Mohammad al-Asad, “The Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE): A Twenty-Year Journey”
So. I'm here, my. Name is moisten Mostafavi and I'm, the Dean of the Graduate, School of Design and, really, it's a great pleasure to welcome you and to be able to welcome Mohammad to the. GSD is not a stranger. To this landscape, having spent a long time doing, his. PhD here, a few, years ago. And. I'm, very happy that that. He's here he's here under the auspices of the oricon program, at the. GSD, we there's a program that exists, between Harvard. And MIT and. We. All, bring, wonderful. Visitors, to to. Both institutions and. Recently. They've been quite. A few speakers. Last Monday I think we had Nora cows and soon. Rollo Savannah, herring er yeah. You, also. Have Yara Schwabe. Who will come from London, so. It's. Really great to have. Mohammed here. Mohammed, has been a friend. Of the. GSD, even, when he's been afar in in, Jordan so. It's. It's. Wonderful. That, we're, able to welcome him here, in addition. To these. Events. That. Are, organized, and, they're, organized. On. Multiple, levels we actually have what. We call our option, Studios which are also the Archon option, studios, and and. Recently. There, have been quite, a few, under. The rubric of the Archon program, in China. Studio, that, that. John Key has conducted, in, sort of the context of Muslim societies, in China and. Marina. Tabassum from. Bangladesh, has done a studio, and a group of students, are actually working now on building, five houses in. Bangladesh, and. In. The last day or two a group, just got back from Bangladesh. Working. With Anna herring. Which. Is is, also going to be doing, projects, in the, in the region. In. Addition to these we also have next Tuesday. Christopher. Hawthorne, who's. The, chief design officer for. The city of Los Angeles will, give a talk and Anna, hangers talk will be on November 13th. So. In. Addition to these events the Archon program, is also supporting. Our, doctoral, students. With research in. In. The Muslim world so, please. Help. Us advise us with. Any thoughts. Or suggestions or recommendations that. You have. We. Have Donna Shaikh who's here with us today who's really responsible for, organizing. All these, all. These events related, to the. Archon program who works very closely with, Paige. Johnston. Mohammed. Al Asad is, the, founding, director of the Center, for the Study of the built environment, in Amman, it's, an independent private non-profit, think, tank. Sometimes. He calls it that do, think doing, things. To. To, to. Make things happen and he's been doing that since 1999. He's, an architect by profession. Was. At the University, of Illinois at urbana-champaign before. Coming to. Harvard to do. His doctoral. Research. Here he. Also then continued, to do postdoctoral, work at Harvard. At the Institute for Advanced Study in. Princeton and. Has. Then, been. Very. Much involved with multiple. Institutions, as a faculty member. Before. Establishing. The, center in among he's, also in, addition to those two, those. Multiple. Positions. Has been the Alan Kay and. Leonardo. Lange distinguished. Visiting professor, at his alma mater which is probably a very nice thing for you to have done, Mohammad. Is the author of, many. Publications. Including. Contemporary, architecture, and urbanism in the Middle East which came out in 2012. And he. Called. Edited, a publication, called. Shaping. Cities emerging, models of planning. Practice, together, with Rahul Mehrotra which, is based on a conference, that we actually did together. In. Singapore. Which. Was. Also. An. Important, I think event for the archon program, and another publication. On workplace is the transformation, of places of production, industrial, buildings in the Islamic world and, he. Is the contributing, editor to the forthcoming 21st. Edition of the. Banister Fletcher's a history, of, architecture so, lots of things and really an. Incredible, level, of dedication and, commitment to. The architecture, of the. Muslim world but also really, to building. An, institute. Which is very hard thing to do, without. Incredible. Resources, and doing it year after year and being so successful at. It it's going to be really wonderful, for. Us to hear from Mohammed. Al Asad please welcome moment thank you. Thank. You very much more sense wonderful, to be back here after all these years. As, Moses, said I'll be talking about the Center for the Study of the built environment, CSB, I. Usually. Start. By using, four adjectives, for, CSB and in some ways you took the fire out of it you you mentioned those adjectives, we. Are independent, we do not follow any other institution we are not under the umbrella of any other organization or, institution we. Are nonprofit. We. Are interdisciplinary and. We are an applied research, and. Study centre our. Mission is very simple we want to see how we can use the, disciplines, connected, to the built environment, architecture. Urbanism. Landscape. Architecture. And building.
Technologies, In order, to enhance the quality of life for all. In. This presentation I will be emphasizing. A number of themes one. Of them is that it. Would be wonderful to strive. For excellence and. We should all strive for excellence. But we also need to address issues relating, to, administrative. Tasks. Financial. Tasks, legal tasks and we don't actually give attention to these issues no. Amount. Of technical. Competence, or excellence will get us anywhere, the, second thing I'd like to emphasize and I hope this will become more apparent as I speak further is, that, it would be wonderful to also be able to make five-year strategic plans and then go about realizing, that plans but. You probably know the saying that man, plans and God loves. Basically. We, are dealing always, with an onslaught, of challenges. And of, opportunities. They, are unpredictable they, are arbitrary, the. Challenges, sometimes are headaches sometimes they're actually existential, threats and, we need to do our best to basically. Neutralize. Them and at, the same time we need to do our best in order to take advantage, of, whatever opportunities, we, get we. Generally find out that you cannot plan for more than a year or a year and a half we never know what's going to happen after, that period and, basically. We. Don't sometimes don't even know if we're going to exist after, that period so, what, we engage in is what, I like to refer to as a sort of constructive. Or positive, option ISM and I think that, would become clear as I proceed. Let's. Move, on to the story of CSB. As. Martin said I started it in 1999. In the summer of 99 almost, 20 years ago at. That time I had been teaching at the University of Jordan teaching architecture for, about six years and I, felt that it is time for me to make a major career shift I. Resigned, from the University and went about establishing the center and the first person I approach was not someone connected, to our disciplines. I approached. An. Attorney, who was a friend of mine we, met actually as students here in architecture, here. At Harvard he, was studying law of course and, I. Asked, him to help me establish CSP, as a nonprofit in Jordan and he did and, we became the first members, of the board of directors, at the center we. Invited three others to join us all, three are, architects, to, have relocated, out Jordan's insolence we invited, to replace them when an architect and, another a mechanical, engineer who's also a management consultant. And I will refer to him later. On as we proceed. In. Terms of our first project, it, was really by, pure coincidence as, many, things have happened with us the. Germans in Jordan were running. A project on the. City of Petra it was involved with the.
Conservation Of the city of Petra I knew. The team I had done some work with them so the head of the team a German geologist said, you know I think we can give you a grant, they. Gave us I think three, thousand dollars and we agreed that we would do two things the, first thing is to organize, a workshop, about. The, use, of stone in construction, and we. Would bring in experts, in Jordan to talk about various issues such, as stone, and earthquakes, about. Stone. Dressing etc, and the Germans would fly in a couple of people to also give some lectures about stone and the workshop went, very well we were very happy with results the, second, task we agreed to do was to do, a survey, on the use, of stone as a shielding material, in buildings, in a man from 1900. To 2000, this, was the time of the new millennium and I. Got, a team of former students, and I continued, actually to depend on former students of mine for some time to, do the survey it went very well we were very happy with it the, next issue was, documentation. We. Did not document, the workshop, probably, we should have but, we decided we of course need to document the, results of this survey and here again we took advantage of, existing opportunities. Initially, we thought maybe we should print it but printing is of course very expensive, very time consuming at. That time, online. Publishing had become widespread. We. Now take it as a, given you know it's almost like indoor, plumbing but I cannot tell you at that time how much of a god-given gift, it, was for us for, better or for worse if you had a website you, basically had a publishing. House you. Know ever virtual. Publishing. House and so. Really there was a transformation, revolution. In the ability, of an institution like ours to disseminate, information. However. We did not have a website but. Again we had to take advantage of, coming opportunities, we, approached the arc net site it, was just being established here, in Cambridge, at MIT it, was intended to become the platform for, the built environment, in the Islamic world again. I had some contacts with them I had worked with them so, I told them you know we have this interesting survey. Would you publish it on your web site and they said they, would so. Then I became greedy and I said you know would you actually publish other things we will come up with later on and they said you know if you plan to do that why. Don't you start your own website and you'd have more freedom and more flexibility, to do things we. Had no money but we started our website and so we had our virtual. Publishing. House so. Basically that was our first project it, went well we were happy with it it was a one-off project in many ways and we, had to start thinking of doing things that, were more continuous, in nature and. What. Came to my mind then was why don't we start a public lecture series there's. Nothing unusual or, creative. About that but, what we decided to do is to actually invite. Only lecturers. From outside, Jordan the. Idea was that lectures, from inside Jordan who spoke about the built environment, had platforms, to present in clear information, but. We, really needed more interaction, with people from outside shortened, the. Other thing we thought of doing was an architectural. Forum. We. Thought we would bring in like 20 architects, we, would have them meet regularly. At one point we were meeting once every, two. Weeks, they. Would get together we, would bring in a speaker could be the lecturer it could be for example a local. Speaker, it could be a member of the forum here's, just an example of them here we had the former mayor of a man actually brought him and literally.
A Month after he was, at. After, he left office and. After. The person. Gives the presentation. The idea was that we would have an intensive, discussion, with, him about the subject and, it was a very interesting idea. We. Were very lucky that, we, were able to initiate our lecture. Series and, this forums. With, talks, by the late, William Mitchell Bill Mitchell probably. A number of you either, know him or know of him, bill. Was a faculty member here at Harvard, for quite some time and at that time he had become the Dean of architecture, and planning at, MIT. Bill, was actually supervising. The arc net project and he. Also had some funds. That allowed him to travel and to lecture, again. Luckily. I knew him I had been fortunate enough that I worked, under him when I was a postdoctoral, fellow here so I said, well would you come and give us a lecture, here in Amman he said I would and, he came in we got the municipality. To host it the mayor showed up four hundred people came to, attend so it was quite an event and then he also gave us the first, forum. Presentation. He, talked about not just artnet but the future of the design studio in the digital age he talked about his two. Books that he had just published city, of bits edotopia it was really a wonderful way of in some, ways going public. But. Again we knew that you cannot always find lecturers. Who have their own funding to travel and come to a month so we had to start thinking how do we actually get. Lecturers. To. Fund lecturers to come once. Again I had to go through whatever contacts. I had I contacted. The other hand word for architecture, I had, been working with them for about 10 years and said would you help us bring lectures to Amman and they, said sure we would then, I went to another organization that, alpha moon I. Think, when you visited the daro and. It's. Art, foundation, founded by one of the major banking. Families, in Jordan and I said would you be willing to join the Archon award in helping. Us bring lecturers to Jordan and they said sure we would and, they, said more than that you can use our facilities, they, have a wonderful, the wonderful remains of a sixth century Byzantine. Church, they said you can use that anytime you want when the weather allows for your lectures the, offer of course provided, the tables and the.
Chairs And, also, they said you can use our library, for your architectural, forum so. You can see now little by little we now have the lecture series or the architectural, forum and had some funding, to proceed, then. We thought why don't we document. What we are doing, some. Of the lectures and this presentation, for. The forum were very interesting. We'd. Wanted to go beyond just simply taping, or filming, the presentations. And then uploading, them in anyway, the bandwidth. At that time was actually very slow and you could not even do much in terms of uploading so, we thought what we would do is actually. Convert. These lectures, into articles and we, would do that conversion in, cooperation. With the lecturers, themselves, and for. The forum presentations. We even would include, the, discussion, that takes place afterwards, in other words we, would have that kind of added value all the speakers enjoyed that kind of discussion, and we started with bill Mitchell's lectures. And it went very well and and we published them on our website so finally we had something to put on our website but. Now we needed to find funding, to continue with this I was, doing it on a voluntary basis. But I needed to hire some people to. Help me do that and here. Again and here. I'm talking again about these opportunities the, Ohana Ward connected, me to the Prince Klaus fund in the Netherlands, and they. Said we will help you in, terms of funding you publish funding, you to publish these, lectures. And articles so now we have the lectures and we had also the. Documentation. Moving, along we. Needed to think of something, else to do and I'm going in some detail just to show you how it is when you start something like this we. Thought why not start, on our website a section, on architectural. News in Jordan. This. Was the year 2000. A lot was happening in that part of the world there was a construction, boom going on for, various reasons but. Nobody was documenting what's going on we had no clue what was going on so again I got an army of former students, we started going to offices, trying. To find out what they're being commissioned, to do what they're designing what they're building you know just. To get as much information on what is happening in, Jordan and we, would scan the newspapers, to see information. About conferences, regulations. Everything, we could find and we really were starting a very interesting process of documenting what, was taking, place. In Jordan again. We needed funding I. Had. Run out of organizations. I knew so I had to find other sources and I. Sent a call sort. Of call to the grand foundation in Chicago I did. Not know them I had no contact with them but, I had recalled when, I was a student, that. They had supported, the publication, of Rob adventurous, complexity. In contradiction, and architecture, I always, admired the late Robert venturi I admired, the book and, I thought you know this must be nice guys to have supported. Rob adventurous, book so I sent a letter to them and, they laid Solomon. Who, is the head of the ground foundation, wrote me a very nice letter Burton, said shoot will support you who will help you with this and so, we now had this. Architecture. News moving on so. Within a year to a year and a half we, had this interesting set up sort of set we, were doing. Interesting. Original work we were providing, added value, we. Really had something to offer not. Just to people in Jordan but also to people outside Jordan. In relationship. To the built environment, the problem. Was that this was really not very sustainable. We. Were getting all these tiny grants, here and there to help us carry out our work but. We had no money for our overheads, no money to pay salaries we. Couldn't even hire a staff member not even a junior member I was doing everything on a voluntary, basis, now. Had we been and, this goes back to my son's comment, that it's difficult to establish these, kinds of institutions, in that part of the world had, we been part of the university the arrangement, could have worked you know we would be faculty, or staff members at the university we. Would have our salaries, we would have our offices, and then we would get these tiny grants here and there to do our fund.
Projects, And we, would find some arrangement, with the university administrative. Lee and in. Terms of finances. To run the thing but that was not an option the regulations, in Jordan would not allow for that and also, we really thought we should value our independence. So. We thought we now have to start going bigger we have to start finding some larger, grants, that, would support us and so, this brings us, let's say to face. To or to the second. Episode. Of, a story of CSB. So. In. 2001. We managed to get our first big grant it, was from USAID, the United States Agency for International Development, USAID. Was. Starting, or. Was carrying out a water demand, project, in Jordan, Jordan, is a water starved, country so donor, countries are always, developing. Some project or the other regarding, water. Now. I of. Course was interested in this issue but more specifically, I was interested in water conserving, landscapes. I was. Interested in what universities. Such as the University of, Arizona were doing in that regard so. In. Fact I had some contacts with the University of Arizona I'd, given, a lecture there. In. The early 1990s, when I started CSP, I also had. Given a lecture to them but nothing was related, to other conserving, landscapes, I told them this is a subject of interest to me and they. Said why don't we create a memorandum of understanding in, them or you so that if and when you develop. Something for water conserving landscapes, we can work together and we, did so, back to a man I. Used to meet with a colleague at, Habitat. For, Humanity. We were hoping to do something on housing nothing nothing ever came out of it but, he knew the water demand management people and, he connected me to them and I. Told them you know what you're doing is very valuable, but you really should incorporate landscaping. A lot of water in Jordan is wasted, in, terms of gardening, whether it's private gardens or parks and we, as CSV can help you in terms, of, helping. People save money there you know we can do research we can disseminate information on. Issues such as plant lists, on. Hardscaping. On irrigation, techniques, and we also can bring our colleagues from Arizona, to, carry out some workshops and when. I told them about Arizona, I think that in some ways tip the scale they thought you know if the University of Arizona is willing to work with these people let's give them a chance so, this will give you a one-year grant so. We finally had some money we hired someone a former student of mine together we, got a very small team of part-timers. Including, myself to start working on the landscaping. Project, and, we. Delivered what they asked us to do you know we published, posters. Material, on our website. Manuals. All, on water conserving, landscapes, we. Even had workshops, with, our colleagues at the University, of Arizona and the project actually moved along very well at. The end of the year they said you know this, is actually an interesting project it's sort of the tail. That wags the dog in. That we. Can only get people so excited about water saving devices you put on faucet you talk, to people about plants, that need little water or plants. That need no irrigation once, they are established people get excited so. They decided to fund us for another few years until the end of the project and finally we had some funds. Sort of coming in and to be able to establish some. Sort of real, functioning, so. Tiny institution. Then. That project, came to an end USAID, started, another project and, that project also. Continued. To fund us for another five years so we had continuous, funding all the way up to, 2012. And for. That project we, published more material, we started doing sort of short. Videos, about, water. Conserving, landscapes, and we, even started training some, of the staff member at municipalities. On developing. Water conserving, parks in Jordan, and as. Usually, is the case then, you start getting into other programs. Or other projects, we. Became interested, in grey water you, know grey water can be used for irrigation so. We managed to get three small grants, together they were actually a sizeable grant for grey water again, we research. Information. We. Started doing testing, on you. Know, the. Cleanliness of, the water what kind of problems. It has in terms of microbial, or in terms of chemical contamination.
We. Even did a conference, and international, conference on crater, and published the results so. Basically, now we. Finally became a full-fledged think-tank. We had funds we had overheads. We had staff a very tiny organization, but finally we became really in some, ways. An. Actual organization and, not just this simple setup that we had started during our first two, years. Then. Episode. Three is when, we grew into something else and this, was a very interesting and, a sort of painful process, of growth and it. Was related, to the first, water demand management, project. They. Required. Us to do things that we simply were not ready to do but they said you have to do them so we did them and we found out once we did them that now our capacity. Had, increased, and we. Had entered a new area the, first project. Came. As follows the, water demand project, people said you know we like what you're doing we like the fact that you disseminating, information carrying. Out workshops, but, we want you now to actually, build a water, conserving, Park a modern one and to, make things more difficult they, said you know we pay you for your time we even have some money to help you start with the construction, of the park but, you basically have to find an institution, that will support you and that will sponsor the process. We. Weren't sure where to start. We. Didn't have that good connections, with the municipality, they're the main body. That would create such parks and again one had to be extremely, resourceful and, here. It occurred to me there was a park in the city of armelle that I've always really liked, it. Is the park you see in. You. Know inside. The red line it was a 2 acre park, in a nice part of a man, we. Think it's the oldest existing park in a man nobody knows the municipality, has no records, of it we, think it dates back to 1960. It, had seen better days it, had really suffered, from also, some problems relating, to neglect and vandalism, over the years but. There was an opportunity, next. To it and you can see just below it was the Jordan National, Gallery of Fine Arts, which, is part of the Royal Society of Fine Arts it's, not a very well-known museum. But it actually has one of the largest collections, of. Contemporary Art from the Islamic, world anywhere. Now. The opportunity, was that they bought the building right opposite. Develop. It as an, extension of the park so. We saw an opening here I had, contacts, with the National Gallery so, I went.
To Them and I said I think we really have a very unique opportunity we. Have money to design and basically. Supervise, the construction of a park you're. Going to expand, it, would be nice if we can rehabilitate, this, park as a model, water-conserving. Park it will really enhance the. Environment in which you're in it will provide you with an open-air connection, between your two buildings we, can place your outdoor. Sculptures, in it so really this is an opportunity we should not let. Go so, they talked to the municipality, they had the ear of the municipality, they told them would you be interested in doing this and the municipality, said yes so. Actually then what happened, is that the. Municipality, even renamed the park the National Guard or the National Gallery of Fine Arts, Park and they. Did the park I can, talk about it forever of course I don't have a time to do so so I'll just show you a couple of images, this, is the condition of the park as we received it you can see I mean it was really in very difficult, shape. Basically, this is the design we developed, for it a lot of the record our Associate Director was the primary designer, for, this it concentrated. On trying, to maintain many, of the older sections, of the park specially the pathways but, we created two plazas. Reservoir. Right under the main plaza, so. Basically. This is the park as we developed. It you can see the plaza here in the middle here. Is that sort of connection we told the National Gallery about we're looking from the extension building to the old building and the idea is that people can. Walk between the two and this is just a view of the plaza at ground level this. Was inaugurated in, 2005. And. When. The USAID project, told us to do this project or, to do a park we really no clue what to do but finally we did it and with. This and, this is what Marcin said we, finally, were transformed. From a think tank to think and do tank we were finally actually. Implementing. What we were doing we were actually, doing things on the ground it was a very important, moment for us, the. Second project that this, water demand management. Project. Asked us to do they said we want you to do a competition, about, water conserving, landscapes, so. We said why don't we do a competition. For a house that is water, and energy saving, and, they. Said fine and they said again you know we give you some money to cover your time we. Can give you some money to cover the. Cost. Of doing this competition but again you need to find a sponsor, you need to find an organization that, will sponsor you a. Former. Student of mine was working then with the Aqaba special economic zone, authority al, kaba is the only port city in Jordan, it. Became. A bit famous after Lawrence of Arabia because was featured, in the film and, in the year 2000, Ottawa was converted, into a special, economic zone, and so. They had money and they were interested. In placing themselves, as a center for innovative. And new ideas in, Jordan, so, through the student we got to them and we talked to them and we told them you know we have this competition. We'd like to do for water and energy conserving, house would. You like to team up with us on it and they said yeah sure why not we, can also cover any cost you cannot cover and they. Said that we, can even set aside a plot in October as the land for the competition, and, we did the competition, again was a very complex, event but we had it you know we really brought in a jury we selected. Winners and everything went well we were very happy with it but, two totally, unexpected, developments, came out of it the, first one and this is just serendipity. Serendipity. At play. This. Jordanian, guy was working at the University of lund in Sweden, he. Was working in development, he. Bought a piece of land in Aqaba at that time he wanted to build the house he. Heard about this competition and he said why don't I build the, house that you have, of course he said I need to make changes, so he told us I have some money why don't we work together we, brought the winners of the first competition had a close competition among, them he, selected, one of them to build he, got a grant from the European.
Union To, basically cover the costs of all elements connected to water and energy conservation and. The. Requirement. Of the grant was that the house would be open, to the public for, a year after its completion and, then that. We, would write a report about the effectiveness, and efficiency of its water and energy conserving. Components. And we, did that the house was actually designed and the house was built we. Wrote the report about, it later on everything, went as planned over. A sidenote I just heard that actually it's falling apart now it's been 10 years this is another main problem we all face that you do something as you want to do it you, hand it over and then nobody takes care of it but that's another story so. We, again enhanced, our position, as an organization, that not just designs, things and talks about things but actually implements. Projects. So our think do capacity, was, enhanced, by that project, then, another development, came up, which we had not expected the. People at the arc of a special economic zone, Authority, said we like your work we like to work with you. We can outsource. Some work for you we can also maybe use you as a research, arm and they. Said why don't you start by developing, regulations for, us for building signs, are building colours in the city of Aqaba and we did and they are still in force then. They said you know we need to build some things in Aqaba we want to build a workers. Village we want to build a new bus station, we want to build also. A international. School would you do close, competitions. For them and we did and that went along well unfortunately they were not built but. For us what was very important, out of the second development is we finally established, a very close working relationship. With a public sector organization. That, had, decision-making. Authority in. The country and this was a very important, relationship, for us unfortunately, it, did last long for about two years these, people moved on the people who came in their place were not interested, in maintaining that relationship. And, we have never been able to really to recreate, it with another organization public. Sector organization, and we consider this probably our main failing, because we found out that there are certain, things you, can only do if you have some sort of partnership with. The public sector but still for a few years actually we were able to have that kind, of relationship, so. Really by 2008. In, some ways UCSB. Gelled, into what, it is today into, that kind of organization, that. Disseminates. Information carries. Out research and implements, a certain, number of projects. But. Then something. Else started, happening to us which is that company. Started approaching us for their CSR work their corporate social responsibility. And. The. Office of Armenia, and Saudi Arabia it's, a major office in the Middle East with. Presence in them throughout, the, Middle East but it's based in Saudi Arabia they. Came to us and said we'd like to form with you an, architectural, award for students, the. Idea was that students. Of architecture in the Arab world would submit their graduation, projects, we, would get a jury every, year and we would assess. Them and give awards to them and I think they had something like 10 to 15 thousand dollars worth of prize money every. Year and we've, been doing it for 11 years, now here, you see the 2016. Jury Marcin is in the center here, pristine Hannigan from Ireland was on the jury and a Markham ash from Jordan was, that on that jury was on that jury this, is a fascinating, project I mean or activity. I can go on forever about it but, I think it's really in some ways energized, students, of ARCA to analyze students of architecture in Jordan, because. Basically every, year we would carry out ceremony. To celebrate the. Winners we. Would do it in different cities in the Middle East although, for the last few years we've been doing it in Amman Jordan at, the. Rehabilitated. 1930s. Electricity. Hangar, in the city the. Students get to present to the audience their projects, the winning students, and then, we would have this wonderful, exhibition in, which every, submitted, project would be shown as well as all the winner winning, projects from the previous, years. It was really a wonderful event of bringing, the. Architectural. Community and, students of architecture and departments, of architecture, together. And we, also squeezed, it we did other activities, through it since, we had an impressive jury each time we would ask one or more of them to give a public lecture, at.
One Point we even asked all of them to have a conversation together we had Murata. Mandy Alou from Turkey shahira Femi from Egypt and were not wholly from. Lebanon. That year and, then we started producing movies, through, the award we produced through three movies through the award we, just started by one about, award itself then did one about architectural, education and then. We did one of our favorite, films Arab, women and architecture, a one-hour documentary, that. Was received very well and actually was screened all the way from Tokyo to New York that, provided, the experience, of about 17, Arab. Women architecture. In terms of practice. So. Here. I should also say that the. Digital revolution really, helped us carry out those movies you know filming became cheaper, editing became cheaper and also, Jordan has been graduating, a few filmmakers, from two schools who. Are very talented and we've been actually depending, on, them. One. Of our other favorite movies, not connected, to the award is actually this one it's about the story of Jordanian. Innovators, we. Had one. Who's an architect she, was I think 25 years old when we did the movie another. One is a software. Developer, and then, these. Head. Of our board of directors. And we produced almost a dozen movies over the years on, various subjects. Relating, to, the built environment, to innovation, and to subjects, of that, sort and as, usual one thing leads to the other because. Of our work on the Umbra Nia Award this. Large conglomerate. In Saudi Arabia the. Foreign group came to us they said you know we'd like to establish, a, an. Award for mosque architecture. To, celebrate, the the founder of the company would you establish, it for us with, that we, managed the first cycle handed, it over to them and I think now they're going through the, third cycle of the award but. Really deep down we've always been a research institution, we never forgot about that the problem is not everyone likes to fund the kind of projects we would, like to do the research projects, so, here we, would spend, time whenever we had extra time on research projects, we would take advantage of the presence of interns. Or. Of visiting, scholars, or of exchange students, for example we had an exchange student from Tufts. Ian James who spent a year with us he did a very interesting study on the 1987, and 2008, master plans of a man and of. Course we publish everything on our website more. Recently we had a, masters. Graduate, in planning from MIT she, spent some time through an exchange program, with us did some, work on housing in Jordan then after that a Fulbright. Scholar from Brown came and expanded, on the project so now I think we have very valuable, study on housing in Jordan that we are just editing, and hope to publish on our website very. Soon. Mobility. Is an issue that is always on our mind it's a very serious issue in Jordan everywhere, of course, for. Example we did study. There was a lot of fun for the staff on cycling, in Jordan Jordan has a very small but growing cycling, community we. Even started, identifying, paths. In and around a man that may be developed, into cycling, routes with little intervention. And. An. Issue we've been working on for some time is public transportation, in the country Jordan really faces, serious, problems. With public transportation. Here. This, advocacy. Group made of Jordanian, businessmen, said we have a tiny grant we can give you it, will not cover your costs, but you, know why don't you start a study on public. Transportation our, approach is a tiny grant is better than no grant at all so we took it and we, decided to do a study on the users experience of public transportation, so, first, of all we did sort of a literature review of everything available on the subject in Jordan whether it was interviews, on.
Television. Or radio, newspaper. Articles reports, articles, etc we. Did in-depth. One-on-one. Interviews, with users of public transportation and we. Did something else which is we took 12 lines in aniseh in and outside, or around a man and we. Followed. The route interestingly, enough this was 2013. There was not a single public, transportation. Up in Jordan and we, started testing them our, staff and also a, few volunteers. We would test the routes you know different, times of the day different days, of the week and we came up with some interesting results. As a result of this and of course also, published it and here. Another interesting, opportunity, came, there. Is an organization, by the name of the friedrich ebert foundation. FES a german foundation, connected to the Socialist Democratic, Party in Germany the big parties in Germany each has a foundation they, have an office and a man the office in a man is interested, in climate change so, public transportation. Is connected, to that they, came to us and they said you know we. Like what you did we. Will give you more money to do more work to continue to work on public transportation so. We told them we'd love to do a policy study and what. We did was something very simple we identified. 12 people, former. And current officials. In, Jordan, in terms of legislators, regulators, as well as providers, of public transportation and we, had extensive, one-on-one. Meetings. With each one of them and together collectively, they, have a treasure. Of information, about public transportation. No one ever bothered to sit with them and document, and analyze what they said we, did that and we developed. But I think is a very valuable report, about the state of public transportation, of Jordan out of these interviews. And we publish it as usual on our website and FES published it in, print. And. Then. What. Is interesting how these things one thing leads to the other a sort, of initiative. Was formed from a few organizations, that decided, to create a man's first public. Transportation. Map it, had 70 lines and 12 of the lines were the ones of course that we had documented. Early on and then, after that a, a. Nap a transportation. App for trip planning was developed, and we also played a role in developing. That, then. FES came to us and said you know we, 20 for another year what would you like to do with that year and we, said you, know the. Report we did is very valuable but nobody reads these things we'd, like to actually create, a series of very short videos that. Would. Inform. People about developments, taking in public transportation, in Jordan so, the. First film was one we did with the first study we did one on the new public, transportation. Law in Jordan because we thought that can really transform the state of public transportation, we wanted people to know about it we, did one about the BRT the, bus rapid transit system. In a man that is taking forever to finish and we thought we needed to tell the story of that we. Did a film on the app itself, and we told them you know the app has some glitches and, there are some issues we'd like to expand. Upon so they gave us some money to also fix the. App itself, and, then. We, came up with what we thought was a really nice idea we. Would have a hackathon, we would invite our planners, and developers, and tell them you know design an app for public transportation based, on and that, expands, upon the first app, that. Had been developed and we did the hackathon, we, had a jury we gave prize money it, was covered in the media but. Actually. None, of the results were of any value and this, is an example of a project where you do it as planned you do everything as you, had wished you would do but it just sort of falls, flat on its face, and these things of course unfortunately. Also. Happened then. FES came to us for a third year and they said we'll fund you for yet another year I think this will be the last year and here. We told them we could not do anything about public transportation anymore, there's, a lot that needs to be done but, if, we are to do anything we have to work in partnership, with a public sector organization, with the municipality, or the Ministry of Transportation, and, we. Don't have that kind of partnership and that again, reminded, us of what. We had with Aqaba 10 years ago and how it didn't last for very long and we. Weren't able to recreate, it with any other organization. And again I feel this is one of our main failings, we have never been able to keep some sort of close. Working relationship, with the public sector there, always been has that, kind of polarization, between reminisce.
And We said really we cannot do more about public transportation let's. Move on to something else. Connected, to climate change we're very interested in urban agriculture we think this is a very crucial subject we need to know more about it a lot is happening all over the world and our. Study, that's ongoing should, be done in a couple of months is to see what's happening in Jordan and what can happen in Jordan so, we've been looking at very, interesting, examples, this is a little farm on the top of a hotel actually, an hour man and they, have sophisticated systems. Including, aquaponics, hydroponics, aeroponics. For, producing. Plants. And we, also looked at you know growing. Vegetables, for dummies kits such, as these ones where you can anyone can, on their balcony, or next to their window and grow, lettuce. Or, basic. Vegetables, and if these are just some of the kids we've been basically. Working, on before. I move on to our final project, I would like to say something about education. We're, not an educational, institution, as csb but, our. First project, had that workshop, which had an educational, component we've, always felt we should be involved in education we should offer courses we should offer offer, workshops. Because, that's a major way through which information is disseminated. But. We discovered something that probably, many know which, is to, offer high quality, training or classes, is extremely. Expensive if. It's not subsidized, it's almost impossible to do and we, learned that the hard way when we did something called architectural. Laboratory, one this is architectural, laboratory, two and. Where. We had an 8-week design class, the. Students met seven days a week from morning to evening every. Week they had a different architectural. Project every week we, had seven, eight. Architects. Each one would teach them four or instruct, them for one week we, had our staff we had coordinators. Working with them the results were remarkable it, was an incredible experience the, students who are telling us we learned in those eight weeks more than we did in five years of architectural, education. But. It, was unsustainable, it was just far too expensive far, too tiring for us so. When we had architectural, laboratory, to the, eight weeks became three weeks. Viii instructors, became three instructors two from GSD by the way and there, was no architectural laboratory, three so we, really learned the hard way how difficult, it is to carry, out high-quality. Education, especially when you don't have much money but we've always done small classes and small workshops, whenever we had the, opportunity but again, the digital revolution has opened, some opportunities. For us and that is open online courses. And more. Specifically, massive, open online courses, the. Idea is you know you spend a lot of resources on one class but then thousands, and thousands of people can said, you know register. For the class and that experience started, when a drug it's a nonprofit. MOOC. Platform. In Jordan founded a few years ago it's, I think the largest now in the arab world they, came to us they were just starting out and they said you know would you do a class for us a MOOC, and again. They said we have a tiny grant we can give it to you to not cover your cost and again, we thought you know a small, grant is better than your grant and we, did the class and we, were really pleasantly surprised, they, had two runs of the course for each run 6,000, students registered, it. Is now being offered as a self-paced. Class they haven't given us given us the numbers but, we assume that a lot of people are continuing, to take the class and we've discovered this is probably, one option, we should look at more carefully and then, a couple of years ago the. Hour-hand. Transferred culture has revitalized, its, education, program and of course they wanted to include MOOCs in it and they, said why don't you do the first MOOC we will do and we did it it is on enhancing, the quality of urban life a fascinating, project because it's, very much connected to the winning projects of the hour-hand, award for architecture we, just finished it I will going through the first trial run of it I think it started about 10 days ago so we'll have more information as, we. Move along and we're, planning to do it as a blended class next.
Semester Where. We will have two universities, in the Middle East who. Would offer it as a, class and the students would take it both online and under, the supervision of an instruction, so this is something that we really feel has. Tremendous, promise. And we'd. Like to pursue it further more. So. To move on to what we are doing. Now. To, end, people. Often ask me what's your favorite project, and I usually tell them whatever we're working on now so that's a good sign that we're still excited about what we are doing, I've. Shown you some of the projects we're doing now there are others we are doing but unfortunately, I don't have time to, show them to you today a project. We just finished and we're hoping to get more funds to continue with it is that, of developing, public school, grounds. In a. Man, and around a man through a party participatory. Design process. We. Got, a grant from, USAID, and we, managed to also, get some money from other sources in. Order to improve the grounds for schools we've worked on seven schools. Basically. The. Money, has ranged it's always tiny I, think. The least amount is about $3,000 and for, one school we went up to $25,000. The, idea is that we give training to the students, in architectural, design and. You. Know learn, how to draw plans how, to draw sections, how to connect plans and sections to the real world and so on and then. We tell them this is the money we have what. Would you like to do with the money how would you like to use it to improve your school and the students have been tremendously, realistic, in the ideas that they came up with in, fact and so. For example in the case of this school as, you can see I mean the condition is quite horrific. They. Said look the walls are in horrible shape they're falling apart we, want you to fix the walls for our yard fix, the art a bit we'd like to have some color. We. Thought of a floral pattern we, also said we actually don't even have a canopy to protect us from the shade and from the Sun so, why don't we do all of that and so we developed the design with them and then we finalized, it and so, this is what we came up with them this was a four thousand, dollar project. And this is another image of it I can. Go on forever about this project so I won't but, instead I'd like to show you a five-minute, video we. Just produced about. It it only talks about three schools that we did they were the lower end of the school in terms of the, project in terms of budget. So, it is an Arabic with with English, subtitles and, so, I will show it you now and that will be the end of, a presentation. So. Here's the. The, value, will essentially, give, yourself. A university, lab, we, need divisive. My. Second. Opinion. I don't, at all i. Laughter. I started my, second. Master's. Model is. Undetermined. Astronauts, had a logical, fit one that is. Beyond. Man leave have would be an ambassador, that. Is likely. I. Just, add the title clear the psyche. Name. Atomically, there's. Just. Such high just. Electro-optic. Number been enhanced wallop solitary from people, about it as a seal upon name the, similar memory we were useful upon my. Command. Silhouette, I just wanna keep. We'll keep the road element, can a lot. Higher than them exactly. Natasha. Me to talk hardly understood love committee. Creativity, module the McCallum training to merge with the fashioner Harlan.
Hope The tried to copy, kiss. Me then with Zhang family the, cattle, Corrado she doesn't listen to a woman who nominal empowerment, summation fool it project to Maseru a, lot. For, my sorrow in the random confidence I am. Sorry, dear. Obama maximization. I'm no fat. The. Really. Can't. She keeled over in. Reality. The hominid we didn't mean. Velocities. Are I don't know, how, I can. Go, Nana wouldn't, leave. In. There. As. Well as a vehicle, to power. Mug. Shots. Again, Danny. Italian, masseur, my. Anakapalli, person. Oh yeah after an avocado. Food. Corridor, typical Colorado, people maybe, another procedure we add Venus obtain will be a deal and intima, over. A. Year. It's. Really great what you've managed to do with so few resources and. You. Know the number of projects that are going on it's in. A way you seem, like the research arm of a department, of architecture or, something like you. Know and I think it's dreams that probably the universities there isn't really the, kind of investigation, that you are your, involvement but I'm wondering if there are some some. Questions people, have for my might I could ask him lots, of questions but do, you have any any. Thoughts or comments you would like to. Share. With it. Yeah. Please. Yes. Thank you for the lecture I'm, just wondering because you've been trained as an architect undergrad, in the u.s. also as the PhD, in the u.s. is there, any, transition. Difficulty. In like, where people are thinking, and framing the problem in, your native, country as, opposed, to have. You been trained. Yes. And no I mean. Definitely. Things, are done differently but also Jordan, is a relatively, small country and when you're small country you have to be well connected to the outside world so a lot of the, colleagues, I have, either. Were trained in the US or had. Instructors. Trained, in the US so in some ways it, hasn't been that difficult you do. Have a, let's. Say a critical, mass of architects, who. Speak. Your language so, that has not been made. How. Do you come up with the projects, to, work on do you like. I'm. Sort of a part of organization, my own country and we, also struggle to Canada, we. Have ideas but we don't face. The same situation and see you probably have we don't have funding, and like. You. Know how do you get, the funding did you just, now. Approach people you know. The, randomly, oh what's, the, political point of, first. Is something I forgot to mention you know but I sometimes make it seem too easy but for every ten doors we knock only one opens, of course. Also. I mentioned, in the beginning we engage in what we refer to as constructive. Opportunism. We're just always waiting to, see opportunities and, sometimes we just really do, things in the long term the, project I showed you the schools, it started, in mm, not this one but we did something in 2003. The. Mennonite, central, authority, or, Central. Commission I forget their name they, were doing something in the Jordan Valley they, had a school there it was having some problems, they, said would you on a voluntary basis, help us fix things in the school and we did it and we loved what the, results were this was 2003.
And We kept it in our mind then, USAID, had a grant that connected, to this in 2015. 12 years later we. Applied, for it so, and we just keep our eyes open we're always scanning we're always again, it's really about a positive, form of opportunism, and, it's. Not easy it's not easy and a lot, of things we have to stop a. Lot of things we do on or our own resources. But, you'd be surprised things work out I don't know how. Hard, to build scale, I mean one of the things that's noticeable. Is that you're doing from project to project project. And. I'm wondering if some of the things like when you're working on. Agriculture. In the city something, like that is it possible, to utilize, your, knowledge to kind of turn it into something. Of a bigger project and, the projects that are always. In inside. Now. That's a very good question actually. We. We. Had an experience recently that, shows what. Can happen the. School's project you know we did six, or seven seven schools as you know says six here and. The. Minister. Of Education, again, we didn't have a partnership, but again, it was private. Connection. Some personal, connections we knew him and in fact he really helped us get the project through not in terms of support but ensuring, that the Ministry of Education doesn't, stop us so that's often what we're looking for not help but, to make sure that they just leave us alone he, actually says GSD, graduate, all. My roses he. Is. A planner and an economist, and, so. We kept him abreast. What is happening we kept telling him what we were doing and I. Remember, back in the spring he, said you know I have a hundred and twenty schools but. He never mentioned funding and so. We started thinking what, would happen if we are to do that now, we already had been building this in the project, we asked. USAID, to give us money to train about, 200, people to carry out these projects, and we thought even if 10% of them do it that. Can help us go somewhere but. We know that if it goes larger, we need to manage it at the beginning the. Problem is then Homer became prime minister and. That. Was actually bad because now he doesn't have time for anything so, we had that opportunity, that. It's gone but, it's, on our mind actually how do we take these tiny projects, which takes so much time from us by the way and manage. Them on a larger scale and we thought that this training for 200 people might be the beginning we. Have trained the 200 people but again, you know these projects, you, get funding for a year or two years. We. Should probably we're, waiting for things to calm down but I don't think they ever will but. But it's, it's on our mind. Yeah. Thank you for. Challenging. Insights. In. Process. That are not normally. Described. So openly including, the failures I have a question that maybe, it's a bit sensitive but you. Mentioned that the whole outfit started out with, you. Wanting, to be independent and, you resign, from architecture, school and I. Have. Done. Few, small. Similar, projects, in different countries. With universities. And I would be interested what, is the what, are the main. Reasons. That would. Make. You prefer. This. Kind of independent. Outfit as compared, to loose. Or, direct. Association with school, you mentioned a project, or he, mentioned a major project, with Rahul. Who. Works, with, the school but that's big projects, and similar issues. What, are their more sort, of policy, issues. Or, other political or, other economical. What are the main reasons why you think. I. Understand. That there's an architect, it's called in Amman and how. Is the relationship to. The school. And, what. Is your feeling about, about. This idea, of being completely, independent, in terms, of. Advantages. And of course you pointed out disadvantages. Of having looking, for having, to look for funding. We. Have good relations, with the architectural schools in Jordan and you know especially, the award I think has really, cemented. Our relationship, with architectural schools in Jordan are outside Jordan, and there. Was something they they loved to participate in and they're proud to win and they give, it a creative attention, the. DNA, of, schools. In Jordan is not built to allow something like this to happen they, unfortunately are, very rigid structures. They. Do things in a certain way and an, organization, like ours which I can, refer to as a guerrilla organization. Just simply won't fit you know we do, different things we decide. Something one day the next week we might have to do something else we, might do something for 12 years we might do something for two months we're always taking advantage of conditions, these, are bureaucratic. Organizations. That just simply, cannot do that they. Always come to us and one of them said you know we'd love to learn your experience, and they asked me to even teach for on a part-time.
Basis, I couldn't. Handle it for more than one year I mean the bureaucracy, was just killing me in, many ways we, really need flexibility. It's not out of malice. It's just DNA, is not built, for, that and, as Martin said ideally, we should be sort of an implementation. Arm of an. Architecture, school and ideally, this is what I would have liked to be but it's just not an option then the system even. The legal system, legally, you'll find that the regulations. Will not. Allow. It no, matter how hard they try you. Have that bureaucracy it's just. Thank. You for the presentation, I can, relate to some of what you're saying, having. Done nine years in the public sector and has and, Doha, then. My dad worked in Kuwait for more than 60 years and I have an uncle in UAE if. Someone gave your organization, of blank check and. Could fill that little box with, seven, eight numbers, what. Would you do with. It what's. Your grand grand vision, I wouldn't. Know where to start. The. School project actually I think it's one we would love to. Do on a large scale we. Would love to do it all across Europe not, simply. Interventions. We're making are very small although I've showed you the more the. Smaller ones we've done some more ambitious, ones but, imagine, if we do it across a country, or across a city to, us it wasn't just the interventions, it was just seeing the students. Learning. How to design feeling. A sense of empowerment feeling, a sense of belonging feeling, that they are the decision-makers that, is. Priceless. And I, would love to just sort of do it and then train others, to do it and make it a self. Moving. Process, if I can there. Are many other projects we'd like to do we'd love to, transportation. If we can. There. Are many things but if I have to choose one I would say it would be the school's project, and I, think the nice thing is that we've done it so people know what comes out of it you see like that the school I showed you with the flowers, and so on they had a big celebration for.
It And they brought the head of Education in that part of Amman and. People. Really get very excited, about it and I loved the fact that the students, felt that. They. Are part of the process you know usually they're just told this is what's going to happen deal with it so. I would say this really is the most exciting, project we've learned but again I always say this, is the most exciting project we've done because I'm doing it. Thank. You thanks for your work in your presentation, um I was very captivated. By the school project, as well and. I'm not working on it right now so I think it has a. Quality. Of inspiration, I mean if you think about it these kids could. Be the ones who designed this public transportation, and who do like it spreads the work so far so. I had two questions about it one was if there was some plan to track these not. Track with a drone or something but like to see where these kids end up in five or, something years and also. If there, is any thought to use in the book or other tools, to, spread the information about, this program to other jurisdictions. Actually. Very good ideas I. Was, just mentioning when when Watson was commenting. A main, problem we have is that funding, comes to us and it ends and. Ideally. We'd love to forward project 10 15 20, years and you. Know we're a tiny organization we. Barely make ends meet so. It. Would be wonderful for movies I showed you the arc of a house and in fact we just put on our Facebook page posts. Just saying you know read the report we did about it this was back from 2010. And somebody. Wrote a comment we just visited it it's falling apart, and, I wrote back I I feel I have to I said unfortunately. Our. Connection, with it ended, and. This. Project has been made with, the, idea in mind that. At. Least by getting the students engaged maybe, there will be more follow-up, and their teachers. One advantage sorry I'm a bit moving away from your question but I'll go back to it for, one of the schools it's not one of the ones I've showed you the. Headmistress. From. Her own money actually. Paid, to, put a fence around part of the developments, we made because on the weekends, there was no protection and she. Bought some plants. To, put in the herb garden that, we did from her own money so that is very exciting in. One of the schools one of the ones I showed you at the end the. Principal. On his own used. His own money to just buy lunch for everyone so, people do get excited and I think that gives some sense of follow-up but, to, follow up on your question it would be nice to get some funds for long-term, follow-up on all our projects. Only. Because we built it, using. Very, solid, materials, very, Hardy plants. But. And, it's really in good shape in comparison. To other parks in Amman I remember, we asked the project, then we said can you give us some funds, to. Establish. Some contacts, with the neighborhood to sort of see if we can engage. Them, in follow-up and they told us and this is very common with granting. Organisations, the, moment the inauguration, tape is cut our. Relationship. With your project ends and. This. Is a problem, we are always facing, we. Finish that we're happy with it and then often it falls apart because we, have not been given a grant to. Actually build, social. Support. For it we're. Already giving the ground to build it. It's. A very sad story. Well. I mean. As you can see I'm not sad about it the, glass also is half-full. Mama. Thank you very much for really. This is such an inspiring story and as, you said this is like coming to the 20th anniversary of your, dedication, and commitment I think, it's also fair to say that it takes specific. Individuals, who. Really, become responsible, for this kind of project this is not the sort of project where there are tens. And you know. Lots. And lots of people basically, doing this thing and I think there are two or three people together, who. Have really made such, a dedicated effort, to realize. This thing and, I think it's it's phenomenal that there is there is both an, investment. In terms of kind of quality of design but, also in, terms of the outcome of design as a as, a, as, a social, in a way project. Which. Is a whi