Tag Archives: Jordan

#InspireMENA Story 1: Humanizing Architecture – Through the Eyes of Abeer Seikaly


View of tent structures (day)

By: Ruba A. Al-Zu’bi
http://www.ecomena.org/architecture-abeer-seikaly/
Through the jasmine-scented roads of L’weibdeh (Jordan) I navigated my way to Abeer Seikaly’s studio, an old house that resembles Jordan’s genuine and inspiring identity. Abeer Seikaly is a young Jordanian architect who has been featured on several global and local media platforms because of her innovation “Weaving a Home” that was shortlisted for the 2012 Lexus Design Award.

Influence of Education and Local Knowledge

Top architecture schools in the Arab world are heavily influenced by international trends in built environment and sustainability, and unfortunately Arabic reference material is largely ignored in teaching. The emerging thinking around built environment and its relationship with people and nature rely largely on digital and virtual practice leaving students with minimal interaction with communities and building materials. Moreover, the growing disconnect between research and market requirements in most developing countries magnifies the gap between engineering and sustainable development. Acknowledging the uniqueness of traditional Arab architecture and its historical importance in shaping sustainable building concepts raises concern on the diminishing role of local knowledge in responding to contemporary sustainability challenges.

For Abeer, having the chance to study abroad provided her with new insights not only about architecture but more importantly about her own potential and abilities within a larger context. What her culture-rich home environment gave her, on the other hand, was respect and appreciation for art, creativity and surroundings. With time, exposure and experimentation, Abeer defined her own architecture. Emphasizing that the pure definition of technology is craft, weaving, and making, her definition of innovative architecture combines old and new, traditional and contemporary. It is also thinking about architecture as a social technology.

Re-defining Success

When people are focused on the product, they usually tend to neglect the joy and benefit of the process itself. Focusing on the process boosts self-confidence and self-awareness and yet requires diligence and mindfulness while enjoying experimentation. It enables us to engage more deeply with the present, and thus, allow us to learn faster and experience life to the fullest.

According to Abeer Seikaly, architecture is not about the building itself but more about getting into it and experiencing its metaphysical nature with time. “Ordinary architects nowadays are inclined to use computer software to design buildings while sitting in closed offices. This is only dragging them away from people and from nature. As a real architect, you need to be out there to feel, interact and test your designs”, says Seikaly. “Creating is about the process and not about the outcome.”

Thinking through Making: The Tent

As a firm believer in the process, Abeer Seikaly has been working on her creative structural fabric for years. When the time was right, she used this creative work to bridge a gap in human needs. Participating in the Lexus Design Award was part of engaging her fabric with people and nature. Disaster shelters have been made from a wide range of materials, but Abeer turned to solar-absorbing fabric as her material of choice in creating woven shelters that are powered by the sun and inspired by nomadic culture. The use of structural fabric references ancient traditions of joining linear fibers to make complex 3-D shapes.

Tackling an important issue like shelter for a humanitarian purpose can’t be more relevant to both innovative architecture and sustainable development. With Jordan being host to more than 1.4 million Syrian refugees, this is about humanizing architecture and meeting basic human needs. Abeer has explained everything about her fabric and its use in disaster relief on her blog.

Study model showing movement of the system and its collapsibility
She passionately mentions her ultimate inspiration: thinking through making. “Experimenting, looking at material’s behavior, testing, and slowly you are there”, says Seikaly. “It is about thriving and not about surviving. Revelation results from years of hard work and continuous perseverance throughout the process”, she adds.

Recipe to Innovate

There is no recipe for innovation, Abeer Seikaly explains, but Jordanian engineers and architects need to ask themselves the following: What are you about? What is local/sustainable? What is Jordan about?

When asked about role of engineering firms, Seikaly stressed the fact that most corporations nowadays do not provide an enabling environment for youth to learn and grow. Emphasizing the importance of innovation, she says “With no personal attention and coaching, engineers are disconnecting from themselves and from community. Despite all the difficulties we face in our country, innovation goes back to personal drive and motivation: if you need it, you will make it”.

“Define your role as an Architect in a developing country, I have discovered mine and became an aware human being. To serve society and improve well-being is who I am”, concludes Abeer.

Architecture and Sustainable Development

The straightforward link between architecture and sustainable development goals is Global Goal No. 11 i.e. Sustainable Cities and Communities; nevertheless, a deeper look at how architecture influences and gets influenced by other elements brings about a link with almost each of the other Global Goals. The unique relationship between built environment, people and nature makes it an opportunity to demonstrate real sustainable development, as highlighted by Abeer Seikaly’s innovation. Around 60% of the world’s population will be living in cities in 2030 which dictates a new and integrated way of thinking about urban design and architecture.

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Getting to know a place through the hearts of its people: a morning at King’s Academy


I should admit I’m getting more used to women gatherings. I said this before but I was never a gender advocate until I recently started to enjoy women-to-women empowerment and mentorship. This time it wasn’t only the women or the place – as great as they are, to be honest, it was my curiosity that got me on the road to Madaba on a rainy day.

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Whether through friends and contacts, media or news; I knew very little about King’s Academy. It was the case until King’s Academy entered the international community as the host for the Global Forum for Youth, Peace and Security in August 2015 under the Patronage of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II. With the special coverage by Roya TV, Jordanians got to know and see more of this great school. Listening to the student who joined King’s Academy from and UNRWA school made the case for a new perception.

Yesterday, I couldn’t resist the temptation to go and here we are: a group of the Business and Professional Women Association – Amman (BPWa) welcomed at Beit Al Mudeer by a group of women who turned out to be a source of light and inspiration.

Upon arrival, warm welcome remarks by our host fellow member Reem Masri and then short but to the point remarks by her colleagues were enough to trigger dozens of questions in our heads. The spontaneous and genuine staff members spoke with unbeatable passion about what King’s Academy is all about.  They were kind enough to take our many questions and provide answers on various aspects including students’ selection and admission, management, discipline, staff development programs, etc. We knew that King’s Academy is targeting outstanding students from all over Jordan and from various schools to invite them and their parents to see the school and learn more about the application process. King’s Academy is doing a lot of fundraising to be able to support those who can’t afford the fees but deserve to be in such a life-changing experience. We also learned that students are treated equally and that they are requested to implement programs with the surrounding community in Madaba. And I couldn’t hide my wide smile and great admiration when I found out that the whole campus is strictly smoke-free.

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After the good talk – which by the way showed that the staff and students do speak Arabic, we wanted to see and experience things on campus. The tour in the campus was quite refreshing. The natural green space and well designed buildings and facilities put you in a different mood. Intruding into a classroom during a Physics class enabled us to meet a teacher and some students trying to solve a problem through practical use of instruments. Since this was a course that all students should take, the class had students from different ages which we thought might add value to the learning process.

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Moving on to the dining hall, each of us was seated on a table to join a normal daily lunch. Before anyone is allowed to sit down, a prayer was said by a teacher quoting a Hadith Sharif  ” الحمدلله الذي أطعمني هذا الطعام ورزقنيه من غير حول لي ولا قوة ” and then translating it to English. Everyone was listening and then we took our seats. Two of the students on each table were bringing the food to the table and helping the assigned teacher serve food for everyone. We all waited till everyone got their share and then started eating. I really hoped to have more time to speak to the students but it was clear they were tired and just wanted a break J

After we finished eating, the same students who brought the food collected the empty plates and cleaned remaining food. There was enough food but not too much, something I highly appreciate from an ethical and sustainable behavior perspective. The meal was very modest and consisted from salad, chicken, fried potatoes and water.

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The next stop was the Spiritual Center. King Abdullah II Spiritual Center, a multi-faith house of prayer and meditation is located on campus to accommodate the spiritual needs of a diverse religious community. King’s Academy also arranges weekly visits for those students wishing to attend prayers and services at local mosques or churches. I only saw this before during my travel to the US and the UK in places like Georgetown University where there is a prayers room in the basement. Knowing that King’s Academy has the majority of its students from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, USA and Korea makes me so proud to see such respect for diversity, a real Islamic value.

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His Majesty King Abdullah II vision for King’s Academy to be a school of peace and transformation is guiding everyone’s effort and belief in young people as our greatest resource – and hope – for the future. If you are a student at King’s, be sure that Jordan is counting a lot on leaders like you to be role models, transformers and real humans.

Thanks to BPWa for making this possible. Thank you Reem, Monica and all the great King’s Academy team for giving the visit such a special flavor.

To be continued……

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يوم “انجاز” جديد والهام واحلام مع طالبات مدرسة عائشة أم المؤمنين – جبل الحسين


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سعدت بيوم مميز مع طالبات مدرسة عائشة  ضمن حملة قادة الأعمال مع انجاز. على الرغم من انها ليست المرة الأولى الا أن الطالبات يتمكن كل مرة من انتزاع اعترافات جديدة عن طفولتي وأيام ما كانت الاحلام ملونة بالوان ليست كالالوان. هذه المرة تورادت ذكريات سن ال 16 وأناس كادت تفاصيل الحياة المتعبة أن تخفيهم تحت طيات السنين. ما أبسطها وأصغرها كانت الدنيا وما أعمق لحظات التذكر والتفكر فيما اختلف وكيف امسينا.

أسئلة الفتيات هذه المرة تحمل بعض الامل اضافة للاسئلة المتكررة حول تكافؤ الفرص وتخصصات الدراسة الجامعية…. كانت هذه المرة تستفسر بفضول عما يمكن أن يواجههن ان قررن خوض غمار الحياة بثقة وتميز وسمعت قصصا اعتقدت أنها ما عادت موجودة في مجتمعنا حول حق البنت في استكمال دراستها واختيار ما ترغب في دراسته. فخورة انا بوعيكن وبفضولكن وأرى في أعينكن ارادة تحتاج الى المزيد من الثقة والاطمئنان…. بأن الغد أفضل فقط ان استطعتن الايمان بقدرتكن على جعله أفضل.

مع محبتي

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http://www.injaz.org.jo

Jordanian Women are Shaping the Clean Technology Future – Start by Telling Your Story!


CWEEL Group Pic

I must admit that I’m still learning and triggering thought on Jordan’s knowledge economy potential especially when it comes to the role of women. I also need to state clearly that I’m not a feminist and I believe in Jordanian women’s natural ability to take their part in development shoulder to shoulder with Jordanian men. Every day I encounter a new section of a story that is just beginning. Last week, I had the honor of being the guest speaker in the 2nd meeting for the CWEEL network in Jordan. CWEEL is the Council on Women in Energy and Environmental Leadership and Jordan is initiating its chapter through a few active men and women from the energy and environment sectors.

While I had a presentation ready, I navigated through the eyes of the amazing women attending the event and I suddenly decided to speak from the heart to the heart. Telling my humble story was the gate through which we all entered into an honest discussion that was as inspiring to me as it was to the group. For years, we tend to immerse ourselves in the world of work and lose many opportunities for human interaction.. more importantly for listening to another person’s story. In a personalized story, one can find moments and aspirations that could be life-changing.

My theory of the Clean Tech Sector in Jordan is that it will be shaped by its Women. They are rising like stars in various organizations starting from key business associations and NGOs (EDAMA, Jordan Green Building Council, Architects & Engineers Business Council, etc); Regulatory bodies (Jordan Standards and Metrology Organization), Utility Companies, Research and Academia and Financing Institutions. It is still quite rare to find women business owners or CEOs but this is changing soon, I believe. Getting those women connected and sharing stories together will ensure the sector’s success and growth.

Unlock your potential by sharing your story with another woman. I’m grateful for all the stories that added a special flavor to my life!

 

Green Careers – what are we missing in the educational system?


I was lucky enough to join the Green Careers booth at the International Youth Day celebrations in Irbid organised by USAID. The experience was rich as it made me realise how little environmentalists are doing to empower each other and to give hope to the new green generations. Young Engineering students already had pre expectations that the main challenge in their career is going to be unequal employment opportunities. I had to listen and try to change that perception while inside my head wondered what if that is really the case. After overcoming that first point, we started real talk about:
– the right attitude… What impression am I giving.
– how can I stay up to date with sector development and priorities (energy, environment and water).
– with over 112000 registered engineers in Jordan, how can I build my competitive edge.
– in the CV and during interview, how can I show my added value to the company.
– what would an employer like to see in my CV as a fresh graduate.
– does voluntary work count.

I know I wanted to keep doing this… And reach out to all those feeling its a curse to study green … If I can’t… We all can try though.

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Visit Jordan – it’s about time


Jordan Tourism Board has launched its multilingual new website.

http://visitjordan.com/

It is time you plan your next vacation in Jordan… serenity, nature, adventure, spiritual, therapeutic, or cultural… Jordan is the destination.

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“Serve to Lead” – Memories from the Royal Military Academy of Sandhurst


Serve to Lead” is the motto of RMAS and yes we were handed the book itself… just as any privileged RMAS graduate.

Quoting Sydney Jary MC 18 Platoon – from Serve to Lead:

‘Sound leadership – like true love, to which I suspect it is closely related – is all powerful. It can overcome the seemingly impossible and its effect on both leader and led is profound and lasting’.

Almost three years have passed since I completed the leadership and policy programme with King Abdullah II Fund for Development KAFD/IDG for senior civil servants. Nevertheless, the influence of that week in Sandhurst Military Academy is increasing with time. It is probably because of the special training style and real battle locations that induce you to re-think leadership.  I had the chance to visit the room where HM Late King Hussein and many of the Hashemites stayed while studying at RMAS… lots of glorious yet humble feelings and stories are hidden in that room captured in the photos hanged on the walls. Had the great pleasure of meeting Jordan’s Ambassador to the UK Mrs Alia Bouran over a special dinner.

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While seeking to understand what makes Military la good leadership school, we were reminded of the fact that you lead people through serving them and never vice-versa.

It was fun too… lots of physical and mental activity… maps, compass and good fellows.

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