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Alumnus Samar Zarifa Turns her MLA Thesis into a Policy Paper on Sustainable Desert Development for the Al Qasimi Foundation

John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design
September 08, 2014

In 2012, Daniels Alumna Samar Zarifa (MLA 2012) completed her masters thesis project which looked at recent coastal developments along the Arabian Peninsula. Zarifa was interested in the relationship between residents’ perceptions of the new coastal landscapes being created and the effect of such extensive developments, including their demand on water. She looked at ways to create an ecological and integrative approach to coastal development by exploring the rehabilitation of a cultural heritage site, “one of the only remaining, fully standing traditional villages in the Arabian Peninsula.” He faculty advisor was Liat Margolis.

After graduating, Zarifa returned to the United Arab Emirates and landed jobs as a landscape architect at Woods Bagot and an Adjunct Instructor at the American University in Dubai. A year later, she was approached by the Al Qasimi Foundation in Ras Al Khaimah to write a policy paper based on her thesis. The paper, titled “Sustainable Desert Development: A Case Study of Al Jazeera Al Hamra,” was later published online.

This August, Zarifa presented the paper at the 7th International Conference on Architecture of the 21st Century, after reading a Call for Papers on the Notices section of the Daniels Faculty website. The conference was organized by the International Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS).

Zarifa's proposal for the abandoned village in Ras Al Khaimah integrates modern water saving techniques, but was also inspired by the traditional practices of the inhabitants of the region. Her aim was to bridge the gap between the region’s past and present. The proposed site can now be used as a prototype for developing coastlines that are in sync with people’s contemporary lifestyles and enhance their experience of the surrounding landscape.

Zarifa recently wrote a piece on her project for Woods Bagot's website. At the end of the conference in August, she was “selected to become an Associate Member of the College of the IIAS in recognition of her scholarly work and great contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the field of Landscape Architecture.”

Full paper: Sustainable Desert Development: A Case Study of Al Jazeera Al Hamra