Omrania | CSBE Student Award for Excellence in Architectural Design 2013 Sixth Cycle Jury Report

Can Architecture produce meaning?



In a profession that is increasingly succumbing to corporate practices, our objective in this jury deliberation was to select and reward those who demonstrated that it is still possible to explore alternative paths.

This can begin with resisting present-day aesthetic fashions that are too often imposed by market forces, but that also result from the proliferating images coming out of the trend-setters of our profession.

From amongst the 145 entries that were submitted for this year’s Award cycle, a significant number of participants showed considerable capabilities relative to what our profession expects from graduates entering the field.  We selected five winning projects from these entries for their courageous attempts at producing meaning through the act of architecture.

The variety of the questions resulting from these explorations shows that students from the Arab world are very capable of making worthwhile contributions to the ongoing architectural debates currently taking place beyond its regional frontiers.

We feel that the five winning entries may be divided into two groups:

The first group contains three projects that are an outcome of an engagement with the very specific social, economic, and political forces - if not upheavals - currently affecting societies in the Arab world.

All Senses Pavilion is a marvelous project that presents a poetic narrative, and that gives hope and transcends the conventional limits of architecture by proposing an experiential project rather than a contemplative one.

Home for Bedouins is the only built project submitted for the Award and the only candidate that shows great resistance to the prevalent ways of construction.

Treading the Line demonstrates the importance of reinventing and constructing a relevant program as a central part in the architectural act. The proposed project shows great levels of poetics by drawing interesting parallels between destruction and production, and by creating life in abandoned cemeteries.

In contrast to the first three nominees, the two entries of the second group show a concentration of effort on producing form as a main driving force in the act of architecture. As a result, we feel that these two projects could have been produced anywhere and are not concerned with the notion of context.

Crystal (De) Formation is an attempt aimed at identifying alternative means of producing complex forms. It addresses the question of whether chemical processes can produce shapes that are of architectural interest. Although that question has been raised by too many members of what is often a baffled architectural community for way too long, the candidate nonetheless shows great ability in producing powerful formal gestures.

Machine in an Empty and Vast Territory is another exercise in form-making that clearly demonstrates that we can still succumb to dangerously-seductive and self-indulgent architectural compositions. The jury had great difficulty tracking the ballerina’s graceful and dynamic performance in the heavily-material manifestation of the resulting architectural proposition. This project proves the limits of architectural metaphors. Its accompanying text, however, promises a more honest engagement with the political context for which this project was initially proposed. Still, the temptation of producing complex forms prevails.


Jury members: Shahira Fahmy, Bernard Khoury, and Murat Tabanlioglu