GSD alumni awarded Impact KAEC Fellowships in Saudi Arabia

Three Harvard University Graduate School of Design alumni Heidi Cho (MUP/MAUD ’14) Edward Meng (MUP ’14), and Tiffany Obser (MArch ’14) are embarking on fellowships in Saudi Arabia sponsored by the New Cities Foundation. The New Cities Foundation is a nonprofit organization devoted to making cities “more inclusive, dynamic and creative.” The organization was founded in 2010 and is based in Switzerland. 
King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) is a new city being built in Saudi Arabia adjacent to the Red Sea. Announced in 2005, KAEC is a $100 billion effort to diversify the Saudi economy by creating a major city from scratch. As KAEC fellows, the GSD alumni will spend five months working on a variety of urban development projects. Cho, for instance, will work with the KAEC business unit on sustainable infrastructure with Envision Certification, which is an environmental accreditation system.  
The fellows are excited by the opportunities for professional and intellectual growth offered by their work in Saudi Arabia. Wrote Cho in a recent blog post for the New Cities Foundation, “I see opportunity, not only to research, but to entirely rethink the strategies we take to meet the ever-expanding demands of accelerated growth of global economies. I don’t want to settle for a simple understanding of the problems that exist involving disconnect between economic, social and environmental sustainability in fast-developing cities. Instead, I want to play an active role in the implementation of these ideas.”
Meng has echoed Cho’s desire to be involved with systemic change in urban areas. Wrote Meng in another New Cities blog post, “While it might be rational to suggest that international ‘best practices’ be applied immediately to KAEC, the answer might not be so simplistic. Innovative transportation solutions have never occurred in a bubble; rather, the strategies that led to success in other parts of the world occurred within the political, spatial, and socioeconomic context and constraints of each city and region.”
As KAEC’s master plan is realized and the city rises out of anonymity, the GSD alumni will have a unique opportunity to grapple with such monumental urban development issues. 
Photograph courtesy of Ed Meng.