Two recent graduates from the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) at American University of Sharjah (AUS) have been awarded the grand prize in architecture for this year’s Inspireli Awards, the world’s largest global competition in architecture, urban design and landscape, and interior design.

Mariam Jacob and Nada Khalaf were among seven architecture students from CAAD to have been shortlisted for the award and were selected by a jury of 500 architects from 99 countries. Their achievement will be celebrated in a virtual ceremony on November 4, 2020.

The two winners worked under associate professor and AUS alumnus Faysal Tabbarah­ to create Thin Topograhies: Enhancing Food Production in Marakkech. Their project aims to reinterpret food waste and uncover the potential of discarded organic material by repurposing it for consumption, redefining it for material construction, and encouraging a sustainable lifestyle within Marrakesh, Morocco.

The project was part of the student’s final semester of work at AUS, produced amidst the challenges of the sudden transition to remote learning earlier in 2020. Khalaf said the Inspireli award has allowed her to appreciate the work in a new way.

“From day one, CAAD has pushed me to not only meet the standards placed in front of me, but also to consistently strive to exceed my own expectations. Professionally, this award will allow us to connect with the world at a much larger scale, and hopefully act as a stepping stone to new opportunities,” said Khalaf.

Jacob said the selection process was intense, and included three rounds of consideration with a multinational jury.

“Being part of Inspireli has expanded the reach of young graduates and students like myself through their large network and media reach. Being selected as the winner in the Architecture category makes this opportunity even more surreal. This accolade has surely provided me with positive affirmations and I hope that in due time it leads to the opening of multiple doors from a professional standpoint,” she said.

Professor George Katodrytis, Head of the Department of Architecture at CAAD, said the Inspireli Awards serve as an important platform for CAAD students to present their work on a global stage, demonstrating their ability to compete with students from the world’s most prestigious design institutions.

“For more than 20 years, CAAD has built a reputation in the region for producing outstanding architects and designers, with many of our graduates now leading the way as some of the UAE’s top home-grown talent,” said Katrodytis.

“Now more than ever, our students are being recognised for their work on the global stage. This is in large part due to offering them exposure to competitions such the Inspireli Awards, where they get to present their work to a global audience of design professionals and academics. This exposure is really priceless for students as they begin their professional careers and has opened the door to many exciting opportunities for our graduates,” he said.