“I want every day to be a challenge” – A UPAD students shares his study experiences

 

HALBAN A 4th year student in Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD), Abdullah Al Mandhari (pictured), has shared some of his experiences about his online studies and his on-going projects. Sometimes Abdullah has been studying while being surrounded by his nephews and niece. This highlights the challenges students face within their home-environments, in a region that is highly family-oriented.

Managing social life at home and online studies can be challenging at times. In his view, online classes have positive and negative aspects. “Currently most of the students stay in their comfort zones, at home. But I think there will be less quality in our final projects, the thesis. Unfortunately, most of us are too distracted most of the time. I am currently working on the time-frame of my final project. I have worked on that every single holidays in our semester breaks,” he said. Recently Abdullah has worked on architectural design projects such as a drive-through cinema. “I have some other goals to reach within this year. I will participate in the International Design Contest “Jump the Gap” which will be held this month.” Jump the Gap is a worldwide competition in designing innovative and sustainable bathrooms for the future, held by Roca and in collaboration with the Barcelona Design Centre.

To concentrate on his projects and assignments, Abdullah has been following a weekly schedule. “When I focus on my goals, I can reach them easily. I always schedule my week to do different things such as my assignments, physical workout, I also work in my online business and I learn new skills. I want every day to be a challenge, so that I can learn much more from life and enhance my personality. I like to share the positive energy and create a motivating study-environment at home. I think students can always remind each other to work together or compete with each other in order to reach each phase of their work. I think many students don’t know how to increase their self-motivation at home. I sometimes played an important role to increase their motivation,” said Abdullah. He has been advising some of his study-colleagues via zoom meetings. “As far I can see, all the projects went very well. But now after two months of online classes and towards the end of our semester, it seems that the energy levels have dropped. We need continuous motivation to work on our projects,” he said while adding that “as a social person, I always text and call the people who I love and care for. We also watch movies online or have joint videos calls. It is fun because we realize how good days make us stronger in life. We didn’t realize that when we lived the moment but we realize now during these times, when we stay at home. In future, I can see myself as a businessman working in different fields. Currently, I don’t have any plans to do a master’s degree, but maybe later on in international business.”

Caption: Abdullah Al Mandhari surrounded by his niece and nephews.

© GUtech: Photo provided by Abdullah Al Mandhari, Text by Dr. Manuela Gutberlet

Campus in Blue to Honour Frontline Professionals during the Covid-19 Pandemic

GUtech Lights its Buildings Blue in Honour of Health Professionals and Frontline Staff and Workers

GUtech Campus Glowing in Blue

GUtech campus glowing in blue to honour the efforts of all professionals keeping us safe and protected.

To honour health professionals and all frontline staff and workers who are confronting the Covid-19 virus in hospitals and health centres, GUtech lights up its buildings in blue each evening at dark for an indefinite period of time starting from tonight, 11 May 2020.

Illuminating buildings in blue lights, GUtech rectorate and community show appreciation and gratefulness for the dedication and sacrifice of all professionals and remind all of us to wash hands and keep social distancing.

“We are glowing our campus in blue which can be seen from far to send a message of hope to the community around us for a better tomorrow and to say thank you to health professionals and all others for their hard work.” The Acting Rector, Dr Hussain Al Salmi, stated in support of all those professionals who are keeping us protected during the pandemic.

(c) GUtech/ Text: Fatima El Madkouri; Photo provided by Infrastructure Department

Architects held an Online Research Workshop On Urbanism

Despite the current limitations in face-to-face meetings, academics from the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design at the German University of Technology (GUtech) are carrying on with their scholarly projects in unusual ways. “Every crisis has a potential to create innovative solutions,” says Prof. Nikolaus Knebel, who had to overcome the short-term cancellation of an international two-day workshop on “Cities In Their Own Right. Southern Urbanisms Along The Indian Ocean Coast” that was planned for months. Last year, the renowned Urban Studies Foundation granted a fund to hold an International Seminar Series to Prof Nikolaus Knebel, Dr. Nathalie Jean-Baptiste from Ardhi University in Tanzania and Prof. Dr. Nina Gribat from Cottbus University in Germany. The focus of this research project is on understanding cities along the coast of East Africa, Yemen, Oman, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, which, over the next decades, will experience drastic changes to their urban and social structures. The question is: Are there models for this transformation that suit the specific conditions of these cities of the Global South? For example, Dar Es Salaam is a city which is predicted to grow to the size of Mumbai in the foreseeable future. “We want to foster a scholarly exchange to see what one side can learn from the other. But the participants are also very much rooted in practice, because they work on everyday issues of their cities and citizens through setting up so-called City-Labs, which are platforms for discussions, research, practical problem-solving as much as visionary thinking.”, says Knebel. “We have built up a network of scholars from cities in the South like Dar Es Salaam, Zanzibar, Muscat, Karachi, Mumbai, Kochi and Colombo as well as also contributors from Oxford, Dortmund and Stuttgart and were looking forward to our workshop. We wanted to meet in our group of researchers to discuss our papers, but had to switch to an online meeting last minute,” says Knebel. “It was interesting to see what the change of format brought, meeting within a limited timeframe of two hours instead of two days. Of course, we missed the informal chat and networking that always makes conferences a fertile ground for new ideas and new partnerships. But on the other hand, we worked so concentrated on the discussion of research papers. I had the impression that we were much more disciplined and focused than it is in live sessions sometimes.” The positive experience of this online conference led to the group wanting to continue meeting with this format for the time being. “However, our topic is urban studies, it is all about people and the public life in a city, which is quite the opposite of being quarantined at home or confined in an office. I can imagine that after this period of experiencing empty cities devoid of people we might appreciate the qualities of social life in urban spaces much more,” says Prof. Nikolaus Knebel.

First International Symposium on Contemporary Earthen Building launched

“Earth is a material with deep historical relevance in Oman”

HALBAN To raise awareness about Earth as an abundant, sustainable, and eco-friendly building product creating zero CO2 emissions, the 1st International Symposium on Contemporary Earthen Building in Oman (EBI) was launched at the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) today morning. The two-day symposium gathers international experts in the field of Earthen Building. It aims to create a platform for discussion and exchange between the academia, the government and the industry.

“Earth is a material with deep historical relevance in Oman. It is in the DNA of Oman. Yet, despite the countless examples of earth buildings, it is little discussed or permitted as a material for present-day construction. This despite the proven benefits to air quality, recyclability and low-embodied energy,” said Professor Wayne Switzer from the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD) who has initiated the two-day Symposium. According to a recent study, if 50% of the residential construction would be substituted with Earthen material in Oman, around 2.2 million tonnes of cement and 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions could be potentially saved annually, said Prof. Wayne. The Rector of GUtech, Prof. Dr. Ing. Michael Modigell inaugurated the Symposium. He highlighted the importance of the Symposium, enhancing awareness about the production and the use of more environmental-friendly construction materials while substituting cement one of the main contributors of CO2 emissions. “The construction sector is responsible for one-third of the total CO2 emissions worldwide while also producing 30% of the total waste globally,” said Nicolas Coeckelberghs, architect and co-founder of BC architects 2/05 in Brussels, Belgium. “Earthen plasters provide better air quality, better acoustics, regulate humidity,” he said. According to Nicolas, in Belgium, only 37 million tonnes of Earth are excavated each year which can be used as a construction material. The amount is equivalent to 1 million trucks. To create awareness for architects and to learn how to construct Earthen buildings with earth bricks and clay concrete, his company has been organizing community workshops in Belgium as well abroad, e.g. for communities in Nigeria and Morocco.

To promote Earthen Building in Germany, official rules and regulations for Earthen architecture were introduced by Dachverband Lehm e.V., the German Association for Building with Earth. Currently, Earth is used as a construction and conservation material in Germany, said Stephan Jörchel from the German Association for Building with Earth. According to the EU action plan for a Circular Economy recyclable and environmental-friendly raw materials must be used. During his presentation, Stephan Jörchel also showed examples of earthen paint and earth plaster finish on a wall heating system.

The first day of the Symposium features presentations from experts, discussions and critical reflection. The second day will include hands-on demonstrations and a participatory workshop in the Engineering Workshop. Experts from Germany, Spain, and Belgium will be on hand to demonstrate and present how different building techniques are already being implemented and regulated. The symposium is the first event in a larger initiative on Earthen Building in Oman, which was recently launched at GUtech in 2017 when students constructed an Earthen Tower on campus.

For more information please visit https://ebi.gutech.edu.om or follow us @ebi_oman

(c) GUtech: Text Dr Manuela Gutberlet; Photo: Fatma Al Balushi

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