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Co-op Profile: Raghd Zaqout

The past semester, recent graduate Raghd Zaqout was the recipient of a University Coop Award and was the Alpa Rho Chi Medal winner from the School of Architecture. Having recently received her degree, she reflected on her time in Boston, at Northeastern and her experience in the School of Architecture.

Coming to Northeastern to study architecture has truly been a blessing and has provided me with so many global opportunities- from meeting an incredible international student body to studying and doing co-op abroad. From day one, the curriculum involved learning about other cultures through architecture. Every style of architecture corresponds to some sort of global or local event, making architecture a form of historic documentation. As I got introduced to more global topics, I began to understand the role architecture could play culturally. This was especially the case during study abroad in Berlin, where architects and urban planners design with great sensitivity to a painful history. In a way, building design has been used as a tool for war remediation. It was fascinating to experience how architecture had the power to change peoples’ lives at such a great scale, not only in the way history was addressed but with consideration for the future as well; Germany today is leading in what is called green design. The goal is to reach zero energy architecture: designing buildings with zero net energy consumption. This is the future of architecture in the face of climate change.

I enjoyed studying abroad so much that I decided to stay in Berlin for my first co-op, which was at Thomas Kröger Architekt, a medium-sized firm in Berlin. During my stay I was co-leading a competition design for a cultural museum called “Haus der Zukunft” or House of the Future that was to be an institution located at a historically important location showcasing Germany’s commitment to future developments in science and technology. The competition allowed me to explore the knowledge I gained during my study abroad and apply it to a professional setting.

My Berlin experience was so enriching that I decided to take full advantage of the international opportunities Northeastern encourages. I applied to a second co-op at Oger International in Paris. Most projects Oger works on are based in the Middle East, which allowed me to learn about projects closer to home. The main challenge for a firm like Oger is the intersection of modern and sustainable design that is sensitive to both cultural needs and aesthetics. In its projects Oger is able to achieve harmony between the two architectural approaches, a crucial aspect for firms working on projects in the Middle East. What interested me even further in this position is Oger’s commitment to LEED and green design that Northeastern’s architecture program highly values. Studying and working abroad in Germany, I got to witness the extent to which building design can contribute to saving energy, thus deepening my conviction of the urgent need to introduce green design to the Middle East.

Studying architecture not only fed my cultural and technical interests in design, but also more importantly has enhanced my analytical way of thinking about current issues. During my stay at Thomas Kröger Architekt, I was asked to give lectures about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict focusing on how architecture can be a tool to analyze the urban context and what the role of planners could be in the future. I was again overwhelmed by my colleagues’ interest and the many discussions I had with them on the topic. I decided further to develop this project while taking a graduate level class called ‘Cities, Nature, and Design’ with Jason Rebillot. The class focused on various global topics and the way urban design is essential in remediating urban scale problems whether they be environmental, social, or political.

The focus on global problems and the emphasis on local solutions really allowed me think further on how I can apply my architectural education in global settings. Reading about various case studies allowed me to reconsider what my role back home and abroad has to do not only with architecture in the aesthetic sense but in urban, social, economical, and environmental remediation. In class, I worked on a thesis analyzing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict’s effect on the urban and ecological fabric. In a way, the topic tied the very broad spectrum of my education along with my local interest in a paper empowering me to actively participate in a regional dialogue, while allowing me to consider other ways I can approach various global problems using the skills and themes I have learned in my valuable years at Northeastern.