Your Personality Constructed: Al Ghurair STEM Scholar Ahmed Marey Explores Architecture Based on Character Traits

Ahmed Marey
Ahmed Marey

When Ahmed Marey '21 heard his fellow students were receiving their acceptances into the Al Ghurair STEM Scholars Program, he checked his inbox but was disappointed to find it empty.

"My friends reached out to me when they got accepted. I checked, but did not find any acceptance emails," Marey said. "It left me a bit disappointed."

The Scholars Program provides youth from 17 Arab countries with the opportunity to pursue their undergraduate or graduate studies in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects at 15 partner universities in the region and beyond. 

Luckily, Marey thought to check his spam folder and found an email saying he was accepted. Since then, he has forged an exciting academic career in architecture at the American University in Cairo.

In March 2021, Marey and his research partner, Ahmed Barakat of Franklin & Marshall College, won the Best Presentation Award for the 9th International Conference of the Arab Society for Computer Aided Architectural Design (ASCAAD). The paper they presented, "The Customized Habitat: An exploration of personality-induced mass customization through shape grammars," explores different architectural needs based on personality traits.

"I honestly didn't expect to receive such an award at my very first conference, especially knowing that Barakat and I were probably among the youngest to join it,” Marey said. “I have to admit, I felt exquisite and encouraged to do more and more in this field."

To research the paper, Marey and Barakat focused on using computational design techniques, specifically "shape grammars," to achieve customized habitats for low-income people. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shape grammars are a category of computer systems with visual rules that can transform one shape into another. By applying these rules repeatedly, a simple shape can develop into a complex pattern.

Since previous research points to a potential impact of personality on perceptions of the architectural space, Marey and Barakat wanted to investigate this further. They used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to survey 187 individuals, investigating the correlations between personal traits (mind, energy, nature, tactics, and identity) and preferences of architectural aspects (exposure, circulation, view, plan layout, and interior colors). 

According to their research, Marey and Barakat's findings demonstrate an actual connection between MBTI personality patterns and architectural preferences. They found that the mind influences the visual perception of architecture, and energy affects our perception of the view, plan layout and interior colors. Based upon these correlations, Marey and Barakat programmed shape grammars to provide a basis for optimized mass customization. 

In the field of architecture, it is well established that mass production, despite its economic efficiency, fails to appeal to the very people it is meant to accommodate. Mass customization, on the other hand, allows for the consideration of personal differences, which Marey and Barakat’s research supports. However, Marey noted, mass customization requires more time, effort and resources, hence the general reliance on mass production. 

Through this process, Marey and Barakat hope architects can develop a more habitable space in which neither personality traits nor valuable resources are neglected.

ASCAAD is a society that teaches, conducts research and practices in computer-aided architectural design in the Arab world. Its 2021 conference, hosted virtually in March 2021 by the Department of Architecture at the American University in Cairo, focused on addressing the major shift in the architecture field due to computational design, which is gradually renouncing the typical morphogenetic-centered associations in the architectural discourse. 

At the conference, Marey and Barakat presented their research findings to the ASCAAD Scientific Review Committee, which awarded them Best Presentation. Their paper was one of 58 accepted papers by authors representing 18 countries worldwide.

When Marey discovered he and Barakat received the award, he was elated to know that their months of research and preparation for the presentation were a success. 

The day after discovering the email, Marey took a 3-hour car ride — with a broken leg — to fill out the paperwork needed for the award.

"I have to admit,” Marey said. “The feeling of euphoria has overcome the hurt in my leg.”

Marey credits the program for making it possible for him to pursue his life-long dream of being an architect. 

“It fits perfectly with my passion for both arts and sciences," said Marey. "I have received not only financial support to continue my education, but also support with my career and personal development."

Thanks to the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, Marey was also selected to attend the World Government Summit in Dubai 2018 under the "Arab Youth Pioneers” category.

"This program is a life-changing experience that I'll always be grateful for," he concluded.