Awards & Recognition

Three VCUarts Qatar Professors Win Merit Award from CIDA

VCUarts Qatar Meta Studio

Three professors from the Interior Design programme at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) in Education City received a merit award from the US Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA). The award was for their entry ‘Meta Studio’.

Professors Johan Granberg, Mohammad Suleiman and Haithem El Hammali were given the award during a ceremony at the Interior Design Educators Council conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. This is the second CIDA award that the department has won. A previous project, ‘Exploring Space through the Lens – Production Design’ also received recognition from CIDA.

The award recognises and celebrates outstanding practices that advance the cause of excellence in interior design education. CIDA is an independent, non-profit, accrediting organisation responsible for setting standards and evaluating degree-granting interior design programmes. There are 179 CIDA-accredited programmes in the US, Canada, Qatar, and the UAE.

Meta Studio 

VCUarts Qatar Meta StudioThe basis for Meta Studio was: ‘How do we turn good students into good designers?’ With that in mind, the professors decided that a Meta Studio would combine three Interior Design classes (Design Studio, Materials and Graphics) into one interconnected unit with a number of aims. The aims include breaking educational silos, encouraging students to synthezise increased complexity; balancing their schedules; utilising, coordinating and activating all the ‘good forces’ of the university; and creating a cohesive and holistic learning environment based on design practice.

Assistant Professor Mohammad Suleiman said they plotted out all the projects that they will cover and correlated them with the themes of the week during the entire semester. It was, in a sense, more project driven.

The schedule and matrix were designed to provide a flexible and collaborative structure. The schedule was kept ‘live’ and evolved throughout the semester. This provided opportunities for real-time calibration, flexibility and adaptability to address learning deficiencies. The course matrix also helped manage a coordinated and synchronized sequencing of deadlines and breathing space for students.

Student Yasamin Shaikhi said it really helped her look at her project more ‘in-depth’ and really understand and feel the kind of space she’s creating.

The studio was a partnership and in effect a ‘Meta Team’ that consisted of faculty and staff from the university’s Library, Materials Library, Writing Center, Wood Shop Fabrication Lab and Graphic Design department.

In an ongoing dialogue, the Meta Team helped plan and provide students with feedback and asked questions on whether students are utilising the libraries or the wood shop, and whether any students were struggling with their writing. Student Saga Elkabbash said the Meta Studio helped them a lot this year in thinking differently and looking at projects from a different perspective.

The culmination of Meta Studio for each student is to package their body of writings, images and research based on the whole semester’s work. The books can be found in the Library at VCUarts Qatar.

To find out more about VCUarts Qatar, visit

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