Tarkeeb Gate House + Garden

Project Model

The project is part of the Design-Build Initiative (DBI) at the College of Architecture, Art and Design (American University of Sharjah), which provides a unique learning environment for students interested in a comprehensive, hands-on approach to design education. The paradigm of design-build pedagogy, in which students learn by making, extends education beyond conventional academic and disciplinary boundaries to engage the inherent complexities associated with the construction of new environments at full scale in the real world.The ongoing series of explorations focus on enhancing the lives of under-served people through small projects located in places that are often overlooked. The initial Gate House + Garden project brief included the design and construction of a replacement for an aging guard booth at the entrance of a restricted parking area on a university campus. The design-build team expanded the brief to include new programmatic elements such as a shaded observation porch for the guard and a garden space with drinking fountain to be shared by the personnel who work on campus.


The Gate House and Garden project incorporated a unique non-profit collaborative model in which the design-build team augmented grant funding with pro-bono professional services provided by consultants and industry partners to design, fabricate and install the project on campus.  Over the course of the project more than twelve people representing seven companies donated time and expertise to assist participating students as they worked from the initial, conceptual stage through construction documents and finally to the full-scale construction.  Along the way the design-build team developed mentor relationships with craftsmen in the building industry and developed new skills by working with professionals in the HVAC, millwork, glazing and metal-working trades as well as consultants from the allied professions of engineering, contracting, and landscape.  


Project Awards

  • ACSA Design-Build Award, 2020

  • Honor Award , AIA Middle East, 2019.

  • Silver Design Award, A'Award (Archdaily).

  • Finalist, The Plan Award.

  • Finalist, A+ Award (Architizer).

  • Longlist (small building), Dezeen Awards.

Order of Operations

Order of Operations

Construction Journey

Project Description

The life of the security guard revolves around the campus. For 12 hours every day, the security guard is bound to a rotating but predetermined location. The existing booth does not fully respond to his needs, but does provide a primitive shelter against the heat. As a result, the security guards take it upon themselves to constantly add and improve upon this shelter in order to make a comfortable space. This shelter has no specific owner, as the guards constantly share this space according to their shifts. They are also required to spend the majority of their shift outside the booth itself. Therefore, the goal of this project is to meet the varied needs of the guards inside the booth while providing as much comfort as possible when they spend their time outside of the booth.


Through the revision of a leftover and ill-conceived workspace the resulting project augments and enhances existing campus infrastructure with new architecture that provides pragmatic functions, promotes community equality, and exhibits a social and environmental conscience. Located in a region where service personnel endure long shifts under challenging circumstances the project seeks to elevate basic human comforts while simultaneously extracting exuberant delight from small-scale design opportunities.

The project loosely references the region’s vernacular architecture to provide passive cooling strategies and relief from the sun. The security guard’s comfort is aided by an all-encompassing screen that expands the typical role of the Mashrabiya as an insert in the building into a primary envelope. The building interior is subsumed within this bar grate exoskeleton which provides much needed shade while still allowing cross ventilation. These passive strategies are augmented by active solar power generation and the provision of water and a garden focused on the underrepresented members of the campus community, the guards, and the landscape workers.


The expanded Mashrabiya shelter provides the under-served community shade and water. The inherent qualities of the bar grate Mashrabiya, being visually permeable, balances the need of the dual role of the security guard to see and to be seen. The word Mashrabiya, coming from the Arabic original word ‘mashrab’, means a place to drink water. Within the architectural meaning of the word, comes a sensibility towards a shared drinking space or in other words a “Mae Sabeel”. Therefore the project's program does not only evolve from a modified expression of the shade and ventilation provided by a Mashrabiya, but also from this earlier poetic reference to a shared drinking space.


The booth bisects the bar grate enclosure into two primary zones, the security component and the Mae Sabeel  community garden component. The security zone is further sub-divided into two additional zones. The first being the interior air conditioned space and the second, an exterior porch area that allows visual to the road and gate, as well as shade.

The design includes three elements, the steel that provides the intermediary transition to the booth, the wood that allows for accommodation of program and the glass that physically separates the outdoor and indoor space, while maintaining visual transparency.



Standards + Deviations


Within the standard, mass-produced bar-grate exterior a series of custom ‘deviations’ address specific pragmatic and programmatic requirements such as signage, seating and increased visual access for the guard. Conceived through parametric computational studies these localized modifications leverage CNC-plasma cutting technology combined with traditional, analog craftsmanship and fabrication techniques to pair mass production with localized customization. A similar set of deviations animate the wood booth to accommodate and integrate the desk, drawer, water fountain, interior lighting and HVAC duct while a third set of deviations including a ripple in the flooring formally link the wood booth and bar-grate parasol/exoskeleton.



Assembly Process

The monolithic, solid wood structure combines enclosure, insulation and weather protection in a single system that also accommodates the sculpting of complex curvatures on the interior and exterior. The complex, curved surfaces result from a normative serial-section lamination approach of simple contour cuts combined with localized surface milling where necessary to minimize the amount of surface sanding required after assembly. Finger joints provide connection details and registration between the individual pieces comprising a single lamination while pin connections provide registration between the laminations. Glued and screwed connections between laminations provide mechanical strength and clamping force particularly where extreme curvature prevented conventional clamping.

Project Details 

  • Project Type: Academic - Design Build

  • Program : Architecture

  • Year of Completion: Fifth (2016/2017) 

  • Client: College of Architecture, Art & Design, American University of Sharjah.

  • Gross Floor Area (mq) :29 

  • Course Tutors: William Sarnecky, Michael Hughes,AIA.

  • Main Contractor: CAAD Design Build Initiative

  • Design + Build Team: William Sarnecky, Michael Hughes, Mari Nasif, Nada Almulla, Asmaa Abu Assaf, Khaled Abushahla, Yolla Ali, Lien Arwani, Judy Elkhatib, Nouran Elrashidy, Sawsan Gad Ali, Heba Saleh, Nouran Sharafeldin, Mohamed Alrekhaimi, Omar Khaireddin, Asil Zureigat, Shahad Kashmiri, Toka Elmanawy, Omar AlSaleh and Sarah Awada.

  • Structural Engineer: Andrew Paddock

  • Collaborators + Donors: Qasioon Trailers Industries, Dubai Metal Industries, Habitus, Gibca, Ltd, Fagerhult Lighting, Fast Construction, AUS Facilities Management, University City Support Services (Landscaping), and Voltec.

  • Photography: Juan Roldan, Michael Hughes.