Student Q&A: Faisal Almogren (MUP ’16)

Faisal AlmogrenHometown

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Undergraduate school/major

King Saud University, Riyadh/ Architecture

What was your work experience/background before coming to the GSD?

I worked for two years in design firms doing multiple projects in different scales, from interior designs of museums, historical preservation of mud cities, to architecture of modern buildings, I also had some experience teaching at university level. Last year I decided I wanted to continue my graduate studies and earned a masters in urban design.

Why did you decide to pursue planning as a career?

The main reason is that I wanted to go back home and help building my country. I hoped that planning will widen my perspective and assist me to better influence cities in whatever context I work in. Also to better understand their complexity, I hoped it will add other layers to my understanding of how cities function. Considering economic factors, understanding social implications, thinking of political aspects, and other layers that I never thought off and are helpful when dealing with cities.

What made you decide to come to the GSD?

I love design, and I wanted to do all of the above and learn all these technical skills while still keeping a close relationship to design and spatial thinking and interacting with the physical fabric of cities, which I thought the GSD offers more of.

What are your main interests in planning and concentration area?

I’m interested in the interaction between policies, laws, economy and the actual physical built environment, giving my background and career ambitions, I decided to pursue a concentration in housing and international development.

What has been the most surprising aspect of the GSD?

The amount of “Starchitects” you see in the building, studying about people my whole life and then just seeing them at the cafeteria or walking down the hallways. I think I was starstruck for couple of times!

Are you involved in any student groups? What have you gained from the experience?

I think one the strong points the GSD has to offer is its interaction with the larger Harvard context. Not only through taking classes at different schools but through working in student groups and students projects. I’m working with students from the Business School and the Real Estate program in the real estate club, which gives me great experience with business oriented, very talented, individuals. I also help out with Project Link, which is a student-led program that offers workshops and classes related to design to high school students in the Cambridge area, in addition to Club Medina, the Middle East and North Africa club.

What has been your favorite class or project? Why?

I would say Cities by Design–that class is just amazing. The amount of experts and the range of topic and places we cover is incredible. We study a new city every two weeks; listen to experts talk about that city; discuss with people who lived there; watch movies; analyze it in depth; and then move to the next city. It’s like a journey across five great cities in one term!

What are your career ambitions?

I would like to go back home to Saudi Arabia and work there in the public sector. My country is going through a period of rapid growth in population and urbanization accompanied by huge investments in developments. I would love to use my planning and design experience to help shape the best possible outcome of this critical, yet very exciting, period.