For innovative design thinking, scholarly dedication, contributions to the academy and leadership in architectural and environmental design research, Ahmed K. Ali, an assistant professor of architecture at Texas A&M University, earned the Architectural Research Centers Consortium’s 2018 New Researcher Award, a prestigious accolade bestowed annually to an emerging scholar.
Ali champions the reuse of industrial waste, such as scrap sheet metal from the automotive industry, to create building skins and other exterior systems as a novel way to demonstrate the value of design. This reuse of materials results in fewer items destined for the landfill, creates new jobs and promotes unconventional thinking.
In a Dec. 2017 paper appearing in Enquiry, a leading research journal published by the ARCC, Ali suggests a framework for incorporating sustainable building materials and manufacturers’resources into conventional architectural practices. Creative reuse, he said, is part of the concept of the circular economy revolution, in which resources are kept in use as long as possible for maximum value — an alternative to the traditional and prevalent make, use and dispose economy.
“The United States is very well-known as a throw-away society,” Ali said. “A circular economy is a concept that Europe is currently implementing, but the U.S. is still lacking behind. I’m interested in utilizing solid non-hazardous wasteflows and by-products generated from large manufacturers, companies and corporations. For instance, General Motors generates a substantial volume of sheet metal waste, so we add value to it by designing and using it in building designs.”
Ali, in partnership with the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development and companies such as GM and Zahner, recently led students in a studio project aimed at the creative reuse of non-hazardous manufacturing waste.The students created a competition-winning conceptual design for a Houston Museum of Waste made from reused materials and aimed at raising public awareness on sustainable practices. The design guidelines called for the building to be skinned in sheet metal refuse from automotive manufacturing.
Ali accepted the New Researcher Award at the ARCC – EAAE (European Association for Architectural Education) 2018 International Conference in Philadelphia where he presented a new research paper, “Finding perfection in imperfection — a case study in designing waste within a circular economy.”
Additionally, Ali has been invited to speak this March at PLÅT18, a prestigious annual Scandinavian conference in Malmö, Sweden devoted to metal sheeting and architecture. He will join the Korean architect Moon Hoon, the New York firm, Framlab, and the Swedish initiative HYBRIT.
Previous speakers featured at PLÅT18 include Ryue Nishizawa, with the award-winning Tokyo architecture firm, SANAA; Jacob van Rijs of MVRDV, a The Netherlands-based architecture and urban design practice; Caroline Bos, with United Network Studio (UNS), an Amsterdam-based international design network; Dominique Perrault, Kengo Kuma, Karolin Schmidbaur of Coop Himmelb(l)au, an international architecture planning design group founded in Vienna, Austria; Robert Greenwood of Snøhetta, a Norwegian design firm; Farshid Moussavi and Julie Eizenberg of Koning Eizenberg Architecture, in Santa Monica, Calif.; and Doris Kim Sung and William Zahner, of Zahner, an architectural metal and glass company in Kansas, Mo.
The annual event, attended by architects, contractors and consultants from around the world, highlights sheet metal facades and metal’s architectural potential while showcasing sustainable and unconventional ways of utilizing it.
Ali, is the founder and director of the Resource Based Design Research Lab at the Texas A&M College of Architecture and a faculty fellow with the college’s Center for Health Systems & Design and the Center for Housing & Urban Development. A Texas A&M faculty member since 2015, Ali holds a Ph.D. in Architecture, a Master of Science in Architecture, and a Master of Architecture from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, as well as a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Architecture from Alexandria University in Egypt. He has been teaching and practicing architecture in the United States, Italy, Turkey and Egypt since 1998.
Ali’s scholarly works can be accessed online.