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UA Alumni - Riad Tabbara

Riad was the Global Winner of the Architecture and Design category in 2021.

Since he was awarded, he has graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture from the American University of Beirut and has since started an internship as a design assistant at Bjarke Ingels Group in Copenhagen, Denmark.

What are you doing now and what has happened since the award?

Since the awards, I have moved to Copenhagen where I am currently a design assistant at Bjarke Ingels Group, and it has been quite the journey! Working at BIG, I have found myself in an incredibly dynamic environment. Practicing architecture, compared to studying it, seems to offer an added sensation of pragmatism and tangibility: you know that what you are creating on paper or on a screen will one day be part of the real world, and this very realization makes for a great deal of motivation.

This drive to create goes hand in hand with working as part of a team. The amount of talent and competence I am surrounded by is very inspiring. I have gotten to connect with plenty of interesting human beings at my workplace, individuals I feel I can truly learn from, whether it comes to architecture or life in general.

It goes without saying that living in Copenhagen is a great chance to explore, be it buildings, nature, or anything in between. It is hard to come by a place in the city that doesn’t make you want to look twice, and having some good friends along the way makes it all the more memorable.

Where do your interests lie?

I grew up in Beirut and spent a big part of my childhood by the sea. I would always go for walks, eagerly scanning the rocky shoreline for any sea creature I could come across.

The ocean fascinated me, and whatever I didn’t encounter by the water, I found in the stacks of illustrated books on marine life I had back home. There was something beautifully strange about the sea and the entities it contained. I believe this forged in me a profound admiration for the peculiarities of the world in general, and I see these early curiosities greatly informing my outlook on architecture today. Designing a space, or any physical entity for that matter is a chance to produce something intriguing in its foreignness and comforting in its richness.

I have also developed an interest in linguistics over the past few years. I have found myself paying much more attention to the etymology of words and the history of a language and how it evolves. There is an almost mystical quality to unravelling the way our ancestors thought and spoke.

Another recent interest of mine is generative art. It proposes a fast-paced and exciting partnership between man and robot, one that invites us to redefine our understanding of authorship over the artwork we produce.

Has receiving an award for your hard work helped?

I think receiving the award has strengthened my sense of belonging to the field of Architecture. For a long time, I had the impression my views on the discipline did not always echo with the mainly practical and functionalistic approaches I found around me.

I have always seen architecture as an opportunity to create intimate and profound bonds with space, a chance to not only occupy our surroundings but to rediscover them. I believe the work I submitted to the Global Undergraduate Awards is a very accurate depiction of what architecture means to me and receiving the award has certainly provided me with a strong feeling of relevance to the architectural community.

Being happy with your work is very important, but knowing it can resonate across a global audience adds a great sense of accomplishment and confidence in the way that you look at your field of practice.

Why should students submit their work?

You owe it to yourself. If you feel you have dedicated time and reflection into a piece of work that you strongly believe in, don’t stop there. Just invest the little more effort it would take to tailor it into an entry. Being commended for your work is way more likely then you may think!

Submitting your work is also a very good self-marketing exercise. It is a chance to practice compressing a lengthy body of work into a digestible sample that is brief yet persuasive.

While being commended for your work offers a wonderful feeling of self-assurance and excitement, it also yields a deep sense of connection to others. I say this regarding getting the chance to take part in the Global Summit. The Summit is a confluence of passionate and genuine individuals. I learned quite a few things I never thought I would, from valuable lessons to interesting facts, and I am grateful to have gotten to hear the speakers and winners present their experiences and thought processes, while also getting to share my own take on things.

In such a fast-paced age, it is truly heart-warming to know you are in the company of thinkers, people who are keen on taking the time to reflect, reimagine, and simply be in touch with the world around them.

You can find Riad on LinkedIn