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Salem Al Qudwa joined the School of Architecture as a full-time PhD by Design Student in 2015 and his research project is titled "Architecture of the Everyday as a Responsive Possibility for the Gaza Strip, Palestine".
The School of Architecture has earned an outstanding reputation as one of the top five architecture schools in the UK.
I worked for eleven years in design and construction and also taught architecture in Palestine.
My first semester was very energetic. I attended most of the academic events for researchers at Brookes, including extensive training sessions and learning about other methodological approaches at the weekly lunch research seminars.
In May 2015, I presented my research with a presentation and a poster at the 3rd Annual Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment Student Research Conference. My colleagues’ presentations were vibrant and, supported by their mapping and works in reality, gave a real value to the essence of our research and its role towards the development of our communities. My poster was judged the most informative and graphically appealing and I was pleased that my work was recognised in this way.
I attended most of the Architecture Society's lectures presented by high profile professionals. Oxford has given me the chance to fulfil my artistic potentials through visiting exhibitions and art galleries. Walking tours enabled me to develop a good understanding of contemporary and modern architecture within the ‘city of dreaming spires’ .
Trying to give something back to Brookes and the City, I worked as a guest tutor in reviews and tutorials for undergraduate and master studios. I took part in installing the end of year show of the School of Architecture in May 2015 and volunteered with a registered charity caring for elderly people with physical and mental health problems.
With very limited resources, I financed the first year of my study. I was aware of the challenges and financial constraints related to leaving my family and starting a new life as a research student in the UK but I was persistent to take the challenge. I believe that my studies will help me offer something meaningful in return, not only for myself but for the whole community and families in Gaza who are desperate for a change to happen.
In January 2016 I received the Oxford Brookes 150th Anniversary Funding (Architecture Student Award). I am proud to have received this recognition which has encouraged me to push on with my studies and never give up. I became a research assistant to the Design Theory and Practice research group and working closely with design researchers is an exciting research experience.
My research curiosity resides in how to engage local affected communities in the reconstruction process and to empower them to build their own appropriate homes that respond to their socio-cultural practices while making efficient use of scarce resources.
Being a research student is a transformative experience. I have great supervisors who are always available for advice and checking the development of my research. In my first year, I made excellent progress on the specific topic and also on how to manage my research project, providing a strong foundation for my PhD. I am always surrounded by high quality teaching and research, imagery sketches, drawings and craft models.
In addition to architecture and as a self-taught visual artist, I regularly attended art sessions at the School of Arts. Presenting my research to different audiences facilitated analysis and discussion, particularly at its initial stage. Receiving constructive feedback enabled me to firm up my ideas and further develop my research, which encourages a more cross-disciplinary learning process and networking opportunities.
Achieving such a great deal during my first year at Brookes and being very proud of participating in this lively atmosphere, I am so thankful for my inspiring Supervisors, the Research Team and my cheerful PhD colleagues. It is amazing to have the chance to be in a foreign country and be supported by a great group of people; this will always be the most beautiful part of my journey in Oxford. Time is flying and right now I am carrying out my field work in Gaza, looking forward to returning to Oxford and to Oxford Brookes.