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Global Impact Award winner transforming the building and construction industry

Cite Magazine

Less than six years into his career, Mauritian-born architectural science graduate Mohammed Zaheer Allam is hoping to strengthen community resilience and preserve architectural identity in developing nations around the world.

Zaheer Allam during his 2016 talk, "Down to Earth: Building Sustainably", at TEDx PlainesWilhems in Mauritius (photo credit: Ali Soliman).

For 2016 Curtin Alumni Achievement Awards Global Impact Award winner Mohammed Zaheer Allam, being a part of the building and construction industry is important not because he has been able to make a mark upon the world, but because he has been able to help others.

As the African Representative for the International Society of Biourbanism, an organisation that shares cutting-edge ideas and research about the interconnection of urban life, Allam is able to support urban policies that foster community resilience and work towards his goal of developing a living city.

“By ‘living city’, I mean a city where society, the economy and the environment are in balance – a place where the economy is a subset of ecology, where happiness is favoured over productivity and where life in all forms thrives,” he explains.

“This cohabitation is uneasy but necessary in our fragile world. We owe it to the next generations to create it, and our generation must assume this responsibility.”

Allam also holds another position of prominence as the Island States Chapter Chair of the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism, an organisation that preserves and shares knowledge about traditional architectural crafts and designs. The role resonates deeply with Allam, who has witnessed how developing nations are forgoing their architectural identity in favour of copying the architecture of Western nations.

“This is really bad, because we are destroying the very identity that makes us unique and, in doing so, we are harming our tourism industry,” he says.

“We need strong policies backed up by intelligent design. We need to restore glory to our cities, and reinforce both image and societal belonging. Architecture is the language that shapes our cities and we must start there.”

Since graduating with an undergraduate degree in architectural science in 2011, Allam has also co-founded Plateforme Citoyenne, a non-profit organisation advocating for Mauritius to embrace renewable energy; worked as an urban planner for the Mauritian Government; and was named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World in 2014 by Junior Chamber International. He appreciates Curtin for helping to set him on the path to success.

“I could have chosen a variety of universities, but Curtin’s curriculum seemed to encourage creativity and nurture critical thinking, which was what appealed most to me,” says Allam.

“In retrospect, my journey was not about me becoming an architect, but about equipping me with a set of tools that I could apply to whatever field I chose to end up in. I feel like I made the right choice.”

In fact, Allam returned to Curtin last year to study a Master of Philosophy in Sustainable Development to complement his current roles, and plans to begin a Doctor of Sustainable Development this year.

“I enjoyed my time at the University and I’m happy to say that I am back on campus,” he says.

Graduate snapshot

Zaheer Allam

Name: Mohammed Zaheer Allam

Studied: Bachelor of Applied Science (Architectural Science)

Graduated: 2011

Studying: Master of Philosophy (Sustainable Development)

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