Interview with 2017 Teaching Fellows

by Kaninik Baradi
3 February 2017

The CEPT Research and Teaching fellowship is open to young graduates, from around the world, who can bring interesting perspectives to the discourse on human habitats. Neha Bhatt (USA), Reza Ghafouri (Iran), and Farahbee Rahman (Bangladesh) are the new teaching fellows at CEPT University for this academic semester.

Neha Bhatt
Reza Ghafouri
Farahbee Rahman

She is a keen believer in the power of thoughtful urban design to improve quality of life and access to opportunity, particularly in disadvantaged neighborhoods.  Most recently, she completed her Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University, where she explored topics in policy and politics, housing challenges in Mexico, and entrepreneurial approaches to solving city problems.

He was born in Bandar Abbas, Iran. He holds his Master’s degree in Architecture by Azad University of West Tehran in 2014. His interests included in investigating the relationship between architecture and the city as a public realm and context-based architectural design. Moreover, he is a registered architect in Iran by “Iranian Construction Engineering Organization”.

She is currently an Associate Architect at DWm4 Architects in Dhaka. She is also working independently as a designer. She graduated from Department of Architecture at BRAC University in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2013. Her thesis project was on the topic of “Branding through Icons” – Designing International Trade Fair Complex at Purbachal, Dhaka.


Which projects of yours are milestones? Could you share something from these projects?

N: Within the last few years while working at an NGO, I started a network for mayors and other leaders who want a more equitable and sustainable future for their cities but lack the staffing or special expertise in planning and design. We distributed model policies that were working in other cities, held urban development conferences designed specifically for politicians, and provided implementation workshops for leaders. They were passionate about making their communities function better economically and more responsibly in the face of climate change. I learned a lot by meeting and working with these leaders. But, more importantly, I came to terms with my own cynicism about politics. I witnessed first-hand the positive power of good politics in building great communities. This perspective has made be a much better advocate and even better at analyzing not just the technical but also the political feasibility of urban solutions.

R: One of the first projects I did, a Youth Palace in Bandar Abbas, had quite an influence on me. The project was not implemented according my original design, due to changes in the needs of the client after the completion of the design phase. But seeing that project form from beginning to end, and working with the different stakeholders, was an education in itself. The design itself had some interesting elements in terms of the play between the semi-private and public spaces within the building and the natural points where people could connect and meet. The second project that comes to mind is a school rehabilitation project in Bastak, where I had the privilege of seeing the impact of my work up close. Watching the children move into the finished building and interacting with the structure helped me better understand the stories that people build around architecture and the relationship between the building and its users. I think seeing that up close has really informed my subsequent design process.

F: For me, there was a project in first year design studio of Architecture studies guided by Marina Tabassum, exploring scrap to design a lighting system as an installation. It was an intense exercise to push design limits to explore the making of art as well as a functional object. Another academic work is an extensive study of “Dining in Private” in second year studio – to design a narrow residence in old city and understanding the culture around food. My thesis was on branding through icons – an exercise of buildings becoming icons or representing a place being a landmark during mega events like Expo. Later on, the professional works gave me an opportunity to learn construction details, and site practices. This gave me a new appreciation of the detail that can go into creating an actual structure. The last project in the office I was into while coming for CEPT got tremendous learning to be considered a milestone for getting to know the construction of a building from the scratch. It was also a residential project.


What learnings would you bring here, and what would you take back with you? 

N: Something that has come up a few times is the issue of business practices and organizational efficiency.  To be fair, these are ever-present issues all over the world.  However, leveraging better communication techniques to do work more efficiently is a theme that seems to be emerging in conversations I’ve had with some Indian practitioners. It’s not that people overseas are inherently more inclined to communicate better in business settings, but there is a culture, training, and expectation that is there from early on.  I would be curious to explore whether some of those practices might be useful here.

R: It has only been a month on campus so there is little I can say about this. One interesting aspect has been the relationship between the traditional and the modern and I am trying to explore that through the studio exercises. Perhaps there is a conversation that can be had about the traditional building techniques of the two regions and an exchange in built forms that may be valuable for the architecture in both countries.

F: I hope to have learnings from here that I can carry with me to my country to contribute to my field of work whether it is teaching, research or practice. I am already involved in both the design studio and thesis. This is my first experience in teaching, and I try to keep my mind open about the process. There is a lot of flexibility here and I am trying to make the most of it. I am looking forward to get insight from Archiprix, or other design forums, and a regular involvement with the CEPT library.