How studying architecture in Dubai led me to become a 'rising star' | Top Universities
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How studying architecture in Dubai led me to become a 'rising star'

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Laura Lightfinch

Updated Jun 09, 2023
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Study architecture at Canadian University of Dubai (CUD)

Sponsored by Canadian University Dubai

Dubai is one of the most frequently visited cities in the world, famed for its abundant global business opportunities, ambitious skyscrapers, and forward-thinking culture.  It’s home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, as well as a thriving luxury hotel industry and has positioned itself as a theme park destination.

Alan George is a dynamic, award-winning architect in Dubai, where he studied a BSc in Architectural Studies at Canadian University Dubai (CUD).  Since graduating, Alan has been awarded a golden visa for his contribution to building the United Arab Emirates environment through architecture. 

Most recently, he was named 'Rising Star of the Year’ at the 2022 Construction Week Awards, while working as a Senior Architect at Orange Design Group in Dubai.  He thanks his education at CUD, in part, for his success and status as a trailblazing architect. 

Alan was interviewed by TopUniversities to discuss his career path up to this point, the ways in which his CUD degree propelled his advancement, and the advice he would offer to his former self as a student. 

How did it feel to win the 2022 Construction Week Rising Star of the Year Award? 

“It is truly an honour to win the category of 'Rising Star of the Year',” Alan said.  “This has been a culmination of key learnings and the ability to add value across many design verticals.  We, at Orange Design Group in Dubai, we strive to uplift both ourselves and the holistic ecosystem of the architectural landscape.  It also wouldn’t have been possible without my support system, who provided late-night coffees, creative space, and lots of patience.”

Why did you to choose to study at Canadian University Dubai? 

“I felt that CUD provided genuine value through the architecture program,” said Alan. “The course offered a blend of theory with practical design studios and the campus location made accessibility and commuting an easy task.”

The BSc in Architectural Studies at CUD provides students with an understanding of architectural design fundamentals as well as gaining advanced skills in graphic design, digital modeling, and communication.  With strong connections to the local and global built environment industry, students can prepare themselves for successful careers, and develop practical knowledge of building systems, technology, and materials, and an appreciation of sustainable building. 

He added, “Not to mention that CUD offered a seamless transition to completing a Canadian degree in Dubai. It was a no-brainer.”

How did your CUD professors impact your professional career? 

Alan stated that his professors had a profound impact on him, both personally and professionally. He said: “They were able to provide me with a balance between academic excellence and the reality of working in the field of architecture.  The professors exceeded my expectations.” 

The faculty within the Department of Architecture provides a truly global perspective within the architecture field, representing a broad range of backgrounds and countries including the UK, the USA, Australia, Canada, Greece, and the Middle East.  

Tell us about your professional journey thus far

Upon graduating from CUD, Alan joined an engineering firm in Dubai and he rapidly acquired valuable experiences.  Within a year, he successfully oversaw the construction of a significant logistics centre, situated on Sheikh Zayed Road, the UAE's longest highway and the location of many of Dubai's most prominent skyscrapers. 

“A few years later, I joined the team delivering the masterplan and key projects for Mina Rashid, Dubai’s manmade marina and cruise terminal.  This was a massive learning curve and I enjoyed thoroughly it.” Alan said. “Over the last four years, I’ve had the honour of being a designer at the Orange Design Group, with the privilege of being part of numerous bespoke, award-winning projects within the residential and hospitality sector.”

For the past four years, Alan has been the driving force behind the aForm Show, the premier architecture and design podcast in the region.  The show is designed by designers, for designers, and has garnered popularity within the design ecosystem, playing a crucial role in elevating the profile of the industry. 

Alongside his professional roles, Alan has always kept one foot in academia taking part in external juries, giving lectures and working part-time at several universities across the UAE.  He is still closely affiliated with the Canadian University Dubai, as an advisory board member in the School of Architecture and Interior Design. 

How has your qualification from CUD helped your progression? 

Alan stated: "The most enjoyable aspect of my time at CUD was collaborating with my peers, who have now become industry peers.  The connections we forged while working together in the design studio have become lifelong.  We have remained in contact and continue to help elevate one another as we progress through our professional journeys.  While we once focused on discussing projects on campus, our conversations now revolve around a broad range of topics, including suppliers, contractors, clients, deadlines, budgets, and more.”

Alan credited his BSc in Architectural Studies from CUD for instilling in him a sense of curiosity, stating: "Through the design studio, I learned to think beyond the ordinary and to extend the limits of design by exploring multiple possibilities.  The faculty helped drive my tenacity and taught me how to stand by my principles and design thinking.”

What advice would you give to your former student self?  

Alan’s advice is concrete: “Say yes to any and all opportunities!  Architects often develop an interest in various fields and subjects as time progresses.  Pursuing opportunities that extend beyond traditional architecture school should not be disregarded or dismissed.  In reality, diversity fosters the development of holistic designers.  Every opportunity presents a chance to learn and brings us one step closer to achieving our objectives.” 

Photo by Roman Logov on Unsplash