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AUB Professor Salma Samar Damluji elected member of the Académie d’Architecture en France
4/18/2017
Dana Abed  |  Office of Advancement  |  media@aub.edu.lb  | 

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British architect of Iraqi and Lebanese descent, Professor Salma Samar Damluji, Binladin Chair for Architecture in the Islamic World, a true icon in Islamic architecture and history, was elected member of the Académie d’Architecture en France.
 
Dr. Damluji started her career in London upon graduating from the Architectural Association School of Architecture and The Royal College of Art in London. In 2008 she established with colleagues in Yemen the Daw‘an Mud Brick Architecture Foundation in Mukalla, Hadramut and has been working there on earth construction and rehabilitation projects. Damluji has written a handful of books on regional and vernacular architecture of Arab countries from Morocco to Arabia.

 
History with the Académie d’Architecture en France

 
Damluji was recently elected member of the prestigious Académie d’Architecture en France. She explains that it is an “honorable and distinguished acknowledgement bestowed from a highly revered institution, held in high regard amongst academics and professionals internationally.” Worth noting is that this membership is not one you apply for: it is earned based on a select nomination and internal vote of the Academy. Three non-French architects were elected members, Damluji and renowned British architect Peter Cook, with the Lebanese Yousef Tohme.
 
Damluji’s history with the Académie dates back to 2015, when she was awarded the silver medal for her architectural projects and work in reconstruction and rehabilitation in Earth architecture.
 
Her latest book “The Other Architecture: Geometry, Earth and Vernacular,” based on the Inaugural lecture she delivered at l’École de Chaillot, Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine  in Paris, was published in Paris in 2015 and short listed at the Académie d’Architecture for the Prix du Livre d’Architecture, in November 2015.
 
Damluji’s inspiration
 
One of Damluji’s inspirations was meeting Egyptian Architect Hassan Fathy, with whom she worked first as a student in 1975 to 1976 and later in 1983 to 1984. 

“He was terribly influential, I didn’t realize at the time how influential that school of architecture: his philosophy, his way of thinking, were going to be in drawing the trajectory of my working life,” said Damluji.  

Hassan Fathy was an architect, poet, and artist, who had a tremendous influence on generations of designers. During his lifespan, he designed hundreds of projects including villages for the rural population and the less privileged sector, the poor. His ideas were perceived at the time as experimental and unorthodox, as he used traditional and vernacular design methods and materials to create an indigenous sustainable environment at affordable cost. 

“Very few people acknowledge what a brilliant designer he was,” said Damluji. “Many people associate him with simply being the ‘champion of architecture for the poor’, yet very few realize the touch or spark of genius that he exerted as an artist, architect and intellectual.” 
 
Damluji and AUB

 
Damluji joined AUB as a full time faculty member in 2013. “I was offered this post and I thought long about taking it up,” said Damluji. “However, it came at a fortuitous time, because the areas I was working in, mainly Hadramut in Yemen, fell into disquiet. I never envisaged myself as a full time professor! Being on site and working with communities building in earth, mud and stone as architect and project manager was riveting and rewarding. I miss that since we need the practice.”

 
However, Damluji appreciates the opportunities this position and AUB had to offer. Immersed in regional and vernacular development, she has hosted a series of lectures from renowned international architects; initiated and launched with her colleagues the Sustainable Design Week as part of the The Areen Lecture Series, among other things, and pursued her research project. 
 
“I love being involved with upper campus, Architecture is not solely about building and construction, it’s about philosophy, art history and culture,” said Damluji. “We encourage our students who bring in such aspects in their course work and final year projects.” 

 
Damluji helped tailoring the newly approved graduate and post-graduate degrees in the department of Architecture and Design. Students will be able hopefully to also opt for a joint PhD in Arabic or History, for example, and Architecture. 

 
“I am working with Dr. Bilal Orfali, Chair of the Arabic Department on joint research projects. And if a student wants to do a PhD in Arabic Studies about Architecture, they would be able to consult with both our Faculties,” said Damluji. 
 
“The value for any rewarding work at AUB is in succeeding in this inter multidisciplinary approach in a practical way and not only on paper,” she added. 

 
Damluji considers Jafet Library to be a huge asset of AUB, for it is a rich sanctuary, which makes it one of “the most established valuable cultural venues in the region.”
 
 
Damluji encourages Architecture students to be more open in learning about the region we live in, and the world around them, to read more books and emerge themselves in the culture, history and philosophy of the arts. The AUB FES Workshop and Erasmus Program, she helped establish with the Venice school of Architecture (IUAV), have been well subscribed and attended by our Architecture and Design students and providing them with new openings and opportunities for furthering their education and enhancing their experience. 

 
“There is no future in this world of scholarship, or academia, in being qualified as professional people, if we can’t read and write,” said Damluji. “We don’t stop learning how to read and write in primary school, we have to continue to nurture and cultivate this throughout our lives. In this lies the essence, love and creativity for learning and teaching architecture!” 
Story Highlights
  • British architect of Iraqi and Lebanese descent, Professor Salma Samar Damluji, Binladin Chair for Architecture in the Islamic World, a true icon in Islamic architecture and history, was elected member of the Académie d’Architecture en France.
 
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