Recent BAC Grad Reimagines Women’s School in Saudi Arabia

Thesis proposes open layout to foster communication

Photo by Darren Pellegrino

As Baraah Muqaddam recently wrapped up her Master of Interior Architecture degree at The Boston Architectural College, she took advantage of her thesis as an opportunity to explore how architecture can improve a society and impact human relationships. Baraah identified an all female school in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as her subject to explore and suggest improvements. Focusing on the interior, her project is about creating a more transparent and open space that fosters communication and relationship building, while maintaining the separation of genders.

The way Baraah sees it, the school in Jeddah is currently designed in such a way that it reflects and encourages isolation. Made from concrete and very blocky in its design, it does not have any positive influence on the neighborhood, which is exactly what she aims to address. Her thesis proposes a more open layout, while still remaining sensitive to culture. Originally from Saudi Arabia herself, Baraah has a strong understanding of the country's history and traditions, which includes keeping genders separate throughout the education system.

"As an architect, it is important to understand the codes and cultures of wherever you are working," said Baraah. "With this knowledge as a base, I think architects must construct a space with human relationships and social structures in mind."

After starting out her career as a teacher, she became interested in interior architecture because of the influence it can have on social structure. The closed off interior of the school in Jeddah encourages people to keep to themselves instead of talking to each other and being friendly.

"Many of the buildings in Saudi Arabia, including the women's school I focused on for my thesis, make people shy away from getting to know each other," explained Baraah. "We must remember that architecture can truly affect how people relate to each other."

Through the suggested changes Baraah presents in her thesis, she is creating a more sustainable society, but not in the traditional sense of recycling and being "green." In order for a community to be long lasting, it must be filled with people who interact, communicate, and engage with one another, and the interior design of buildings can help create this type of environment.

"Interior architecture is not just beautiful images, materials, or colors," said Baraah. "It's about people and addressing needs within a society."

Now that Baraah has earned her master's degree from the BAC, she is going right into a Ph.D. program at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, where she plans to study the reconstruction of old buildings. This move brings her one step closer to her goal of becoming a professor, where she plans to teach others about the importance of designing with society and relationships in mind.