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landscape architecture INTERNSHIP














From 16 April 2013 to 23 August 2013


KAREL MATAR BSc, Landscape Design and Ecosystem Management l American University of Beirut l Lebanon MSc, Landscape Architecture and Planning l Wageningen University l The Netherlands








MASTERS OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE AND PLANNING Wageningen University and Research Centre LAR70424

People, Space and Nature have always been my upmost three interests as well as learning about how they interrelate and influence each other. I have always been passionate about how people interact within their home environment; how socio-spatial patterns influence the landscape and how the constant natural changes affect the environment. Having stated that, entering the landscape architecture was my first choice and pursuing a master in landscape architecture was my second. After finishing my master thesis that concentrated mostly on studying the living environment along the Green Line of Beirut City in Lebanon; I followed a very stimulating internship of 5months with AAArchitects in Rotterdam in which ‘designing’ added its role to my knowledge and brought my interes ts into another pragmatic level. Today, I have very much enjoyed my engagement with landscape architecture and I would love to extend that commitment far into the future; looking forward to larger involvements, more challenges, broader creativity, bolder interventions and stronger impacts.





RESEARCH METHODOLOGY  Learning Goals  Research Topic  Research Question

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ABOUT AAARCHITECTS  Structure and Organization  Life in the Office

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PROJECTS  Project 1: Qatar Embassy, Den Haag, The Netherlands  Project 2: Qatar Residence, Wassenaar, The Netherlands  Project 3: UAE Embassy, Den Haag, The Netherlands

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FIG 1 l AAArchitects location on the map





I N T R O D U C T I O N Part of the second year MSc program in landscape architecture at Wageningen University and Research centre is to follow a 4 to 6months landscape architecture internship. This internship can be pursued either at a design office, a governmental organization, or at a NGO. And the aim of this internship is to have a working period and a working experience outside the academic university environment; furthermore, to allow the student to be exposed to the professional working world in the domain of landscape architecture. In my case, I had certain difficulties and obstacles in finding a suitable internship, mainly because I am an international student and not European; hence some vacancies or opportunities I was not able to get. After a long two months of applying in the Netherlands and in Europe, I got luckily an interview with AAArchitects in Rotterdam who were happy to offer me a 5months internship from April 2013 until the end of August 2013. My internship started officially on the 16th of April 2013 and this report shall give an overview on my learning goals before the start of my internship, as well as an insight onto a research about the internship process and design part; a description of the office and most importantly an illustration of the projects I have worked on within AAArchitects. From another perspective, the report also includes a part about my life experience in the Netherlands and moving to Rotterdam in specific; all allowing me to reach the last part of my report in which evaluating and reflecting upon my role, my development, and my internship period is raised.



FIG 2 l Working space at AAArchitects





Because Wageningen University is a research centre, a large part of its courses as well as the internships concentrate on a research topic that needs to be brought into focus. In other terms, during the internship process, a research assignment was carried on, in which the aim was to set learning objectives and reflect upon them. Moreover, another part of the research is to develop a research question that gives attention to the working appro aches, to the design aspect and to the planning process of the company. 


Before starting to apply for an internship, I had few ideas about what I would like to develop in myself as a landscape architect; but these ideas were not very tangible until I got accepted as an intern in AAArchitects. The search for my internship started in February 2013 by looking at several offices who would usually accept international interns. At that time, my learning goals were simple and basic; I only wanted to start working in the practical field and improve my practical skills because I had spent a major amount of time learning about landscape architecture research and theory. After several email exchanges and phone c alls, I went to three interviews in three different design offices, but it was on the 15th of March 2013 that I received the positive response from AAArchitects. From that moment, and especially after carefully reading the course guide and discussing my offer with my internship supervisor, I started to think more about what I would like to gain from my internship and what I would like to learn in order to improve myself as a landscape architect. Therefore my learning goals got further on developed into more specific and defined goals.

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FIG 3 l Conceptual Sketch of the Qatar Residence project

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The following list gives an overview of my final personal learning goals that were developed after starting my first day of internship: 1. To learn about and experience going through the different phases of a project, and understand more about how the relation between a client’s visions and a designer’s ideas works. This is because, I have mostly worked either for educational and academic purposes, but I haven’t experienced how a project comes to realization. 2. To learn during the project phases, the different methods involved in researching the client needs for a design project. And that is because I haven’t previously experienced working in a medium scale company with direct contact with its clients. 3. To work on various forms of research, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of a project criteria, for instance when it comes to site conditions and construction drawings. This is mainly because, in my previous years, I concentrated a lot on large scale projects and forming concepts/visualizations, without knowing how to work with real site measurements and detailing. 4. To help in the design concept stage for at least one project, in that way I am hoping to be able to work on my creative process and develop it; as well as my design and program/software skills. 5. To work in a multi-disciplinary working environment, where I would like to develop my communication skills with designers from different backgrounds apart from landscape architects (architects, urban planners, urban designers, historical-cultural advisers). To learn how to cooperate with various people from different domains, towards working together on one project. FIG 4 l First draft of personal learning goals

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FIG 5 l Architecture book shelf at AAArchitects

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As I have mentioned in the previous section, one of my strongest learning goals was determining myself to work in a multi-disciplinary office, and fortunately AAArchitects was one of them with workers and interns from different majors. From that point, the research topic focuses on understanding the way different educational and professional backgrounds communicate and cooperate to produce design outcomes and reach final project results. The people working at AAArchitects come from a variety of specializations such as: architects, architects specialized in sustainable management, architects specialized in restoration, urban planners, urban designers, structural engineers, and myself as a landscape architect trainee. One point that is important to mention is that the office undertakes a series of interesting projects where the landscape design part is always handled by architects, urban designers or some of the landscape architecture interns, hence my contribution and involvement in these projects was essential in order to bring my knowledge and expertise and integrate them into the projects and consequently learn from them. In the following report sections I will first highlight the specific characteristics of AAArchitects office especially when it comes to the collaboration of its different professional domains, and second, in the following report chapters I will introduce the different projects I have worked on and describe how the multi-disciplinary approach had its effect on the working process and project outcome. 


Because collaborating and communicating with diverse areas of specializations towards a project was significant for me, I was accordingly interested in the different restrictions and opportunities, in the strengths and in the weaknesses of such a working environment. For this reason, during my internship period I was mostly focusing on that aspect, observing working behaviors and details, taking constant notes and pictures, asking questions, bonding with the other workers and trying to learn as much as possible from their expertise and from this type of approach. Therefore my internship research question is raised and will be answered to in the upcoming report parts and will be reflected upon in the final evaluation chapter. What are the challenges, conditions and advantages faced when different professional backgrounds collaborate in design related projects?

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FIG 6 l Personal drawing of the office plan

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This chapter of the report tells about the office’s structure and organization. It also describes the office’s approach and way of handling projects. AAArchitects is a private architectural firm located in the heart of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The office is a design based studio with both national and international employees and clients; and that was established almost ten years ago in 2004 by architect Amer AlHassan. Amer Alhassan, principal of AAArchitects and my internship supervisor, was born in Baghdad, capital of Iraq 1966 and started his studies in Architecture at the Baghdad University of Technology. After graduating in 1989 and receiving his degree with distinction, he founded ElE1 Architects in 1991 in Baghdad until the end of 1995. Afterwards, he moved to the Netherlands in 1995 to pursue his higher studies at the Academy of Architecture and Urban Design in Rotterdam and in 2002 he obtained his Master of Architecture. After some free lance work and after being one of the Archiprix finalists in 2004, he founded his company AAArchitects in the same year that is still successfully operational today. Amer AlHassan has also lectured at schools of Architecture and currently he tutors at the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands.

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FIG 7 l Design meeting

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AAArchitects is a small private office which projects are many and mainly spread in all Netherlands. The office’s practices are divided amongst collective talents, from architects, to urban designers, to structural engineers, to new-media artists, and to cultural-historical advisers; and that is a structure that reflects the studio’s identity. The office’s vision is to develop concepts in the field of architecture and urbanism that are based on criterias of a contemporary society. “Collaboration” is one essential word if to describe AAArchitects. The office bases its work on everyone’s involvement in everything. This means that the office is not very strict on dividing tasks; a matter that I considered very efficient in order to grasp all studio and project components. This also means that in order to know about a specific project, one employee or trainee at AAArchitects might be assigned to work on different phases/specifications of a project. This open flexibility in working and open design process is considered as a major method in the office in which everyone participates in bringing their own field of knowledge and expertise into discussion. Furthermore, AAArchitects is known for working with external supervisors and profess ionals who are indispensable for certain projects to develop. The fact that AAArchitects is a multi-disciplinary office with different educational and professional backgrounds has its influence on the office’s organization and way of working. In AAArchitects, teaming is important; for example two or three people from different majors are assigned to work together in group on a specific project. In my case, I was grouped one time with a sustainable architect, and another time with an urban planner on three different projects. And in that way I was able to learn a lot from discussing with other employees and trainees about the project when exchanging our opinions and proposals. For instance certain matters about urban planning I did not know, I was able to learn from and integrate them in the project; and vice versa, I was able to share some of my knowledge about landscape architecture with other workers. In addition, there are two types of meetings in AAArchitects, the ones that are directly with Amer AlHassan, this is when major decisions have to be taken ; and the other type of meetings are the secondary ones that are shor t and fast between the workers when discussing ideas and when brainstorming.

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FIG 8 l AAArchitects project folders

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AAArchitects organizes its projects in hard copy files that are stored in the studio shelves according to each project. There is also a digital folder in the office’s server where all the information is categorized: 01-Automatisering 02-Management 03-Administration 04-Projects 05-Image&Photos 06-Marketing 07-Communication 08-Daily Activities And the “Projects” folder, the one that I have used the most during my internship is divided into two parts: 01-Archives 02-In Progress And in “In Progress”, is where all the ongoing projects are located and that are each labeled with a code.

FIG 9 l AAArchitects digital server

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FIG 10 l Model making of UAE Embassy in model room

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AAArchtiects studio has a very enthusiastic and hard working team who are very friendly and willing to help if any questions came along, whether work-related or even personal. The atmosphere in the studio is very relaxing and pleasant, but sometimes stressful when a deadline is approaching. The working hours start normally at 9:00AM and end at 6:00PM, however, depending on projects ‘time limits, stay evenings often take place. Lunch is from 12:30 until 1:00 and sometimes when it is sunny outside, the team often goes out together to enjoy the nice weather during lunch break. The team also goes out once in a while for a beer after work when the work is light and I was luckily warmly welcomed and easily integrated in their environment which made me more comfortable and confident during work times. My relation with the workers as well as with the trainees and the boss was based on mutual respect and strong communication, even if few times there are certain moments where disagreement and misunderstandings take place, especially when it comes to the clashing of different points of views, keeping in mind the multi-disciplinary environment in the office. I recall small arguments between the boss and the workers about certain tasks that were not fairly shared or accurately completed, but at the same time light jokes and friendly atmosphere. When it came to me, I didn’t have any rough times in the office; on the contrary I was quite happy and satisfied with the people and with what I was learning and producing. There were certain moments in which I felt a little less productive than usual, for example after working hours or when there were no strict deadline, but I guess these types of situations exist in all architectural offices. Another important feature that is important in AAArchitects office is that there is no real hierarchy; everyone is responsible of everything. The office is for all to share, to be responsible of and to take care of; a matter that Amer AlHassan always used to clarify. For instance when working on models, the task of cleaning up the model room was the responsibility of everyone, not only the person who worked on the model, whether it was an intern or the boss. Another example is when printers run out of papers or when coffee machines get empty, or when the phones ring; whoever happened to be using them at that moment was responsible of handling the situation. At first I thought that this strategy was somehow unreasonable, but it was after that I understood that this was a way to keep an equal and a moderate atmosphere between the workers; and in that way less tension in the office, hence better working and results.

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FIG 11 l Land cover map of Qatar Embassy project

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P R O J E C T S As I have stated in the previous chapters, AAArchitects is a small private office, but with many a range of different projects spread in the Netherlands. Another reason why I was interested in AAArchitects is because of its small scale projects. During my last 6 years of studying and practicing landscape architecture; the focus was mainly on large scale projects, on master planning, and on analyzing the bigger context of a site’ and on working with concepts generation. However what I was missing was to know how to deal with a small scale site, survey it and understand how to implement a design intervention in it; which I consider sometimes more difficult than working with large scale projects. I was very interested in the AAArchitects projects, because they concentrate basically on site specifications and site conditions, which is a major base for developing design concepts and interventions. During my internship I was involved in three different projects that I will explain in the following part, where I focused a lot on detail drawings, on site measurements and most importantly many site visits. I was very satisfied with this way of working, especially because I wanted to improve that aspect in my expertise and it was one of my learning goals (learning goal 3). Furthermore, working with small scale projects and with detail drawings allowed me to learn more about how design elements are constructed in reality and it is also a way to be closer with the client’s needs and requirements (learning goal 2). Apart from working with construction draw ings, I have also participated in coming up with several design proposals (learning goal4) for a project that I will describe in the next section.

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FIG 12 l Site location of Qatar Embassy

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The Embassy of Qatar is located in Borsweg 7 Den Haag, Scheveningen West Netherlands. The site of this project is located in the surroundings of Den Haag city centre, in a very residential and peaceful area. The embassy is also bordered by the Nieuwe Scheveningse Bosjes, large protected woodland from the north part; by Westbroekpark from the west side; and by Zorgvliet, a green conservation area from the south part; and by Hubertuspa rk, Duinbos, Oostduin, three forests from the east. All these large delicate surrounding green areas have major impact on the embassy. The project purpose is to renovate the Qatar Embassy, starting from the building interior that was handled by architects and engineers to its external landscape; in a way that can strongly respect the relation between the building within its green context. A study of land use was done analyzing the area; the major results were 50% of greenery, 44% of buildings and 6% of other uses. Wind direction and a study of shades and shadows were essential for the landscape design concepts. This was the first project I worked on since the beginning of my internship. As a first step, my task was to work on the landscape surrounding borders of the Qatar Embassy, study all the analysis and the drawings of the existing landscape and come up with different design proposals for the garden, because the previous ones that were already done needed to be modified and further developed. During this phase and after looking at all the previous office work, I was sketching on tracing paper different design proposals and discussing them with Mr.AlHassan who was continuously encouraging me, and giving me his feedback on what to change and how to improve my concepts. I was working in parallel with the existing model that other colle agues were building, as well as the previous AutoCAD drawings. Later on, and along with relative visualizations, I was asked to give different proposals for the canopy of the embassy, and that was the most interesting part of the projects because I had to develop a circulation scheme for the vehicular and pedestrian movements and accessibility within the site. This required few site visits and some research review which helped me a lot in coming up with my design proposals because it is a way to be closer to the area and hence obtaining more pragmatic and realistic results. I was extremely satisfied with the results of my canopy suggestions, because a decision was made after discussing my different ideas and one of them was selected and presented to the Qatar Embassy as a final proposal. In the final chapter of my report, I will evaluate my participation in the different projects and their processes; my learning goals in relation to the projects, as well as reflecting upon my research topic regarding the projects.

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FIG 13 l Qatar Embassy

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FIG 14 l Site analysis – Existing circulation

FIG 15 l Proposal - Circulation

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FIG 16 l Car movement and accessibility analysis

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FIG 17 l Canopy design process

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FIG 18 l Visualization: Qatar Embassy Before

FIG 19 l Visualization: Qatar Embassy After

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FIG 20 l Qatar residence bird view

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The residence of Qatar is located in one of the most prominent and representative places for private residences in Wassenaar, west Netherlands. The Qatar residence consists of a private residential building with its own garden surrounded with large parks and other private gardens. The plot area is 20.937m2 in total with 18.939m2 of green area and 1.998m2 of house/pool area. The large mass of trees surrounding the house assigns a certain a tmosphere and identity for the area because of their density and dark color. The garden is poorly maintained, which can be clearly noticed once present there; some of the trees are dying, others are intertwined between each other and the existing design elements in the garden are hidden because of growing natural vegetation which is disturbing the harmony of the present landscape. Working along with Wassenaar municipality and with specific regulations for planting, trimming and cutting trees; the proposal of the project is to develop a new garden design concept that is based on two features: a vegetal garden and a circular pond. The concept behind the circular pond is based on rain drops of water creating circular waves from the centre that get gradually larger, each having different functions and different materials. As for the vegetal garden, its concept is a carpet shape pattern cutting through the enlarging circular waves acting as a strong and direct access for the garden and for the house entrance in specific. The new garden proposal will also consist of various intimate and open spaces that will form a different image around the residence during the different seasons. My task during this project was to develop two different design proposals for the surrounding of the guard house located at the entrance of the site. However, what was complicated in this project was the existing maps that were not very accurate when it came to the topographical contour lines around the guard house. For this reason drawing the existing landscape was a must before starting to develop the different design concepts and ideas. Therefore, many site visits were required in order to reach the most accurate existing drawings. I learned the most during this project because it was my first time surveying contour lines with survey tools for knowing the measurements of the land in accordance with the guard house building. After drawing the final existing situation with the correct topography lines, I have researched and sketched many ideas and finally I have developed two different proposals for the surrounding areas of the guard house, trying as much as possible to integrate the design within the existing context following the natural landscape. The result was based on conceptual sketches, plans and sections that I have discussed with Mr.AlHassan and that are now being further developed in terms of material use and construction drawings.

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FIG 21 l Visualization: Qatar Residence Before

FIG 22 l Visualization: Qatar Residence After FIG 23 l Masterplan proposal

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FIG 24 l Guard house conceptual diagram

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FIG 25 l Guard house determinant factors for design

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FIG 27 l Guard house proposal cross section

FIG 28 l Guard house proposal cross section FIG 26 l Guard house proposal plan

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FIG 29 l UAE Embassy location

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The UAE Embassy is situated in Eisenhowerlaan 130, Statenkwartier Den Haag, a residential district that is well managed by the municipality; it is surrounded by the Van Stolkpark and the Scheveningse Bosjes, the two largest green spaces in Den Haag. Facing the UAE Embassy from the South-East are new modern high rise buildings for the Yugoslavian International Criminal Tribunal, The Den Haag World Forum, The Novotel Hotel and ABN Amro Bank. These buildings create a sort of transitional belt separating the dense green areas from the historical authentic buildings such as the UAE Embassy with a weak disruptive connection between them. A historical as well as an architectural survey was developed for this embassy in order to be more aware of its importance and its position within its surrounding neighborhood. The building dates back to the early 20 th century in which it was inspired by the neo-gothic, the neo-renaissance and the transitional architecture. As for the landscape surrounding the embassy, it is primarily considered as an extension of the existing streetscape because of the embassy’s contiguous green area that is a continuation of the present row of trees along the adjacent street. The work being done on this project is an extensive investigation and analysis of the historical building itself and its surrounding garden in order to have a strong base for the design proposal. For this project I was assigned to be part of the landscape-related analysis process. I visited the embassy many times, took many pictures, panoramic views, detailed images and sketches in order to bring them back to the studio and form a type of site analysis for its surrounding landscape. This was a way to learn more in depth about the site, and when I paid attention to details, spotted them and drew them, I was able to understand more the area because of capturing the site’s strengths and weaknesses. Consequently, when knowing about all the specific characteristics of the area such as problem identification and site richnes s, drawing the existing situation becomes more accurate. Furthermore, a more solid and realistic design proposal can be generated from extensively analyzing the site. I have gained a lot during my participation in this project, because I was able to learn about site appreciation as well as paying attention to details; for example the more I visited the area the more I was surprised to constantly finding new things that I was not able to see beforehand, through taking pictures or sketching. Apart from site analysis and working with existing situation drawings, I was assigned along with two other colleagues to help with the model making of the UAE Embassy, an area that I am not very skilled at and that I was happily able to improve even if it wasn’t one of my learning objectives.

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FIG 30 l UAE Embassy north view

FIG 31 l UAE Embassy east view

FIG 32 l UAE Embassy south view

FIG 33 l UAE Embassy west view

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FIG 34 l Existing situation garden plan

FIG 35 l Existing situation garden cross section

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FIG 36 l UAE Embassy working model

FIG 37 l Existing situation cross section

FIG 38 l Existing situation cross section

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FIG 39 l UAE Embassy model making

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In this section of my report, I will evaluate my progress during my 5 months internship, I will also evaluate my different learning goals, whether I have achieved them or not; and finally I will reflect upon my research and try to answer my research question. At the start of my internship I had certain uncertainties and doubts concerning my practical skills especially that this was the longest internship I have followed. I had some difficulties in trusting my decisions when it came to designing matters and I felt the need to ask others whether what I was doing was right or wrong. However, now, reaching the end of my internship, I can say that this has completely changed; I have learned to trust my work, certainly when I got to know better the working environment in the office, my colleagues and most importantly my communication skills that have improved towards being more confident and positive. Working as a landscape architect in an architecture office was thriving to me and I have learned during these 5 months more than I have learned during one year at university. During this internship, I have learned also to think in a different way when it comes to a real life project. I was very glad that I was able to have many site visits and working with small scale projects; this was completely a new way of working for me, to be closer to reality and to know how things really get to construction. The experience that I have obtained at AAArchitects gave me a big push on design knowledge within the practical field that I know for sure that will have an impact on my career and will help me to become a better landscape architect in my future plans.

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FIG 40 l AAArchitects studio

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In this part, I will try to evaluate each of my learning goals, to see which were the ones that I was able to achieve and the ones that were difficult to work on. LG 1: Experience different phases of a project and understand the relation between the client’s visions and the designer’s proposals. What I can say from my experience during my internship is that I was able to work on three different phases of three different pro jects. In the first project of Qatar Embassy, I worked on site analysis of the circulation and accessibility within the site, as well as developing design concepts about the entrance canopy; in the second project of Qatar Residence, I have also worked on surveying the area and developing two different design proposals for the guard house surrounding; as for the third project, I studied the historical background as well as mapping/drawing the existing situation of the UAE Embassy that is a base for developing the work further. However, I was not able to see how the relation between a client and a designer works, since all the presentations and the meetings were done in the embassies through Mr.AlHassan who was the intermediate between the clients and us as working designers. LG 2: Learn the different methods used when working in a medium-scale company with small scale projects. Even before starting my internship I was looking for a medium office that undertakes a series of small scale projects, and I was v ery lucky when AAArchitects contacted me because of that. Working with small scale projects is completely different than handling large areas with large master planning. During my last 6 years of landscape architecture experience, I have always been taught about planning, developing large scale site analysis, land uses, forming one masterplan with only few site visits. However when it comes to working with a small scale project, like a residential house, or in my case the embassies; it is completely a different scenario. Some people think that small scale projects are easier than large scale projects; but for me it is quite the opposite. Because of my lack of expertise in handling small projects, I found the situation at the beginning difficult to manage with understanding the building and its surrounding, as well as developing construction drawings. I had few obstacles with my first project, Qatar Embassy, when I had to produce detailed drawings. And that is because in my previous years I have always worked with conceptual and visualization maps, but not with existing maps and construction drawings that are ready to be submitted for the client, or as we call them ‘blue prints’. And the major aspect that I have learned from the most during my internship months; was to be able to grasp the project site in terms of conditions and details as well as working with accurate drawings, in other terms working with reality.

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LG 3: Learn how to work with different forms of research/analysis for example site conditions. During my bachelor and my master program, I have always been taught to assign a big part of a project on the analysis and the research. On the other hand, I was curious to know how an operational architecture office such as AAArchitects deals with site analysis, especially that its projects are eventually constructed and built. What I have learned especially from Qatar Residence and from UAE Embassy, is that when it comes to projects that need to be executed, there are different types of site research and site analysis depending on the client; however the most important is to survey the area in terms of topography lines, measurements, allocating site edges and boundaries‌etc in order to translate in the most accurate way the existing situation onto drawings. LG 4: Help in design concepts for at least one project, be part of the creative process and develop my technical skills. To be honest, before starting my internship, I was concerned about doing many things except designing as an intern. Hearing from other friends of mine interning, some companies benefit from their experience as much as possible without letting them work in their own specialization. On the opposite, I was also lucky to have participated in some designing parts even if they were not that big. For example, the canopy proposal of the Qa tar Embassy and the guard house of the Qatar Residence. Of course I would have liked to develop more concepts and improve my creative skills even more, and completely achieve all my learning objectives but I was satisfied with all that I have worked on because I have learned a little bit from everything, which is for me an internship’s purpose. LG 5: Work in a multi-disciplinary environment to improve my communication skills and to cooperate with different professional backgrounds. This was one of my most important learning objectives. It was also translated as my research topic because I was very curious and interested in knowing how a real project comes to realization. In order for a project to be designed and constructed, different backgrounds and fields of expertise must work together. What I have learned during my internship is that in order to design, a landscape architect should refer to large scale planning as well as details. This means that designing is not 100% intuitive and creative; most of the times the designing part is realistic and rational. For this reason, I learned how to work with urban planners, with urban designers, with architects as well as looking at different construction books in order to help me produce a more coherent and practical design outcome. Even if sometimes different ideas from different backgrounds clashed and did not agree with each other, it was a richness for me to learn from.

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Reflecting upon my research topic and answering my research question, on what are the challenges, conditions and advantages faced when different professional backgrounds collaborate in design related projects? As I have mentioned in my last learning objective, was my insisting on working in a multi-disciplinary office. I was observing how the workers were collaborating between each other, not only when it came to projects, but also the social relationships in the office. I chose to use the word ‘challenges’ or even ‘opportunities’ instead of problems or difficulties because I consider that all the experiences that I have faced during my internship even the negative ones, were significant surpluses for me that I have learned from for my upcoming future career. Hence, when it came to the multi-disciplinary approach that was applied in the office, I have faced some challenges. For example, people from different backgrounds who work together sometimes didn’t share the same knowledge or the same lines of thoughts, and this is when clashes or arguments took place. I have experienced a couple of stories from this kind in my internship when I was discussing with one architect about a landscape related matter; I recall here my argument about the design that must fit within its context and should not be radically imposed into the residents. On the other side, the architect’s point of view was to create a completely new design that will attract the inhabitants of the area as well as the visitors. Consequently, the difference between architects and landscape architects started to appear. During my internship and while working with professionals from other backgrounds, I noticed a major difference between us as landscape architects and architects. Architects tend to place their interests in forms and aesthetics, while people seek safety and functionality which landscape architects take more into consideration. In other words, landscape architects don’t always design forms, but also experiences and communities; landscape architects act as enablers and always integrate behavioral/social setting in their designs, unlike architects who concentrate more on imposing their unique designs. Which I found difficult to agree on when I worked with other architects who cared more about the final form of their designs rather than the content. This is not a generalization of course, but only a notification that occurred to me during my internship. I recall here a phrase that I can never forget by Prof.Koh at Wageningen University who said that “the best landscape designs are when you don’t notice them, because they fit in the context and in the landscape. Also the best landscape architects are not recognized by everyone, but at least by the users of their own designs.” (Koh, 2012)

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Furthermore, combining different perspectives allowed me to be more aware of site conditions and learn how to design in a more realistic way. And this is for instance where the dialogue between being scientific or artistic as a landscape architect takes place. “…if we contrast the sciences, the humanities and design under each aspect, we may become clearer of what we mean by design and what is particular to it.” (Cross 2006, p.2) This means that the more designing gets intertwined with science, the more designing gets closer to reality, hence the more accurate and precise it becomes. Furthermore, and from what I have understood, Donald Schon also calls it as the “reflection-in-action”; reflecting upon implementing through designing, where the designer is also a researcher. Another challenge that I have faced during my internship, was my defense in coming with more than one design proposal, because I believe that there is no one solution as well as there is no one problem. However when it comes to architectural offices and to professionals in the field of architecture, developing one solution is always preferable because it is more efficient since the concentration is only on one product and also because it saves a lot of time. According to Cross, “most expert designers become readily attached to single, early solution concepts and are reluctant to abandon them in the face of difficulties in developing these concepts into satisfactory solutions”. However, he continues by saying that “generating a very wide range of alternatives may not be a good thing: some studies have suggested that a relatively limited amount of generation of alternatives may be the most appropriate strategy” (Cross, 2004. p427-441) Therefore, I suppose that the subject of developing one or multiple solutions/proposals is still very debatable and depends on the office, the project’s conditions and most importantly the existing situation of a site. Moreover, rushing into the solution is also another feature that I have noticed in the office. During university years, we are taught to focus a lot on site analysis and research, whereas when it comes to the practical world, solution is always put more in value. In AAArchitects, developing and improving proposals takes more time and effort than investigating the existing. Cross also agrees here and claims that “expert designers are solution-focused, not problem-focused. This appears to be a feature of design cognition which comes with education and experience in designing.” (Cross, 2004 p427-441)

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Therefore, in these types of situation, one of the conditions behind working in a multi-disciplinary environment is to find a balanced way of communicating. In Arabic we say “the ability to give and receive”. In other words, I learned to listen to others, to explain my ideas, and to try to convince in a respectful and logical way; without letting my urge or my expertise exceed me. I have also learned to accept that the other might have a point of view even if he/she was not a landscape architect. Sometimes we as landscape architects, we tend to upraise our field and we tend to frame ourselves unintentionally in boxes where we find it difficult to get out from. Donald Schon states that when professionals set a problem “they select what they will treat as the things of the situation, they set the boundaries of their attention to it, and they impose upon it a coherence which allows them to say what is wrong and in what directions the situation needs to be changed.” (Schon 1983, p.40) He continues by saying that “a problem setting is a process in which, interactively, we name the things to which we attend and frame the context in which we attend to them” (Schon 1983, p.40). Nigel Cross also has a say in this, “some studies have suggested that over-concentration on problem definition does not lead to successful design outcomes. It appears that successful design behavior is based not on extensive problem analysis, but on adequate ‘problem scoping’ and on a focused or directed approach to gathering problem information and prioritizing criteria”. (Cross, 2004 p.427-441). Therefore and based on Schon’s and Cross’s claims, merging different professional knowledge might produce better and richer outcomes. And that is also the reason why he refers to design as “designing” he says that “in its broader sense, involves complexity and synthesis”. On the other hand, the advantage from working in a multi-disciplinary environment is the great amount of knowledge that I have received. The thing that I have learned the most from collaborating with various backgrounds is to enrich my way of thinking; therefore my way of designing that became more mature or solid if I can say. I was able to know that designing isn’t only based on conceptual subjective thinking or on one solution-oriented, but rather on designing and coming up with different solutions while thinking that this design will be implemented in the future. “Generating a wide range of alternative solution concepts is an aspect of design behavior which is recommended by theorists and educationists” (Cross, 2004 p.427-441). And this is the main importance of an internship, the certainty that the design will be implemented, therefore bigger responsibility, wider research and more collaboration between different professional backgrounds; thus, a multi-disciplinary working approach.

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FIG 41 l View of Rotterdam from my room towards the east

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Moving out of Wageningen after experiencing one and a half year living there was the best decision I have ever made. It was very crucial for me to have my internship somewhere other than Wageningen and therefore experience a different Dutch city…a different way of living. It’s been 4 months now that I have been living here in Rotterdam and I still can’t believe how fast the time has passed. Before my internship started, many people did not encourage me to come here saying that it will not be easy and that it is not the most pleasant city to live in; but to be honest I never regretted once moving to Rotterdam. Despite the cold and the windy weather in Rotterdam, even in the middle of July, the city offered me a lot. I came far from home, all the way from Lebanon to the Netherlands (I still don’t know until today why I chose the Netherlands, but I am very glad I did) and for some reason Rotterdam reminds me of a lot of my hometown Beirut city. In between all these high concrete skyscrapers and its cold character, Rotterdammers share the need to find all these little most charming and historical places ever like for example the old harbors and make the best out of them. Aside from all the history and the culture that the city holds; lying on the River Maas, Rotterdam is also one of the most famous cities for its well known architects, grand architecture offices, and most wonderful designed buildings. I always felt as if I was living in the heart of the architecture world which for me was overwhelming. I was lucky to find a place in the centre of where I made many new friends, international and Dutch. One thing that I really liked about Rotterdam is the strong mix and interaction between the Dutch and the foreigners, something that I didn’t find a lot in other cities in the Netherlands. Despite all the cultural differences and the language barrier, I found my way to surviving in the Netherlands and to falling in love with Rotterdam. In this journey and after these two most wonderful and memorable years of my life, I will take with me all the best moments I have spent here…all the my difficult times…all what I have learned from the Dutch (a.k.a learning how to bike)…all the incredible culture I have absorbed…but most importantly all the beautiful people I have met and that I will never forget. Thank you Netherlands for hosting me…thank you Rotterdam…until we meet again…

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I would like to thank all the team of AAArchitects, especially Mr.Amer AlHassan; as well as my supervisors at Wagenigen University, especially Mrs.Ingrid Ducchart and Mrs.Marlies Brinkhuijsen for helping me make all this possible. References: Cross,N. (2006).Designerly ways of knowing. London: Springer Cross,N. (2004). Expertise in design: an overview. Design Studies 25, p. 427--‐441 Schön, D.A. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. Basic Books © All projects presented in this report are AAArchitects copyright August 2013

Landscape Architecture Internship Report - Karel Matar  

Landscape Architecture Internship Report - Rotterdam, The Netherlands 2013

Landscape Architecture Internship Report - Karel Matar  

Landscape Architecture Internship Report - Rotterdam, The Netherlands 2013