The Tarkeeb Gate House and Garden brief included the design and construction of a replacement for an aging air-conditioned guard booth at the entrance of a restricted parking area on the College’s campus. The project provides an air-conditioned interior for a security guard, exterior shaded areas, drinking fountain and small garden for the security, janitorial and landscape campus workers.
The project incorporated a unique non-profit collaborative model in which architecture students and faculty leveraged a seed-grant from the university with donated materials and pro-bono professional services provided by consultants and industry partners to design and build the project on campus.
Situated in a context characterized by high temperatures and extreme humidity, the project relies on lessons from regional vernacular architecture. The Tarkeeb Gate House and Garden incorporates an exterior parasol inspired by local mashrabiya to mitigate solar gain on the interior air-conditioned booth while simultaneously creating a pair of shaded exterior living spaces. Composed of steel bar-grate the parasol shades an observation porch adjacent to the gate checkpoint on the north side while allowing for cross-ventilation and visual access for the security guard. A second, larger, shaded garden space under the south portion of the bar grate exoskeleton provides respite and drinking water for the often under-appreciated members of the campus community who toil long hours outside in difficult conditions. Laminated glass roof panels fitted with a tinted, sun-filtering interlayer provide additional shading and are designed to be replaced with solar panels when the local electrical grid is upgraded to support net metering and storage of excess solar power.
The visual permeability of the bar-grate mashrabiya balances the dual role of the security guard to see and to be seen while the etymology of the Arabic word highlights an expanded program. Commonly understood as an architectural screen associated with privacy and shadows, the term mashrabiya derives from mashrab, meaning a place to drink water. This project re-links the word’s two manifestations, the shade-giving screen and the earlier poetic reference to a shared drinking space.
The project enhances existing campus infrastructure providing pragmatic functions, promoting community equality, and exhibiting a social and environmental conscience. Located in a region where service personnel endure long shifts under challenging circumstances the project seeks to elevate basic human comforts while simultaneously imparting exuberant delight.
Typically hailing from economically challenged countries within the region, numerous expatriates populate a vast service industry that contributes to the UAE’s remarkable growth. Often underappreciated, these guards and laborers spend long, hot hours tending expansive landscapes and maintaining urban propriety beneath the celebrated skyscrapers. This project eschews the fixation on tall buildings and iconic islands to focus on the microenvironments inhabited by individual workers and improving working conditions through provision of reprieve, refreshment and spatial delight. Elevating the design and accommodation of these basic amenities conveys our respect and appreciation for their contribution to our community.
Fourteen of the eighteen students involved in the project are female, reflecting the unusual female-to-male student ratio in the architecture school at large. The immersive and diverse experiences these young women had during the design and construction of the Tarkeeb Gate House and Garden will have an out-sized impact beyond the immediate influence of the project. By demonstrating capability and confidence in design and construction, these young women in profound ways have challenged regionally prevalent preconceptions and gender norms. This achievement firmly rooted within the discipline of architecture also transcends professional boundaries and will contribute to the transformation of a society. Ultimately these students are prepared and empowered to challenge conventions in the professional culture, as well as the larger society into which they graduate.
The Design-Build Initiative (DBI) at the College of Architecture, Art and Design (American University of Sharjah) provides a unique learning environment for students interested in a comprehensive, hands-on approach to design education. The paradigm of design-build pedagogy, in which students learn by making, extends education beyond conventional academic and disciplinary boundaries to engage the inherent complexities associated with the construction of new environments at full scale in the real world. The CAAD DBI operates across a wide range of disciplines, including Architecture, Interior Design, Sculpture, Installation Design, and Product Design, with a focus on fabrication, physical production, and material-based learning and scholarship.
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