I was always passionate about maps, drawings, and LEGO as I used to build a mini-city every week. I had this urge to challenge myself and be able to create and do what I love. This spirit grew inside me; however, after I graduated from high school, I was stumbling around looking for new possibilities. I spent six months taking personality and professional tests until one day; an academic advisor recommended me to pursue architecture studies. Architecture was a discipline of study unavailable to women until 2005. When the opportunity presented itself through Effat University, I was the first of ten females to pursue undergraduate work in Architecture in Saudi Arabia. During my studies at Effat, I had moments where I was very anxious, especially when I started my first internship at Saudi Diyar in 2008. I was one of the two ladies who worked at Diyar among 300 males. Coping with a male-oriented work environment was arduous. This feeling vanished quickly when I set a vision for myself that I have a solemn responsibility for generating a high standard of performance for female architects thus assuring that they have a strong voice in the circle of professionals.
The blend of fieldwork and educational experiences led me to a personal set of essential questions, including What does architecture add to our lives? Why do Arab cities look the way they do? I noted the need for more humane and sustainable public settings in my hometown of Jeddah. I had a powerful urge to search for ways of improving spatial quality and consequently, the variety of people's. This sentiment served as motivation for me to develop an undergraduate research project which, through surveys, interviews, and analysis, revealed the need for Saudi society to provide adequate public spaces. “Cultural Knowledge Park" was the first attempt to offer a new formula combining knowledge and entertainment, where youth are animated and moved to sharpen their talents and engage in the productive practice.
When I moved to Canada in 2010 to pursue graduate studies at the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism at Carleton University, I began to investigate how architects can engage in social participation and production. I strengthen my experience by working as a teaching assistant for two years. After gaining a professional master degree in architecture, I founded COdesign, which is a professional studio focused on the participatory design process. Projects aim to empower architects in dealing with community and context challenges. I conducted projects with the city of Montreal and Pincourt, participated in international competitions, and delivered many community workshops. I decided to focus more on empowering community roles. So, I studied an executive degree in Community Leadership and Empowerment from Harvard University in 2015. Then I wanted to be specialized in urban studies, so I pursued a post-master degree in Urban Design and Housing at Peter Guo-Hua Fu School of Architecture, McGill University in 2016.
I had this wish to develop a professional practice for young architects in Saudi Arabia that promotes social and spatial production, inspires new solutions, and enhances the quality of design. When I moved back to Jeddah, I established COdesign Arabia as a branch from COdesign parent company. It has been a journey that moved out of a focused set of emotions, uncertain; initial efforts would uncover relevant experiences to pursue my career. I had the chance to share my ideas and ambitions in many international occasions, such as the World Design Summit and the Arab Development initiative. I was grateful to receive such awards and fellowships that were prominent encouragements for me to proceed more towards my vision.
I constantly say: dream what you want to be, work towards that dream, and enjoy the moment of living that dream; at the end, it will pay off regardless of challenges and frustrations. Always look for opportunities and be open to every possibility; you never know what you become in the next day!