Tech Wins International Urban Design Competition

Professor Richard Dagenhart and his four-member student team won�1st place in Dubai sustainable urban development forum

Georgia Tech's urban architecture and urban design team has won first place in the Dubai Forum on Sustainable Urban Development (DSUD). The international competition sought the best proposal for rehabilitating Dubai's Central Business District. Georgia Tech took the top prize, while Pavia University (Italy) placed second.

The Georgia Tech team (College of Architecture graduate students Shauna Achey, C. Scott D'Agostino, Chad Stacy and Jeffrey Williams) presented their proposal last week in Dubai. The proposal included suggestions on broad principals, design strategies and specific courses of action for next steps.

"The Georgia Tech project told a story," said Professor Richard Dagenhart, who oversaw the team. "We knew from the feedback that we received right away that our project was among the best in the competition. Everyone understood the story we were trying to tell, and that was a key indication that they understood the overall concept of the project."

"It was a little intimidating to present to an international jury at first," said Williams. "However, we were confident about our work. I was proud to be associated with this group of world-class designers and positively represent Georgia Tech in the international arena."

The Georgia Tech team created its proposal during winter break and worked on the project during the first few weeks of spring semester. The team's first step was to study the traditional Islamic city and traditional house forms and learn from them. The proposals then combined tradition with contemporary design for new housing, public spaces, and the tradition of Dubai's wind towers designed to be public art.

"I think our students had a unique opportunity to see how architecture reveals a different cultural tradition in the Middle East" said Dagenhart. "At the same time, the international competition also showed that architectural education is very similar worldwide."

Dagenhart also suggested that the biggest impact on the students might be the collaborative work itself.

"It really was a unique learning opportunity," Dagenhart said. "The students were able to work collaboratively with their professor, which is much different from or normal group or individual studio work. I set the direction and they did the work. If something didn't work, then they had to figure out something else."

The winning team received a cash prize, part of which will be split among the students with the rest going to the College of Architecture to promote urban design and research, including recruitment of students to the program.

The competition included five universities from around the world representing different regions. The four other universities were South Australia (Australia), Tongji (China), Pavia (Italy) and Aleppo (Syria). An international jury of architects and urban designers - from Australia, Canada, Egypt, Malasia, France and Scotland - reviewed the competition projects and selected the winners.