This semester, I enrolled in EWB’s social class; at first I was not entirely sure what this would entail but after a couple of meetings in attendance and having met the faculty advisor, Dr. Orrs, I am slowly gaining a better understanding.As engineers, we are constantly coming up with new technological advances and implementing them to problems we face in our daily lives. As an engineer in EWB, we go one step further and aim towards ensuring that every human being has their basic needs met by use of these innovative and technological solutions. At last Monday’s club meeting, EWB invited Dr. Arup SenGupta to come talk to us about his past and current projects in various foreign countries. Although much of the work he spoke about revolves around making purified water available for the people of those countries, the solutions he uses to carrying out his project goes beyond being a water-relief system. For one specific project, he showed us how women were the forefront of the project. As he mentioned, aside from being a water solution, his project also became a source of opportunity for women empowerment and entrepreneurship. Furthermore, Dr. SenGupta spoke about how sometimes the technology behind the solution was not what was important, but rather the solution itself. If the solution was a simple yet efficient one, it would be worth more than one with an intricate design that ends up failing in the long run. Dr. SenGupta’s talk was very motivational as he pushed towards making us see that a solution was more than just about technology.
When I met with Dr. Orrs, the faculty advisor and professor for the Social Class, I was not sure what to expect, but as soon as he began asking questions – such as whether or not a project was truly necessary or whether or not the social and political aspects of the country had been taken into consideration and would have an effect on our project- I began to think back to Dr. SenGupta’s presentation and piece things together. The questions Dr. Orrs asked tied back to Monday’s presentation as he began talking to the class about projects other EWB student chapters had carried out and seen fail. With various water project left abandoned after either neglect for maintenance or simply due to it being inefficient, he made me realize that Dr. SenGupta’s message on solution vs. technology was correct. As a future Civil Engineer wanting to go back to my hometown and fix the water-drought issue, these kinds of questions have to be acknowledged prior to carrying out a solution. My involvement in the social class is helping me see that technology should not simply be about how intricate a design can be but rather whether or not it will be a good and efficient one. As an engineer, I have not had these types of questions asked in my classes (at least not yet) but I am excited to continue to meet with Dr. Orrs, the professor leading the Social Class and learn how to connect both the social aspect and the engineering aspect to a solution, whether its as part of EWB or in my post-undergrad career. I truly feel that as engineers in general, it is important to ask these questions as well as we work towards bettering our world.
I have greatly enjoyed my time here in Abu Dhabi. There are definitely many new buildings and opportunities arising out of this desert, changing and creating new horizons. It is amazing how much the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi have grown in just a few decades of time. From small desert outposts to growing international communities. There are people working and living in Abu Dhabi from every known corner of the world. It has been wonderful to spend time learning from and talking to people from other places and other cultures. As much as I have enjoyed seeing and learning about the architecture and structures in the UAE, it is the people I met here that I will miss the most.
Although figuratively for me since, it is also nearing the end of my trip here to the UAE. This is the end of Abu Dhabi Island. Literally, these rocks prevent the sand from eroding away at the end of the Khalifa Port. They also provide a beautiful view for sitting down and looking out at the Arabian Gulf.
As it is with most journeys then end of one, is also the beginning of another. There will be more horizons waiting back in the USA.
The UAE was the first gulf nation to present a pavilion at Venis Biennale. This design built in Shanghai in 2010 rises and falls like a sand dune oriented along the wind. The passive solar space was designed by Foster + Partners. After the Expo the pavilion was moved to a new development and cultural center being built on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. When construction finishes, this district will including museums such as the Zayed National Museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi, and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Although the interior of the pavilion is not open to visitors, except during an annual local arts fair, I was able to see the exterior of this wonderful design.
For more info on the pavilion: http://uaepavilion.org/uaepav/about-national-pavilion-of-the-uae/
For information and plans on other Saadiyat Island structures:
The Al Bahr Towers have a wonderful façade design for the climate here in Abu Dhabi. Designed by Aedas Architects and Arup Engineers worked together to design a folding active geometric patterned façade that actively moves throughout the day to block the sun from having a harsh direct impact on the building, but allowing a wonderful view out the windows when the sun is at an acceptable angle. I have had the opportunity to drive past these towers during different times of the day. Although unfortunately, I couldn’t get a good photo of it several times. I also learned that here in the Gulf region it is rather common for the architect to come up with a general façade concept and the sub contract out the actual technical design of the final façade. I don’t know how that worked for the Al Bahr Towers, but for many of the building surfaces here the facades can be quite complex.
Check out http://inhabitat.com/abu-dhabis-stunning-al-behar-towers-are-shaded-by-a-transforming-geometric-facade/ for more great info on the Al Bahr Towers.
Ramadan Kareem. Have a blessed Islamic holy month. Just like people put up Christmas lights everywhere to celebrate the Christmas Season in the USA, people also put up twinkling lights to wish each other a blessed and happy holy month of fasting and feasting in the UAE. These lights are usually in the shape of various phases on the moon, particularly the crescent. You will also find them wrapped around palm trees instead of around evergreens. The main tradition of Ramadan is fasting from all food and drink, including water, from sunrise to sunset. Followed by sunset and pre-sunrise feasts to celebrate with family and friends as well as to consume enough food to last for the next day of fasting. Also like you find in the USA not everyone is not celebrates the holiday, such as expats or any workers from other countries who may also hold other religious beliefs and Muslims who can not fast for medical reasons. However out of respect for those who are fasting, no one is permitted to eat in public. Hotels and international restaurants with blocked windows are still permitted to serve food to guests and residents who cannot be seen while they are eating. . . at least until sunset.
Honestly, I couldn’t call my civil engineering / architecture student visit to Dubai complete without visiting the top of the Burj Kalifa. At over 800 m tall the Burj Kalifa is currently the world’s tallest building with the highest outdoor observation deck located on its 124th floor. After the high speed elevator ride of 10 m/s I stepped out of the elevator to see nothing but sky through the giant panoramic windows. Stepping closer to the windows, I could see the city of Dubai far below me. Cars took on the scale of ants. All of the other tall buildings in the city looked like very well done architectural models. The tower itself rises in levels as it soars up to reach the sky. Held up by a buttressed core structural system. Check out the Burj Kalifa’s website with lots of cool information and facts about the building and its construction: http://www.burjkhalifa.ae/en/TheTower/TheTower.aspx
Dubai has greatly expanded since the formation of the UAE as a country. It has become one of the most concentrated cities I know of for modern tall buildings. Especially since most of the infrastructure has been built with in the past 30 to 50 years. What I enjoyed best about the sky line was that all of the skyscrapers had a distinct look. They only looked extremely similar to each other if they were developed together as part of the same building complex. It was a very refreshing and exciting view compared to different US cities that I have visited that although they have some iconic buildings, they generally have a LOT of slightly lower high rise relatively simple, Mies Van Der Rohe inspired glass boxes. Thanks in large part to the variety of global international influences as well as local leadership and vision, even many of the low rise buildings have their own distinct patterns to them. It makes walking around Dubai like walking around an architectural amusement park.