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Husam AlWaer is an URBANIST with a background in "Architecture, Urban Planning and Sustainability", who writes and speaks extensively on making better places. He is an award-winning author and curator of events, focussing on issues of place making and urban design practice and their social impacts. He is an educator, facilitator and moderates events nationally and internationally. He is a Reader in Sustainable Urban Design in the School of Social Sciences (Architecture + Urban Planning), University of Dundee, having previously researched and taught at Reading and Liverpool universities.
He is the MA Urban Planning Programmes Director. He has a passionate interest in the future of sustainable places, and towns, in particular the development of new thinking on processes and methods to unlock sustainable urbanism and the way these processes are facilitated and managed. His work sits at the intersection of disciplines (sustainability, urbanism, urban design, architecture, anthropology), the intersection of spatial scales including their core and periphery (Buildings, Streets, Neighbourhoods, and Cities), and at the intersection of theoretical and contemporary thoughts, policies and applications.
Wider Impact & Engagement with built environment professionals
Husam believes it is important to make his academic work relevant and useful to practice. For the past 10 years, he has been the founder, curator, process designer and facilitator of a series of annual symposia titled ‘Place-making, Professionals and the Public’. These 10 events and associated international seminars have provided a 'neutral platform' for mutual understanding and exchange, leading to the co-production of new insight and new methods for Sustainable placemaking. Their main success lies in developing a body of new knowledge that is both relevant (to the University’s transformation strategic areas and government / industry priorities) and internationally valued for the insights provided.
His research has had broader impact within the community of practice and policy makers, influencing professional and policy debates nationally and internationally via invitations from national and international Governments, organisations, firms and universities for outreach activities and public engagement, transferring lessons/knowledge learnt and applying them to new contexts. Prestige invitations have included presentations/workshops to PlaceMaking Leadership Forum, Scottish Government, Cairo Governorate, Saudi Government, UAE Government, RTPI, Urban Design Group, the Academy of Urbanism, Future Build, and 3 prestige invitations in 2016 supported by the UN in Vancouver, Riyadh and Dubai.
Working Collaboratively Locally and Globally
Husam has a considerable national and international reputation, evidenced, for example, by: his contribution to the funded Scottish Government’s Planning Review; a recent project funded by the Scottish Government investigating the potentially significant role of facilitation in community participatory design processes; a recent invitation to facilitate the Springburn Regeneration Charrette process, Cairo International Future City Co-Design Workshops (April 2019).
The Scottish Government twice has drawn me in as a special adviser on charrette events and their New Ideas funded Programme. The Academy of Urbanism in Scotland recently invited me to join their committee. This reflects positively on the University, as well as validating his integrity and professional judgment. His approach to sustainable urbanism been recognised within commendations and various national and international Awards. For example, he was awarded both the 2014 and 2016 the prestigious Reed and Mallik Ltd Journal Prize for the best papers published in the Journal of Urban Design and Planning.
He has published over 45 peer-reviewed international journal papers, professional reports and books relating to the broad topic of Urban Design & Sustainability, including his recent published book “Site and Composition: Design Strategies in Architecture and Urbanism” with Bandyopadhyay and Aldallal (Routledge, 2016); and a new international edited book with Barbara Illsley on “Rethinking Masterplanning: Creating Better Places” (ICE Publisher, 2018).The excellence of his work in urban planning and urban design has been recognised by gaining the following prestige professional statuses: MRTPI, BREEAM AP, AoU, FRSA, Recognised Practitioner in Urban Design.
Husam has five parallel research trajectories:
- Investigating how masterplanning and urban design practice (nationally and internationally) can contribute to promoting sustainable development and, in particular, the use of assessment methodologies in urban development decision-making. what role assessment frameworks provide in the performance measurement of master-plan development options.
- Investigating how the place- making process can be used to identifying needs and issues, and local community assets and capacities in order to allow for the creation of meaningful places.
- Investigating how the innovative methods of co-creation and co-design (i.e. collaborative/participatory place making) can be applied at a local-level. How to enhance the output performance of collaborative/participatory place making events and similar participatory design processes. What new possibilities might open up if there was real co-creation in place-making (as to opposed to consultation, which is often only a step away from tokenism)?
- Assessing the competencies of built environment professionals and reviewing their roles in creating better outcomes and deliver sustainable design and places, and what changes are needed to learning and development.
- Emergency Urbanism and Architecture of Displacement: investigating how refugees in the refugee camp navigate through the imposed top-down, rigid, regulatory approach to transform their living environment creatively by collectively placemaking using bottom-up approaches for re-purposing, adjusting, dismantling, merging spaces and structure.
Husam has been a key driver in bringing sustainable urban design knowledge and thinking directly into the School programmes, by using participatory, co-creation, qualitative, 'hands-on', ‘learning by doing’, and reflexive learning techniques. As a way to enhance the student learning experience, he established the ‘Urban Laboratories’ (Univer-Dundee City) Initiative which has encouraged the development of strategic partnerships across the city between our students (undergraduate and postgraduate), civic authorities, citizens, private practice and academics. This initiative has helped our students to:
- display professional competence and yet be receptive to views from stakeholders (e.g. local authorities & private practice), in developing urban design-led solutions to local real issues
- develop, test and design a shared vision or story of change for selected sites in Dundee (i.e. Lochee, Hilltown, Albert Street, Blackness Area) and beyond using different methods and
- make informal and formal presentations to a range of audiences using a variety of graphic and digital tools & techniques. This partnership approach has had benefits for all involved
Resistance to collaboration, a lack of a shared sense of purpose, and basic professional jealously can all lead to disastrous development outcomes for communities, according to a University of Dundee expert in urban design.