American University of Beirut

Wael Al Awar (BA, '04) wins international prize in architecture

​​​​​​​​​Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications,​​​​​

AUB alumnus Wael Al Awar won the Golden Lion prize as curator of the Wetland exhibition of the UAE pavilion at this year's Venice Architecture Biennale. Al Awar was awarded the prize along with Kenichi Teramoto.

The UAE pavilion investigates using salt as an alternative to Portland cement, winning the UAE the prestigious prize for Best National Participation named Wetland. The pavilion won the award for its focus on the construction possibilities of waste material.

“We cannot continue to design and build our future cities with the same materials and in the same methods we do today," Al Awar told us. “The research presented in Wetland investigates the possibility of upcycling by-products of industrial waste produced by cities to be used as a sustainable building material inspired by a city's local landscape, crafting a Future Vernacular for architecture."

The judges that selected the work commended it as work that “encourages us to think about the relationship between waste and production at both the local and global scales, and opens to new construction possibilities between craft and high technology."

Al Awar told CNN that he and Teramoto are motivated by a desire to construct more sustainable and ecologically friendly architecture. Inspired by the UAE's mineral-rich salt flats that constitute part of the country's wetlands, Al Awar and Teramoto enlisted the scientific knowhow of universities in the UAE and Japan to create a cement made using brine generated by the UAE's desalination plants, which remove salt from seawater.

"Given CO2 emissions in the world and global warming, and all these alarms that have been ringing for many years, it's our duty -- it's our responsibility -- to take action," Al Awar told CNN.

Al Awar is an AUB architecture alumnus who was awarded first prize in the Architecture Award of Excellence upon graduation and continues to inspire AUB students as he did in his lecture at the AUB Department of Architecture and Design in 2019. ​

In 2009, he founded Dubai-based Ibda Design – an international architecture, landscape, and urban office – and in 2012, was joined by Kenichi Teramoto as partner, after having worked together in Tokyo on several international projects. As Ibda Design, they have collaborated on a wide series of projects in Dubai and within the Middle East, and in 2018, were selected by Architectural Record's Design Vanguard as a top emerging architecture office in the world. In 2019, Wael and Teramoto merged Ibda Design with a third partner, Kazuma Yamao, to form waiwai, already an award-winning multidisciplinary architecture, landscape, graphic, and urban design studio with offices in Dubai and Tokyo.

 Bringing his experience that ranges from art centers, university campuses, and mixed-use developments, to private villas and mosques, and having worked in the West as well as the Far East, Al Awar has founded his company, waiwai, to deliver high quality designs in unique approaches that push boundaries and experiment with challenging conventional processes. Waiwai works through a multi-disciplinary approach to design, addressing the social, environmental, economical, and technological aspects of each project in order to tailor a highly specific concept to the given context. 

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