Great Ideas: Ranya Bakr

Ranya Bakr

Architectural Engineer and Executive Director at Storey Architectural Consultancy

2016 Cycle Fellow, 2017 Cycle Coach

During an interview conducted in February 2018, Ranya described how participating in UNITAR’s Iraq Fellowship Programme helped her develop and implement a project to connect young Iraqi architects and preserve valuable architectural heritage in her home country.

Iraq Fellowship Programme Focus on Fellows Ranya

I am passionate about architecture because I believe buildings tell a story – France would not be France without the Eiffel Tower and Sydney would not be Sydney without Sydney Opera House. I believe that creating landmarks is more important than creating paintings because buildings act as memories that we leave for our next generations.

For instance, in case of Hiroshima, the city decided to keep the Atomic Bomb Dome as a reminder of one of the most horrible disasters in human history. Simply through its existence, the Dome tells people that the city has revived and prospered but that they should never forget the horrors of war and the struggles of previous generations. I believe that is very applicable to Iraq. Iraq has seen many wars, but whenever a disaster happens in Iraq, the attitude is to bury it and avoid talking about it. But the first step to recovery is admitting the fact that something bad has happened and moving on while still keeping the past in perspective.

Ranya’s Experience

I participated in the UNITAR Iraq Fellowship Programme 2016 Cycle. It was a wonderful experience for me; I gained valuable of knowledge and skills though the programme. It was eye-opening for me because often in the field of entrepreneurship and architecture we tend to be more artistic than focused on planning. I learned from UNITAR that planning a project is just as important as implementing it, because 90 percent of the work happens in the planning period. I learned about needs assessment and how important it is not only for organizations but also at the individual level. I was really focused during the entire programme and tried to absorb as much information as I could, and it resulted in my selection as a Coach for the 2017 Cycle.

I participated in the programme because I believe that we always need to take a step higher than our expectations – change happens outside the comfort zone. I pushed myself and learned new things while being busy with my studies and job. This experience pushed me to the limit; that is when I started channelling my ideas into a concrete project.

Ranya’s Project

I developed a project called Preserve-Ha (“ha” is Arabic for “it”). The idea grew from the needs assessment that I undertook for UNITAR’s training, and I incorporated my new skills and knowledge of the results framework to design the project proposal.

Iraq is the oldest civilization on Earth, but every day we are losing UNESCO-recognized buildings. I decided to do a project that involves bringing young Iraqi architects together to work on new technologies and software to document the buildings we have. My team and I are starting by creating 3D images of one street, so that if a disaster happens people will know how to reconstruct the place. Another aspect of the project is a spatial simulator that tells you what a building could be; when you scan its QR code it could show how the building would look like if it was repurposed in some way. The idea is to offer social services through older buildings that are still habitable.

Right now, I am working with my team to implement Preserve-Ha by June 2018 with support from Zain Telecommunication. Zain is providing us with the sponsorship and technical expertise to develop the spatial simulator as an application. It is a huge achievement for me to be implementing the project that I developed through UNITAR’s programme, utilizing the network that this training provided me.