Architecture students from Nagpur (India) visited GUtech

HALBAN A group of architecture students and their professors from the Institute of Design Education and Architectural Studies (IDEAS) in Nagpur (Maharashtra/ India), has visited GUtech’s Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD) recently.

The students and professors exchanged ideas about urban planning and architecture in the region. The group was also introduced to the ongoing work and research projects of the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design including the GUtech EcoHaus.

UPAD student wins Roca ‘One Day Design Challenge’

HALBAN Mohammed Al Balushi, 4th year student in the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD) at GUtech has won the ‘One Day Design Challenge’ held in Muscat by the Interior Design Company ‘Roca’. The jury was led by the Omani architect Hilal Al Balushi. The Design Challenge by Roca is held regularly in more than 10 countries; in Oman the competition was held for the second time. “The idea of this competition is to design a bathroom product with a time “challenge” in only 7 hours! This year’s challenge was to design a product that can be used by patients with bed-bound zero mobility in hospitals or at home. I started the design without any expectations. I finished on time and submitted my proposal to the jury. It was an honour for me as an undergraduate student to win the first prize among 113 participants including architects, interior designers, and product designers! I couldn’t contain myself out of excitement. This was one of the moments I will never forget. I give the credit for this achievement to my university, GUtech, because the education gave me a solid foundation which yields in an obvious way. I also want to thank my mentor Professor Ercan Agirbas (GUtech) for his continuous support. Thank you for believing in me,” said Mohammed Al Balushi.

This summer, Mohammed conducted two internships in Europe, including one with the interior design company Roca, based in Barcelona (Spain). “I believe, the most effective way of learning is practice. This summer I had the privilege to travel abroad and to practice what I have learnt at GUtech.” In the interior design company Roca, Mohammed worked with more than ten different nationalities. The training included a workshop on digital architectural photography including post-editing skills by famous photographers like Anna Devis and Daniel Rueda. Mohammed enjoyed being in Spain and experiencing Barcelona as a city. “I fell immediately in love with the city. The city is rich in architecture. Just by walking through the streets and reading building facades I learned a lot. All of that was under and through GUtech, I can say that I am privileged enough to have such an amazing summer,” he said. In Paris (France), Mohammed conducted a second internship, where he worked with Veolia, a leading resource management company. “I had a very intense training experience with Veolia, which is a huge company that works with sustainable energy and waste management. My task was to create an ideal city in terms of energy expenditure. The challenge was to manage all the aspects of city planning by providing an accessible, yet efficient plan. This includes putting all other major aspects of urban planning such as waste and water management. The practical experience made me aware that urban planning can be a very cooperative, participatory process, thanks to my solid background that I gained from studying in GUtech,” said Mohammed.

© GUtech/ Text: Dr. Manuela Gutberlet; Photos: provided by Mohammed Al Balushi

“Perception of Shapes and Spaces” – A Unique Art Exhibition at GUtech

HALBAN GUtech students of the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD) walked along the staircases of the university to showcase their ‘hat art works’ to other students and GUtech staff members. A special student exhibition entitled “Perceptions of Shapes and Spaces” was inaugurated today on campus. The exhibition showcases a large number of unique art works realized by more than 60 students within the past two weeks.

“Perception is a key concept in design,” said Prof. Michael Schulze, Department of Design at RWTH Aachen University (Germany) who gave a lecture on the importance of arts and sculptural design within the education of architects. During his talk Prof. Schulze highlighted the importance of imagination, the ability to transform ideas and to develop a work concept along with the freedom to play with different materials like wood, glass, plaster, metal, stone, ceramic and others. “Human beings are only human when they play,” said Prof. Schulze while adding that the use of different materials in a creative way is very important for future work concepts, architectural designs and even technical projects. “While experiencing different materials, students are enabled to be create and to plan and design in future,” he said. In the student exhibition held in the large GUtech amphitheatre the students showcase different hat designs as well as other art works made of clay. “Each student had to find his own aesthetic expression,” explained Professor Michael Schulze who has been teaching a block course in the UPAD Department. “We worked for the first time with clay and plaster. For the hats we used tissues and bamboo sticks,” said Zahra Al Hasani, who works as a research assistant in the UPAD department. The exhibition of the various artistic works is temporary and on display in the GUtech amphitheatre.

Caption: UPAD students showcase their hat designs in the GUtech amphitheatre

Prof. Michael Schulze during his talk at GUtech.

© Text: GUtech/ Dr. Manuela Gutberlet; Photos: GUtech/ Fatma Al Balushi


A textile block construction by UPAD students

HALBAN Each year, the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD) at GUtech aims to give students the opportunity to realize a small building. Last year students built a small tower from prefabricated rammed earthen blocks. “The goal is that they understand the construction in more depth and to see the consequences of their design. This year’s project by 2nd year students began with an investigation of local facades and the materiality of these shells – especially the ubiquitous cement block. The cement block has a mixed relationship with architecture: while practical and inexpensive, it is in most applications rather uninspired and monotonous,” said Wayne Switzer, Lecturer in the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD) at GUtech. The students have challenged this idea by designing their own blocks, applying their understanding of form and relief to represent the cement block as a “Textile Block” – a permeable, versatile module worthy of a closer look.

Students were responsible for the entire production and construction process – from making formworks, mixing cement, casting and then mortaring the modules, the students were involved. “This is quite unusual for architecture students in Oman. The process was done on campus in the small workshop beside the GUtech Eco-Haus. The free-standing sculpture that is now on display in front of the department exhibits the variety of forms developed by the students and also functions as a housing for a projector.” Said Wayne Switzer.

Wayne Switzer is a Lecturer in the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design. Wayne brings firsthand knowledge in heading such projects, having led a number of international workshops focused on building with local materials. These workshops, often involving local communities provided him the valuable experience of how to implement innovative ideas through an understanding of local context. He previously held a teaching position at the Swiss Federal Technical Institute (ETH Zürich) where he specialised in contemporary earthen construction.



Creating new city districts – Students from the British School Muscat experience life at GUtech

HALBAN Designing a future district of Muscat that was the task given to five high school students on the first day of their work and study experience days at GUtech. In the department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design the students got some insights about the work of architects and urban planners. Within a few hours the students developed their own models of future city districts and they presented their ideas to a small jury of staff members. “What the students have learnt today is to realize a diversity of designs. We give them the freedom to use their ideas to create their own designs and develop the areas where they thing that should be new features for all society – within “Muscat – future city”, said Petrit Pasha, Lecturer in the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design who supervised the school students.

All students integrated renewable energy resources in their urban models. They realised a mix of residential, work and leisure areas all located close by the sea and they. Shabrina Wiendrarko who won the competition introduced two main opponents, Oman as a Tourism hub and Hydro Energy. She thought of a hotel resort and hydroelectric power generation beside the sea. Jeffery Oguni designed a futuristic style of houses connected by several bridges. He also included houses made of so-called ‘solar bricks’ that store solar energy. Zidan Rafliansyah integrated solar panels on roof tops to decrease CO2 emissions and pollution. He also integrated public parks and office buildings with a view to the sea. Rokhy Musthofa created a model with high-rise buildings and a seaside promenade shaped like an Omani khanjar. Rafif Suwardoyo thought about electromagnetic trains used as public transportation, public swimming pools and other social activity buildings such a University and a sports hall. The students said that they wish to present their urban ideas to their school colleagues in the coming weeks.

For all students it is their first experience at a university. During three days at GUtech the school students are familiarized with different departments, study-programmes and the overall student life on campus. “The aim of the Year 10 Work Experience is to give the students an insight into the real world of work and develop their personal, social skills and confidence. It allows students to learn about the different roles and structures within an organisation. At the same time it is a unique opportunity to learn more about themselves and discover what really interest them by finding out about different occupations and job groups. This will allow to develop future career plans and enhance their career aspirations,” said Ajay Khushalbhaia, student counselor at the British School Muscat. The second day they will be in the Engineering department and the third day in the Department of Applied Geosciences and they will get a chance to attend the international event at GUtech in the afternoon.

GUtech offers Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor programmes in Mechanical Engineering, Process Engineering and Environmental Engineering as well as Bachelor of Science programmes in Applied Geosciences, Computer Sciences, Logistics, International Business and Service Management, Urban Planning and Architectural Design. All programmes are taught in English and are internationally accredited by ACQUIN.

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

Greening Omani Wadi Beds – An Omani-German Student Project

HALBAN A group of Urban Planning and Architectural Design students from GUtech have conducted a joint urban planning project with twelve students from the University of Technology in Dortmund (TU Dortmund) in Germany, Department of Spatial Planning. During the two week project the students have developed a water sensitive urban design and a sustainable water management system in the capital Muscat. The project was supervised by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Scholz, Fly-in professor at GUtech and Professor at the University of Technology in Dortmund (Germany).

“Our main research question was regarding „how to integrate wadis as green public spaces into the urban structure of Muscat considering a sustainable water management and a flood protection concept. Our aims were to create a ‘Green Concept’ for the Greater Muscat Area in order to overcome the separation of neighbourhoods and to connect these neighbourhoods with each other through public green spaces within wadi beds, while making use of huge undeveloped urban areas. In addition, as a strategic approach the so-called wadi parks could replace the neighbourhood parks and create more building land in future. Moreover, a sustainable water management and flood protection system could be integrated along with flood protection measures,” said Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Scholz.

As part of the study-project the group of Omani and German students conducted various field visits to wadi Al Khoud and wadi Al Khuweir. A total of 12 urban planning proposals for creating public parks, while respecting the flood protection and low level interventions as well as the danger of destruction after a sudden flash flood during the winter months. A total of five expert interviews were conducted by the students including experts from the Botanical Garden, the Directorate of Gardens at the Ministry of Housing, the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources and Haya Water. In addition, the students conducted a questionnaire survey with inhabitants of Al Khoud and Al Khuwair and a total of 300 interviews with the local community in both areas.

Finally, the results were presented during a two-day workshop at GUtech last week. The results included shaded sitting areas and playgrounds at the fringes of the wadi and in protected areas as well as low-cost interventions in the wadi bed itself that serve as sport fields, jogging lanes and walkways. The aim was to  keep the wadi as natural as possible while protecting its functional and aesthetic aspects. The results are open to the public and interested researchers. For more details kindly contact:

© GUtech/ Text: Dr. Manuela Gutberlet and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Scholz; Photos: GUtech/ UPAD Department

Learning from European Building Traditions – Students experience Innovations in Austria and Germany

HALBAN The Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD) of GUtech has recently conducted a two week excursion to Austria and Germany. The excursion was partially sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). “The main goal of the excursion was to inspire the students about previous building traditions, created by our ancestors and to create awareness about how those traditions are kept alive through innovation abroad and here in Oman. Our main question was how very isolated regions like Vorarlberg in Austria, with limited means developed a contemporary, highly admired architecture. Building traditions are not fixed, they are constantly changing. It is a spirit and innovated continuously,” said Wayne Switzer, Lecturer at the UPAD department, who was organizing and heading the excursion. These regions have steadily innovated the materials they had, for example wood. “Every year the builders went to Italy as hired carpenters, and then returned with new techniques which they adapted for their villages. Similarly, nowadays many architecture students go abroad for training and internships,” said Wayne.

During their excursion, students also saw parallels in materials which retain their cultural and practical value- such as the so-called shingle houses in Austria, e.g. in Vorarlberg old shingles made of wood are used as a primary material. “The students were fascinated that this traditional technique is still being applied in sophisticated buildings of today. They are not constrained by the past,” said Wayne. On a visit to the Kunsthaus Bregenz,  prominent art museum in the Austrian city of Bregenz, students witnessed a luminous façade of glass panels – arranged in a similar “shingle” technique as traditional buildings in the surrounding region. The idea is to promote this innovative spirit here in Oman and to create new ideas for integrating the traditional building materials and techniques into today’s architecture. During the second week of the excursion the group attended an architecture and urban planning workshop at the Department of Architecture at RWTH Aachen University.  In collaboration with RWTH students, GUtech students analysed areas of the city of Aachen and made proposals for how these might be sensibly developed.

As a result of that excursion the UPAD department started a series of discussions and lectures focussing on tradition and innovation. “The main themes were building culture, building construction, building with regards to the harsh weather condition in Oman,” said Wayne Switzer. For example the use of Arabic mushrabiya patterns (geometric patterns used in houses) representing Arab design and identity was discussed. “In my view, we have to recognize their practical usages rather than viewing them only as decoration. Ultimately, mushrabiyas provide privacy, shade and ventilation so we should consider appropriate materials and placement so they can be more effective in our contemporary buildings. During the discussions forums the group also spoke about topics such as teaching architecture at university in Oman. “The way we are educating architects here in Oman and at GUtech, from developing a concept to realising a construction, is much more comprehensive than what is expected of them within the current building industry,” explained Wayne Switzer.  “Through this dialogue we concluded that the role of architects in Oman must be expanded for their skills to be best put to use.”

International Architecture Summer School in Berlin

A group of GUtech students and their professors participated in an international Urban Planning and Architecture Summer School in Berlin (Germany). The course was organized and held in collaboration between Prof. Alexander Kader of GUtech’s Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design, Iowa State University (USA) and the City College in New York (USA). During the four week Summer School the students were working in the Design Studio Alte Kantine in the Berlin district of Wedding. “It was a beautiful location and a great work space where we worked in groups, sharing our knowledge and our cultures,” said Petrit Pasha, GUtech lecturer. During the workshops, the students were introduced to different computer programmes such as Grasshopper, Diva and Sepheira which help to analyse the energy performance of sustainable building designs.

The students also conducted on-site excursions to different parts of Berlin and they visited the so-called City Models of Berlin, a public permanent exhibition showcasing the urban development of Berlin. Furthermore, the students traveled to other cities in Germany such as Hamburg where they visited the harbor district and they visited the famous School of Architecture the Bauhaus in the city of Dessau with the Master houses of famous modern architects like Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe. “The course was a great opportunity for us to learn more about the energy performance of buildings, the culture of Berlin and also meet with people from all around the world. We shared our knowledge, culture and created bridges, which will be integrated in our future work. I recommend this programme to anyone who is interested in learning and developing skills in energy performance, sustainable building design and exploring the bustling city of Berlin,” said GUtech student Salim Al Kalbani at the end of the Summer School.


Caption: The group of GUtech students and Prof. Alexander Kader at the City Models of Berlin exhibition

School students experience university life

To connect with the local resident community in Oman and to give some insight into a university, a group of five high school students from the American British Academy (ABA) have conducted their work experience days at the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech). The students who are currently in grade 10 were introduced to the Department of Applied Geosciences and the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design at GUtech. Some of students attended a laboratory class where they learnt how to identify rock samples according to the shape and color. Others attended student presentations on urban development and a lecture on urban history. Most of the students said that they have not yet decided about their future studies.

“I like to experience as many fields as possible,” said Illuyemi Chukwuma who is considering studying Astrophysics in future. All of the students greatly enjoyed being able to spend some time listening to lectures at undergraduate level. The students of Architectural Design were given their own project of a ‘dream house’ to work on.  They shared their new understanding of the huge range of factors to consider when designing new homes with their ABA peers on their return to school. Each of the students said they would enthusiastically recommend a placement at GUtech to other ABA students and were very grateful to have been given this opportunity. “My week in the UPAD department has been highly informative and very enjoyable. This experience has definitely influenced my decisions towards studying architecture positively,” said Zacharyah Sueyoshi. His class-mate Emma-Leigh Joubert agreed: “I had an amazing time and my visit confirmed what I want to do when I leave school.” Emma also wishes to study architecture in future.