The University of Arizona

UA Students Head to Middle East to Aid in Urban Revitalization in Oman

By Alexis Blue, University Communications | September 13, 2012
Muscat, Oman
Muscat, Oman

A dozen architecture, landscape architecture and planning students will spend two-and-a-half weeks in the Middle Eastern city of Muscat, Oman, examining urban revitalization projects for the area.

Landscape architecture students Kawthar Rayyan and Lori Radcliffe-Meyers discuss their upcoming trip to Oman during a recent class session.
Landscape architecture students Kawthar Rayyan and Lori Radcliffe-Meyers discuss their upcoming trip to Oman during a recent class session.

Students in Mark Frederickson’s international studio class in the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture have learned plenty about concepts of architecture, landscape architecture and planning throughout their University careers, but they soon will get the opportunity to put those lessons to work in the “real world” – in a world thousands of miles away.

This week, the 12 University of Arizona students will travel to the Middle East to embark on two-and-a-half weeks of research and field work in Muscat, the capital city of Oman. While there, they will work with students and faculty from Sultan Qaboos University to examine a number of potential urban revitalization projects for the city. 

The students will research and evaluate a variety of projects, which might involve everything from public transportation to urban farming to wastewater management. They then will develop planning recommendations to share with public officials in the Muscat municipality.

The UA-Muscat collaboration was made possible in large part by Muscat’s mayor, Sultan Bin Hamdoon Al Harthi, a graduate of the UA College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and the college’s 2011 Alumnus of the Year, who suggested the University team up with his city. 

This is not the first time Frederickson, an associate professor of landscape architecture, has traveled internationally with his students. In past years, he’s involved them in similar projects in locations such as Palestine, Mexico and Panama, working primarily in impoverished areas there. He hopes next year to take his class to Hong Kong.

Frederickson said the international experience is invaluable for students, as it fosters cultural appreciation and helps prepare them to be competitive in a global market.

“This has to do with the globalization of the profession,” he said. “Students will be much more effective having gone out and made these cultural adjustments. We’re trying to mimic what they might run into with an international firm, NGO or public agency.”

Levi Van Buggenum, an architecture senior in Frederickson’s class, said he hopes the trip will open a window into the international job market and reveal new and different ways of approaching planning and design challenges.

“Working specifically and only on projects sited in the U.S., one can bring preconceived ideas to a design problem,” he said. “This will provide exposure to different cultural dynamics.”

The students in Frederickson’s six-credit studio class are a mix of undergraduates and graduates studying architecture, landscape architecture or planning. To prepare for the trip, the interdisciplinary group has been meeting at the UA Downtown campus three days a week, four hours a day, since the beginning of the semester to learn about the Oman region.

Nada Alqallaf, a senior majoring in architecture, said she’s looking forward to experiencing a different culture and being challenged to apply the skills she’s learned in the classroom in a setting far from home.

“We’re going to have to adapt to them, not the other way around,” she said.

Jaime Sevilla, also a senior majoring in architecture, echoed his classmate.

“We’re going to apply everything we’ve learned over the past few years, but now it’s real. We’re being responsive to the needs of a society,” he said.

Students will spend most of their time in Oman, but they also will pay a visit to Dubai to observe design and planning projects in that area, which is known for its highly modern feel, Frederickson said.

When they return to the states, the students will spend the rest of the semester compiling a 150-200-page master plan based on their research and design ideas, which they will share with Muscat leadership.

Lori Radcliffe-Meyers, a third-year graduate student in landscape architecture, said she is excited that she and her classmates may be able to have a real, tangible impact.

“We’re actually going to be working with the Omani sultanate, looking at areas that need to be developed, and they want our help,” she said. “This is a real-world experience.”