AUS students win world’s largest student architecture competition

Published: 27 October 2020 - 1:49 p.m.
By: Jane O'Neill
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,” says Khalaf.

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

Professor George Katodrytis, head of the architecture department at CAAD, said the Inspireli Awards serve as an important platform for CAAD students to present their work on a global stage.

“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,” he says.

Since her recent graduation, Khalaf has been working as a junior architect at iMaker Group, a Dubai-based architecture and interior design firm, while Jacob is currently taking part in Architecture for Humanity, an inspirational placement program coordinated by the Italian-based Young Architects Academy.

The two other shortlisted projects from CAAD feature architectural designs for sites in Sharjah and New York. The shortlisted students included Farah Ahmed, Mary Krajekian, Aya Rahmy, Alina Sebastian and Rim Sibai under the mentorship of Associate Professor Jason Carlow and Professor of Practice Igor Peraza.

A gallery of the students’ work, along with other finalist projects, can be viewed online at

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