Akbar Nazim Modan
Questions and answers:
Before you came to Brookes what did you study and where?
Before I came to Oxford Brookes, I studied architecture at CEPT University in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. My interest in post-disaster built environments drew me to the Brookes IARD Masters course, which has a particular focus on vernacular architecture, and the rehabilitation of settlements struck by conflict or natural disaster.
How has the course you studied at Oxford Brookes helped you in your career?
The course’s focus on vernacular architecture heavily influenced my career because it allowed me to explore built environments within their social, cultural and historical context more. A university field trip to Cyprus gave me insight and experience in to working in a post-conflict environment. This furthered my interest in architectural regeneration and development, and confirmed how both regeneration and development should be carried out with the cultural attitudes, and historical background of a settlement in mind.
After graduating from Oxford Brookes what were the next steps for your career and where are you working now?
From 2009-2011, I worked as a Conservation Architect on the Revitalisation of the Erbil Citadel, Iraq. The project was part of UNESCO’s contribution to the UN’s reconstruction and development efforts in Iraq. The citadel, frequently cited as the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the World, stands on an 8000 year old archaeological mound, and was partly damaged during Saddam Hussein’s regime.
From 2010-2012, I worked as a Rural Shelter Manager in Haiti, post-earthquake. The objectives of the programme were to increase access to water and sanitation facilities, provide safe shelter and non-food items for displaced families, and increase the purchasing power of affected population. The project was funded by USAid for reconstruction and rehabilitation in Haiti. We developed an upgradable shelter with eco-friendly materials and appropriate construction techniques suitable for the local culture.
Currently I am a senior researcher with ‘The World Habitat Research Centre’, Department of Environment, Construction and Design, University of Applied Sciences of Southern Switzerland. Based in India, I work in post-disaster traditional and re-located rural settlements helping to further understanding of habitats, housing and social change within built environments. For four weeks of the year, I also teach in an Architectural Documentation Teaching programme at the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage, with the University of Delaware.
What achievements are you most proud of since graduating?
My time in Iraq was definitely a highlight in my career so far. The architectural regeneration of Erbil Citadel was a great learning curve, encouraging me to adopt a vernacular architectural approach in future projects.
What advice would you give current students?
First I think it’s important when working to have a vision of your own; one you can believe in and develop. This will add a uniqueness and originality to your work, and allow your career to evolve in a way that is more in line with your personal interests and values.
I would also advise students to think ‘outside the box’ when it comes to career prospects and employment. Often jobs are available, but are not well advertised. In particular for architects, it’s important to remember that construction is booming in many developing countries, and job opportunities exist on an international scale.
Are you currently involved with Oxford Brookes? If so, how?
Yes, I am still in contact with Oxford Brookes lecturers and the architecture department. I recently came back to Brookes to talk with current International Architectural Regeneration and Development students, and share information about projects I have worked on since graduating from university.
In what way is remaining connected to your university and alumni network important to you?
It’s important to connect with people in your professional field and maintain those contacts in order to strengthen career prospects and broaden your understanding. I secured a place on The Revitalization of the Erbil Citadel UNESCO project thanks to my Brookes connections, so I strongly appreciate how valuable a relationship with your university can be.