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Campus Conversation: AUC Next 100

Yakin Ouederni
March 4, 2020


“The best master plan reflects the participation of the whole community,” said Neil Kittredge, partner and director of urban planning and design at Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB), the international architecture firm that will be developing a master plan for the design and construction of the second part of AUC’s campus. Speaking at the Campus Conversation: AUC Next 100 event, Kittredge was visiting with other representatives from BBB to engage in discussions with the AUC community about its involvement in the future plans of campus.

 “Our belief is that the greater the participation the better the resulting plan. ...We’re working closely with the community to make sure that we’re always making that the top driver for how the masterplan develops.”

President Francis Ricciardone mentioned that BBB was chosen after a “rigorous and deliberate selection process” and that the firm stood out because of its extensive experience planning campus expansions worldwide.

 “BBB will help us determine how best to utilize our entire campus,” he said. “This is about making sure we're using what space we've got to the optimal level. We will be prioritizing future building projects to shape and advance our educational mission and the experience of AUC students faculty and staff as we live and work together on this campus."

Moderating the discussion, Magda Mostafa, associate chair of the Department of Architecture, questioned the BBB representatives on how this master plan will take form. The BBB team emphasized the importance of community involvement in the development process, stating that it is crucial for the plan to progress.

Following a short Q&A, BBB started an interactive presentation that asked for feedback from the audience members in response to certain questions about the campus. 

When asked to describe campus in two words, most people responded “beautiful,” “green” and “spacious.” 

Asked to express the top two priorities for enhancing campus, most participants responded with “places to study and socialize” and “places to eat and shop.” 

Additionally, the audience cited “academic space needs,” “enhancing campus life” and “connections to the surrounding neighborhood” as the top three challenges facing the campus.

Anna Oursler, associate project manager and planner at BBB, mentioned the different ways in which BBB will be collecting feedback from the community throughout the next year, including open houses, focus groups and surveys.

“[We’ll be] thinking about the ideas we heard and what type of scenarios might come up from those ideas,” she said. “Then we’ll have a conversation with the AUC community about prioritizing what we’ve heard, and in the end, this will result in a master plan, which will guide the university moving forward.” 

“Another piece of the engagement process is through the website,” Kittredge added, “which will feature details about open houses and other community-wide events. There will be many activities to come.” 

Opening up the floor for questions, different audience members expressed specific needs for the future of the University.

Many expressed the need to make AUC more accessible to the Cairo community. 

“[We need to] revitalize reaching out to the undeveloped talent and promise across Egypt,” said one audience member. “There are so many kids that could really benefit from AUC.”

Provost Ehab Abdel-Rahman responded saying that this is already being implemented through the School of Continuing Education and Summer programming, but the University is continuously working on incorporating the greater community into campus life and educational initiatives. 

The question of accessibility expanded to the issues with commutes and staying on campus for nighttime activities. 

Kittredge explained that part of this solution lies in making the community surrounding AUC more attractive. Mostafa added that the University has been in conversation with developers to make the space more suitable for people to move here.

Among the other topics were sustainability, revamping certain departments and creating more spaces for people to socialize and study. 

The event was attended by a mix of students, faculty, staff and trustees.

You can read the full report on the Campus Conversation here and keep updated on the next steps that BBB will be taking in order to develop the master plan with the help of the community.