Thursday, Nov 2, 2023

Fall 2023 Sciame Lecture Series: Hajar Alrifai `21, Hamees Gabr `22, Nadeen Hassan `20, and Benjamin Akhavan `20

Future Practice: Diaspora Narratives


Thursday, Nov 2, 2023

5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Sciame Auditorium (Room 107)
141 Convent Avenue
New York, NY 10031

Spitzer Alumni Panel Headshots

This lecture will be in person and is part of the Fall 2023 Sciame Lecture Series, titled "Crosscurrents: Architecture, Landscape, and Spatial Practices in Southwest Asia and North Africa."

Hajar Alrifai '21 (pictured far left) is a Syrian-American artist and architectural designer. She received her B.Arch from the CCNY Spitzer School of Architecture, where she co-founded the student organization Future Architects of the Middle East (F.A.M.E), Mashrabiya, an annual publication, and served as an S. Jay Levy Fellow. Her work has been published in Antidotes I, and the New York Review of Architecture. Currently, she is a research assistant and SMArchS candidate in the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT. Her thesis project draws from folklore, inherited memory, and oral poetry to tell new stories about the built environment.

Hamees Gabr '22 (pictured second from left) graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s of Architecture from the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at CCNY. At Spitzer, she has been a teaching assistant for both visual studies and studio courses, as well as been published in CityWorks. In 2019, Hamees co-founded the student organization Future Architects of the Middle East (F.A.M.E). She is pursuing an Urban Design degree at Harvard's Graduate School of Design with the hopes of pursuing a doctorate. Since Gabr was young, she has wanted to be an architect to promote social change, reshape boundaries, and build a better world for the future.

Nadeen Hassan '20 (pictured third from left) is a Junior Designer at FXCollaborative with experience in residential, commercial, and hospitality projects. As a New York City native with Egyptian heritage, Nadeen witnessed the lack of resources and care for refugees and low-income families, inspiring her to become an architect. Nadeen has the drive to positively influence and improve the lives of the underserved. Nadeen is an advocate for equity in architectural practice and education. She co-founded Primaverarch—a grassroots movement dedicated to creating spotlights for women in architecture. Primaverarch's online presence has opened a space for women to celebrate their talent and hard work as well as discuss the industry-wide issues that need to be addressed.

Benjamin Akhavan '20 (pictured far right) is a multidisciplinary designer and educator based in New York, where he leads FOAWM, a nondescript Firm / Office / Atelier / Workshop / Milieu with polyvalent interests at the intersection of design and urban life. He is the Assistant Director of Academic Affairs and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia GSAPP and has also taught at The City College of New York, New York Institute of Technology, and New Jersey Institute of Technology. His design, research, and scholarship have been featured in the Cambridge University Press Materials Research Society Proceedings, Citygroup Gallery, New York Review of Architecture, Mashrabiya, and MIT Thresholds.

"Future Practice: Diaspora Narratives":  links four emerging Middle Eastern American practices as they relate to the built environment to project new narratives for architecture. Praxis, research, teaching, academia, and publication are disparate mediums of intervention but are presented as common practices for understanding and advocating for a more inclusive built environment. Hajar Alrifai '21, Hamees Gabr '22, Nadeen Hassan '20, and Benjamin Akhavan '20 are Middle Eastern American individuals operating within the collective agenda of redefining the discipline to incorporate multiple identities as they shape the built environment.

Suggested Reading: Benjamin Akhavan, Hajar Alrifai, Ahmed Helal, and Tatiana Voitovich, eds. Mashrabiya. Vol. 00. Future Architects of the Middle East, 2020.

"Crosscurrents: Architecture, Landscape, and Spatial Practices in Southwest Asia and North Africa" probes the radical reimagining of the region compelled by the expression Southwest Asia and North Africa (SWANA). In recent years, the acronym SWANA has gained currency among architects, landscape architects, urbanists, and historians who conceptualize the territories of the Middle East and North Africa through geography and place rather than colonial frameworks. The term “Middle East” was a British invention, a tool used to advance colonialism in a region where so many national borders resulted from imperialist interventions. In the Fall 2023 Sciame Lecture Series, groundbreaking designers, scholars, practitioners, and activists chart multiple—and sometimes competing—currents in the architecture of the region and its diasporas, while displacing essentializing colonial narratives. To do so, speakers from across the area shed light on global, transnational, and diasporic human stories about design, space, landscape, and architecture in SWANA, and advance new ideas about territory, buildings, places, histories, and belonging.

All lectures are free, open to the public, and held in the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture Sciame Auditorium.

See for current requirements for in-person visitors.

This lecture series is made possible by the Spitzer Architecture Fund and the generous support of Frank Sciame ’74, CEO of Sciame Construction.

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