Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org
The American University of Beirut opened its new school of architecture and design, Dar Al-Handasah Architecture Building, which has been renovated with the support of Dar Al-Handasah (Shair and Partners). The ceremony that was attended by Dar representatives and its CEO, American University of Beirut Trustee Talal Shair; members of the university's Board of Trustees; and the American University of Beirut community, celebrated the new building of the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA) and the continued collaboration between the university and Dar.
The new Dar Al-Handasah building houses the Department of Architecture and Design, which is home to 300 students, in addition to 18 full time and 35 part time faculty members. The department offers four degree programs: two undergraduate programs in architecture and graphic design and two graduate programs in urban planning, and policy and urban design. The building includes teaching spaces, a lecture hall, labs, studios that serve all four programs, in addition to the main office of the department, faculty offices, as well as exhibition and archives spaces.
Co-founded by former American University of Beirut engineering professor Kamal Shair and along with three other American University of Beirut engineering professors, Dar Al-Handasah is today a world leading architecture and design firm.
In 2004, Trustee Kamal Shair, who was also serving as chair of the American University of Beirut's Campaign for Excellence committee, gifted the university the funds needed to remake the Architecture Building. Continuing the legacy of his father, Talal Shair has been supporting the university's journey toward transformation and positive impact.
Representing the Board of Trustees of the university, Trustee Nemeh Sabbagh thanked Dar Al-Handasah and the Shair family for decades of support, including the design of a state-of-the-art medical center, the development of a campus master plan aligned with a comprehensive American University of Beirut Academic Strategic Plan, and now developing a campus master plan for the American University of Beirut–Mediterraneo, the university's new twin campus in Pafos, Cyprus.
“One of the reasons I think Kamal Al-Shair would have been very proud is that this school in this faculty produces more creative talent than any group of its size anywhere, and it is lucky because it has a great name, a great sponsor, and a visionary dean," said American University of Beirut President Fadlo Khuri who thanked Dar Al-Handasah for decades of their trust and collaboration, and spoke about the strategic vision of the faculty and the university. “From the launch of this new renovation, like with the founding of Dar in 1956, generations will step out, transformed, confident, trained, and inspired, to leave their mark and change the world."
Dar Al-Handasah and the American University of Beirut have had a symbiotic relationship, with the university providing young talent especially in the fields of engineering, architecture, and planning, and Dar Al-Handasah providing opportunities to American University of Beirut students and graduates to grow and polish their talents among its experts.
“The renovation of the Dar Al-Handasah (Shair and Partners) Architecture Building provides students and faculty with a facility that is truly worthy of the reputation built over the past five decades of leading edge architectural and graphic design programs," said MSFEA Dean Alan Shihadeh. “We are proud to continue feeding the talent pipeline that has populated the leadership ranks at that great company… toward launching a path-blazing School of Design that will serve the region as a breeding ground for new innovators."
“I always say, as others have, that the American University of Beirut is a beacon of light in every respect as, since its founding, this great institution has educated the leading minds of our region and beyond," said Talal Shair, who spoke about the continuing collaboration and mutual values between Dar Al-Handasah and the American University of Beirut. “This is indeed a proud moment… [The American University of Beirut] has gone beyond simply providing the technical tools for young people to enter the professional world, equally important is its ethos of liberal education that unlocks the mind and unleashes the power of creativity and innovation that is central to the growth of anyone beyond their brief yet critical tenure at this university."
The audience was invited to join in a tour of the new facility and meet with students as well as see some of their work.
“For us, this is more than an opening of a building, it is a threshold towards a new future for the department," said Dr. Howayda Al-Harithi, chair and founding director of the American University of Beirut's School of Design. “It is a moment signaling our growth into a school of design whose vision is to “be a premier academic landmark, leading knowledge production in the fields of architecture, design and planning… serving as a regional destination for innovative approaches with impact on professional practice and the greater environment, and as a research hub advancing historically grounded, critical, and theoretical reflections on cultural production and the built environment."