general.

As more as 3000 male and female students enrolled in the university in the last 12 years. More than 400 male and female students graduated from it while there are more than 2200 male and female students are currently pursuing their studies.

(c) GUtech/Text: Fatima El Madkouri

“Color is Life” – Designing a Mosque for the Local Community in Muscat

HALBAN Under the supervision of Mr Petrit Pasha and Mr Dawood Al Salmi and Ms. Sadmira Malaj, second-year students of the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD) at the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech), had the task to design a community mosque located in Muscat. Yesterday morning the group of 13 students presented their design ideas to a committee of UPAD professors and external architecture experts as well as to their fellow students.

UPAD student Shefa Al Zeidi presented the design of a colourful and open mosque for the community. “Color is life,” she said, inspired by one of her visual arts professors at GUtech. Her mosque features modern Islamic architecture from Yemen and Iran. The mosque includes a large courtyard for gatherings, as well as a Quran school, a library as well as a courtyard with a fountain and a Majlis area for men. “I like the idea behind her project. She was mainly concerned with the social aspect and gathering the community and especially females within the mosque area,” said Petrit Pasha.

Students Manal Al Bahrani, Lulwah Al Riyami and Khadija Al Sawafi designed a mosque just beside GUtech’s main campus. “We were inspired by the National Mosque in Malaysia and used the blue tiles,” said one of the students. The students used columns adopted from the Al Alam Palace in Old Muscat and Arabic patterns from the History of Science Museum on the GUtech campus. Arabic ‘mashrabiyas’ were used to filter the light. They also integrated soft features like a courtyard with a fountain and flowers, symbols of purity.

UPAD Student Hussain Al Lawati presented his model of a mosque named “Al Hadi Mosque” inspired by the design of an Iranian mosque with blue tiles and the mirhab (prayer niche), dome and minaret aligned in one symmetry. Ali Al Ajmi and Asila Al Busaidi designed a mosque for around 300 male and 50 female spaces having a futuristic design and shape. Their mosque includes a majlis area for men, a garden space and male prayer area with a carpet in blue and gold.

(c) GUtech/ Text & Photo: Dr. Manuela Gutberlet & UPAD Department

Eco-friendly designs presented by UPAD students

MUSCAT Second year students who were supervised by the lecturers Petrit Pasha and Dawood Al Salmi,  from the Urban Planning and Architectural Design Department (UPAD) have presented their concepts for a future commercial extension of the GUtech campus, ‘The Walk’ to a group of experts and fellow students.

While temperatures are high on the Arabian Peninsula, GUtech students showcased some eco-friendly ideas during their final presentations at the end of the semester. Several UPAD students focused on environmental sustainable building solutions. For example, Najlaa Al Marhoon and Noor Al Ibrahim focused on concepts of a suitable environment for administrative and managerial employees within a mixed-use office building providing restaurants, coffee shops and other facilities. “The concept was inspired by the archaeology of valleys and mountains. The shape of the two buildings are following the natural look of valleys having different directions and angles creating a modern facade. Our project is consist of two offices and mixed-use buildings, each building designed as a three-story connected with a bridge on the second floor. At the middle of the bridge, there is a waterfall going inside a tube glass from the top to the bottom cutting through the bridge reaching to a fountain on the ground level between the two buildings,” said Najlaa. The layout of the two buildings is purposely shifted back and front of the main horizontal and vertical axis of the building envelope creating shade under the slaps of the floors and to reduce heat and direct sunlight from working space.

Another UPAD student, Iman Al Mughairi, designed a Spa retreat for a hotel. The concept of this building is to have strong privacy while still maintaining features of openness. The main features are a swimming-pool along with massage and steam rooms, an open-air jacuzzi and several saunas. A cafe was also added to serve the rooms and as an extension of the main concept. “By adding trees and skylights, the atmosphere has shifted from dark and humid to a more light and airy atmosphere. As an extension of the idea of privacy, there are many separation walls that act as both structures and as a means of concealment,” said Iman.

(c) GUtech, Photo and Text: Petrit Pasha, Dr. Manuela Gutberlet

Students from Marmara University visited GUtech

HALBAN A group of students from Marmara University in Istanbul (Turkey), visited GUtech’s Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD) recently. The Turkish students are currently studying at SQU for one semester. The visit follows a recent architectural field-trip of GUtech students to Turkey. „To strengthen the ties between Turkey and Oman, the Turkish Ambassador H.E. Ayse Sözen Usluer has invited our UPAD students for a gathering in their Residence recently,“ said Ercan Ağırbaş, Associate Professor at GUtech.

(c) GUtech: Text & Photo

 

“Public Spaces – Urban Identities in Muscat”, exhibition opens at Bait Al Baranda Museum

MUSCAT Under the auspices of H.E. Thomas Schneider, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Sultanate of Oman and Eng. Nasser Bin Ali Al Hinai, Director General of Technical Affairs of Muscat Municipality, the exhibition “Public Spaces – Urban Identities in Muscat” was opened today morning at Bait Al Baranda Museum in Muttrah (Muscat). The exhibition is held in cooperation with the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech). It displays different perspectives of planning public spaces and their identities in Muscat. Tourism research, community-based designs and architectural sketches on Muttrah from students and faculty members of GUtech and partially in cooperation with the Scientific College of Design are on display. The main topics of the exhibition are: “Observations and drawings of Muttrah”, “CommunityBased Design in Muscat”, “WOW — Where Oman Walks” and “Mega-cruise tourism and its impacts on the local community in Souq Muttrah”.

The opening of the exhibition included talks on the development of urban spaces followed by a panel discussion with experts from the academia and the public sector in Oman. H.E. Thomas Schneider stressed in his welcome address, the importance of involving the local community in urban planning processes in order to create places that enhance networks within the community while respecting their everyday needs. Prof. Dr. Gustavo di Siqueira, Head of the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD) at GUtech said that Muscat has witnessed a rapid urban development since the 1970, focusing on basic infrastructure and a car-oriented network. In their student project he focused on how the community perceives the walkability of certain areas and their suggestions for further improvements, e.g. in Al Khoud and Al Khuwair. Prof. Gazmend Kalemi, UPAD Department and his students display their sketches on Muttrah in the second part of the exhibition. “Drawing expresses our impressions and observations. The more you draw, the more you see and observe the tangible environment,” said Prof. Gazmend Kalemi, UPAD Department at GUtech, while adding that future architects need to have a basic knowledge about space and its aesthetics. Referring to the student and academic work on display, Malik Al Hinai, Director of Bait Al Baranda Museum said: “You created a special story that visitors will see in the coming week – urban spaces, walking spaces are on display for the community”.

During the discussion, the architect and urban planner Hilal Al Busaidi from Muscat Municipality said that he and his team have realized that the community is very willing to participate in public discussions. “We try to include the community in the planning and policy-making process,” he said. Shela Hussain and Mahmood Al Wahaibi from the Supreme Council of Town Planning, who are involved in the preparation of the Oman Vision 2040 and the Oman National Spatial Strategy Project, said that the use of ethnography is very important in exploring social values and personal experiences of space. “Especially in tourism, the charm of the country lies in authentic spaces,” said Mahmood Al Wahaibi. Referring to the walkability of spaces, one of the female GUtech UPAD students in the audience stressed that public spaces are rather male spaces and that it needs a general mind-shift. Currently, it is difficult and challenging for females to walk on their own in public. Dr. Manuela Gutberlet, academic researcher and PR Manager at GUtech showcases some of her ongoing academic research on the impacts of mega-cruise tourism on local life in Muttrah. In her talk she mentioned that in particular overcrowding, a marginalisation of the local well-established community and culture shock situations have triggered a silent resistance from the Omani business community and the residents. In addition, an increase in cheap imported souvenirs and social dumping of the labour force were observed. “The space along the corniche road and the main street in Souq Muttrah has developed into a ‘tourist bubble’, focusing on the needs of the mass tourist. My survey shows that most of the cruise tourists consume the place visually; they do not buy anything or very little in Souq Muttrah. Research conducted in other cruise destinations worldwide support these results. To increase the quality of life of the local community, she recommends to limit and control the number of cruise tourists arriving in Muttrah and to introduce a tourism management strategy.

The organizers of this special opening event wish that the workshop serves as a kick-off event for a continuous discussion on urban spaces and their identities, for the benefits of local communities in Oman.

The exhibition “Public Spaces – Urban Identities in Muscat” at Bait Al Baranda is open until 1st of May, from Saturday to Thursday between 9 am to 1 pm and 4 pm to 6 pm.

(c) GUtech; Text and Photo: Dr. Manuela Gutberlet and Olivera Petrovic

 

Towards more green buildings – An Open House Event at the EcoHaus

HALBAN With increased urban development worldwide and here in Oman in particular in the capital area, eco-friendly and energy-efficient houses are a timely and relevant topic to address. To advance an efficient knowledge transfer between the research institutions and the public, the GUtech EcoHaus project, led by Prof. Nikolaus Knebel held an Open House event recently. During a three-hour session Prof. Knebel showed and explained his latest building designs, which elaborate on the experience from the EcoHaus project and the concurrent research done on it. The housing projects discussed with the visitors were villas and a multi-storey residential project.

“Despite pioneering works through the TRC-funded five eco houses built in 2014, the knowledge about how to approach such a DESIGN task needs to reach out to home owners and architects even more.” said Prof. Knebel. Therefore, home owners and builders were invited to participate in the session and present their projects and plans followed by a discussion with Prof. Knebel and GUtech students about how to improve the designs and selection of construction materials to reach a more energy-efficient and eco-friendly architecture.

“The open day of the EcoHaus was great, the visitors were excited and curious. We showed them around the house and discussed proven strategies for recurring problems in our GCC region. It was insightful for the visitors but it was also great for me as student to revisit important concepts regarding renewable energies. I think it is a great idea to hold regular open days for the public and especially for school children,” said Ammal Al Kiyumi, UPAD student at GUtech.

Circular Approaches – A series of spring lectures on sustainable architecture at GUtech

“Circular Approaches” is the title of a Spring 2019 Public Lecture Series offered by the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design at GUtech. Tomorrow’s public talk at 1.30 pm, held by Dr. Arnaud Evrard, who is a researcher, educator and earthen builder. He completed his doctoral studies in 2008 from the Ecole de Polytechnique de Louvain in Belgium focussing on the thermal properties of Lime-Hemp material. Prof. Arnaud’s talk will focus on circularity at the material level. Since 2016 he has worked as a builder for the rammed earthen pioneer Martin Rauch. He currently teaches at the ‘Architekturwerkstatt’ (Architecture Institute) in St. Gallen. The ‘Circular Approaches’ presentations deal specifically with how architects, builders and educators are incorporating circular strategies into their work.

“With the consequences of energy scarcity and global warming already upon us, the relevance of Circular Thinking in Oman is quite clear. As architects, we are responsible not only for proposing Approaches for these challenges, but seeing them as possibilities to innovate and elevate our practice” said Prof. Wayne Switzer from the UPAD Department.

The idea of circularity can be traced through many philosophies and belief systems and has over time also become a way for a society to understand aspects of their culture – from the economy, agriculture and environmental health. This concept, of continuous feedback and renewal, emphasizes a comprehensive view on our existing and finite resources. Within the field of architecture and construction, this means separating building from the consumption of limited resources and from processes which are harmful to humans and our environment.

Circular building reimagines this process as a regenerative loop: buildings which are made from existing or recycled materials, buildings which produce energy and filter water, buildings which can be disassembled or re-purposed after their initial usage has changed.