A sketch of the project site by Luchetti's student Amerah Khan

Architecture students in Sharjah receive virtual review by international jury

Due to the impact of Covid-19 on higher education, academics worldwide have raced to restructure their remaining weeks of the semester. One academic in Sharjah has managed by putting together an international jury to judge his students’ work.

At the American University of Sharjah, one assistant professor of architecture has responded to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on higher education by putting together an international jury of architects to review his students’ course projects.

Hoping to inspire his third-year students despite the recent challenges, Italian architect Cristiano Luchetti originally published a call for ‘Design Studio Critics’ on his Facebook page, SPACE[LESS]CITY, where he called on friends, colleagues and fellow architects to participate in a remote jury process. The judges would review his students’ designs for a coastal wetland institute in Ajman – the theme of their studio coursework.

The international jury.

“These problematic days require a radical rethinking of our daily activities,” Luchetti wrote in his Facebook post. “For the first time in history, the teaching of architecture moves from the physical areas of schools to remotely interconnected personal spaces. These days will pass, but experiences will remain. It is the task of architecture teachers, of all teachers, to rethink our methods of communicating knowledge.”

The jury includes Benedetta Tagliabue, director of international architecture firm Miralles Tagliabue EMBT; Beatrice Bruscoli, adjunct professor of design studio and architectural history at the University of Waterloo Rome; Kourosh Hajizadeh, founder and principal architect of Hajizadeh & Associates and assistant professor at the Islamic Azad University; Sanjay Puri, founder and principal of Sanjay Puri Architects; Ryszard Sliwka, painter, educator and architect based in Bath, UK; and Marco Sosa, associate professor and chair of design at the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises, Zayed University. Assistant critics include Hamsa Khalid of Whitespace Architects and Mark Philip, an architect and urban designer at Abu Dhabi Municipality Design Studio and an adjunct instructor at Heriot-Watt University.

Challenged to design an institute that supports research and public education on the critical role of coastal ecosystems, the students will present their work to the jury on Google Meet, while the judges will then follow up with critical feedback. Luchetti, who had previously only invited Dubai-based architects and academics to review his students’ work, organised three sessions of four to five students each. For him, removing geographical restrictions has been a great advantage and a positive outcome of the current situation.

“Since we are online, physical presence is not necessary,” he said. “Now, I have the whole planet available.”

To see the students work, visit Luchetti’s website here.

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