With innovative projects, university students and alumni win top places in 2021 Haifa Award for Architecture and Design

Two teams of Birzeit University architectural engineering students and alumni have won first places at the 2021 Haifa Award for Architecture and Design for their projects to reconstruct Beirut after the 2020 harbor explosion and to revamp and develop the architecture and infrastructure of the Qalandiya refugee camp. 

Established by iDAR-Jerusalem, a Palestinian non-profit organization that seeks to develop democratic and just foundations for architectural debate and practice in Palestine, the Haifa Award for Architecture and Design includes two prizes: the Phoenix Prize, focused on innovative ideas to rebuild the port of Beirut, and the Graduation Prize, which highlights unique and groundbreaking graduation projects by engineering students that meet the needs of Palestinian communities. 

The first place in the Phoenix Prize went to Ala’a Abu Awad, Diala Andonia, Mais Bani Odeh, and Majd Malki — all Birzeit University alumni — for their project entitled “The Aftermath- Productive Beirut.” The team envisions a future Beirut in which the community uses their vocational skills to help reconstruct the city, reusing remnants of the blast to build what was lost. 

The project is based on the notion of rebuilding not only the city, but also people’s normal lives. One of the proposed methods of achieving this is by helping reduce unemployment through vocational training, which allows members of the community to boost local production, thus creating more jobs and achieving economic development. 

One of the distinctive features of the project is its integration of the blast and its remnants into the reconstruction efforts. Apart from reusing the destroyed glass, steel, and building materials, the project authors also suggest establishing a market and an auditorium near the center of the blast zone, effectively making the impact of the blast part of the everyday lives of the city’s inhabitants. 

The first place in the Graduation Prize went to architecture majors Riham Abu Khadejih and Isra Assaf for their project, “Refugee Heritage: Qalandia Refugee Camp as an Urban Circular System.” The project, supervised by assistant professor of architectural engineering Samar Alnazer, aims to upgrade the infrastructure of the refugee camp and bolster its community through urban circular-economy solutions. 

The authors of the project propose to design and establish a recycling scheme that can recycle the solid waste of the camp and process it into fertilizers and other materials for an urban agri-puncture system, thus thus boosting the local economy and creating a system of self-sufficiency in the camp.

Salem Thawaba, chair of the Department of Architectural Engineering at Birzeit University and one of the jurors for the Haifa Awards, said the fact that Birzeit University’s students — whether current or alumni — have won first places in both prizes reflects their excellence in the field and the quality of the university’s teaching and training. 

The Haifa Award, he added, represents an exceptional opportunity for Palestinian and Arab engineers and students to meet, exchange knowledge, and network, and it also serves to join the efforts of engineers and architects to document the urban landscape and cultural heritage of destroyed Palestinian villages.