Life Member to tackle sustainability in Fung Fellowship at Princeton

M. Wesam Al Asali, a Life Member of Clare Hall who received a PhD from the Centre for Natural Material Innovation here at Cambridge, has been offered the Fung Fellowship at the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS).

During his Fellowship, Wesam will tackle the theme ‘Sustainable Futures’, working on a project titled ‘Cultures of Making’, investigating the environmental approach behind the scarcity-driven informal and vernacular architecture and agriculture in the Middle East.

On the Princeton Fellowship, Wesam comments:
"I am so looking forward to starting my new position and meeting other Fellows in the 2021 cohort. The Fung Fellowship will allow me to expand my research on environmental crises and the built environment, from vaulting to other building techniques, and from architecture to the broader sense of inhabitation. I am also happy to be working mainly on case studies in the Middle East, specifically on my native Syria."

Wesam is an architect and craft enthusiast who leads IWlab, his architectural practice, and CERCAA, a recently established centre for innovation and learning of building crafts in Valencia, Spain. As a Clare Haller, Wesam worked on policy, training, and design strategies of thin-tile vaulting for low-carbon construction during his PhD. He developed experience in building with natural materials, proposing that sustainability in construction operates at the intersection between science and humanities.

Through intersecting building technologies with social and cultural studies, Wesam is now developing a framework for a grassroots design practice in the context of climate emergencies. His work and research have been recognised with awards such as the Morgan Sindall Sustainable Construction Award, and the Tile of Spain Award for Innovation in Ceramic Architecture.

Founded in 2010, IWlab works between Damascus and Cambridge and combines cultural programmes with art and urban and heritage studies in Syria and the Middle East. IWlab has completed projects of urban installations, heritage studies, architecture education for children, and architectural films, and received a nomination for the Tamaouyz Award for Excellence of Architecture Practice in the Middle East in 2020.

Based on his PhD, Wesam co-founded CERCAA, a social enterprise for teaching and developing sustainable building crafts. CERCAA is supported by Cambridge Enterprise. Its pilot activities are funded by the Art and Humanities Impact Fund (2020-21). 

Learn more about IWlab at; and CERCAA; and read profiles of the latest cohort of Fung Global Fellows via

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