With Arch. Season ’17 from SVENM in Dubai Design Week warming up the city for its inaugural Architectural Biennale next year and news that the Sharjah Architecture Triennial will launch in 2019, alongside the high-profile opening of Jean Nouvel’s iconic Louvre Abu Dhabi, the UAE is buzzing with inspiration, ideas and debate on current architectural practice.

The launch of a new education initiative in the emirate, therefore, could be described as both opportune or timely.

Titled the Young Architect and Design Program (YADP), the initiative is housed in a dedicated space, set up in partnership with Alserkal Avenue. Its remit is to promote architecture and design around the themes of learning, exchange and collaboration. The space in Warehouse 44, Alserkal Avenue, begins its programming with a presentation about the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme (HCP). With a similar format to the display of the winning entries in Art Week’s Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA), which is a mentor for the YADP, 28 panels give information about the range of projects completed and underway from Afghanistan to Canada.

The variety of initiatives is worthy of note, ranging from regeneration schemes and the creation of green spaces in urban centres such as Cairo and Delhi, to skills-training in Pakistan. Inspired by His Highness the Aga Khan, a desire to improve quality of life and positively shape the future lies at the heart of the programme.
Nazneen Shafi who is leading the project through her role as executive director of Engage Me, explains the objectives of YADP as “positively influencing and guiding young minds towards the issues and challenges of the future built environment, particularly the issues of development and urbanization”.

Plans for the next six months include study tours of forts in the UAE focusing on preservation and restoration requirements for such cultural assets and workshops for children on architecture and design. Shafi has been a strong supporter of female cultural practitioners throughout her career, working on the Sheikha Manal Young Art Award and Exchange Program so it comes naturally that in January the programme will present an exhibition on Arab Women Architects. To date male practitioners have dominated the field; the YADP looks set to provide an opportunity to redress that balance.

Featured Image:  Shiraz Allibhai, Deputy Director of The Aga Khan Trust For Culture and Nazneen Shafi Executive Director Engage ME and The Young Architect and Design Program take His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mabarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance, Her Excellency Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development for the United Arab Emirates on a tour of the The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme together with Abdelmonem Alserkal Founder of the Alserkal Avenue where the d.Academy by YADP is based. Accompanying them are Amiruddin Thanawalla, President of the Ismaili Muslim Community in the United Arab Emirates and Aziz Merchant, Vice President of the Ismaili Muslim Community in UAE.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, Letters from the past#43, page 42.