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The Design Gem Hidden in the Middle East: AIU, Kuwait

Jackie L. Shaw, Executive Director of American International University, speaks about the vision behind the most unique campus in the region.

Entering the doors of American International University (AIU) is a surprise for many of its first-time visitors. AIU is the newest university campus in the country and offers an authentic American curriculum and university experience in Kuwait. But it’s also one of the most beautiful university, taking its onlookers into a world beyond the region.

What makes the look of this University stand apart? Thought for the design was carefully envisioned by Jackie L. Shaw, Executive Director of American International University, and lead force behind the project, who led the interior design and ambiance when the plans were just core and shell on paper.

In order to gain a closer look at the vision behind the design, our AIU team interviewed Ms. Shaw, whose decisions were needed just three short years ago to bring this project to life.



Interview with Jackie L. Shaw, Executive Director of American International University, Kuwait


Question: How did you select the team for this project?


Jackie L. Shaw: As a Seattle native, I wanted to use a regional US firm to articulate our vision of an authentic contemporary US college campus. I opted with a firm that has done work for Stanford University among many others in the US, along with Oxford University in the UK.

Our team devoted time touring west coast colleges and universities to see how space was being utilized by students and faculty.


Question: As an authentic American University campus in Kuwait, who were your target students?


Jackie L. Shaw: Ultimately, these were going to be mainly Kuwaiti students who had chosen to remain in Kuwait for their university education, but who desired an American education.

I wanted to give them that authenticity of space, to feel as though they had left Kuwait and truly entered an American campus once they entered the doors of AIU.


Question: What design elements were incorporated into the campus to ‘take students outside of Kuwait?’


Jackie L. Shaw: An abundance of woodwork and décor is used throughout the campus, in addition to a two-story stone waterfall (reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest) when entering the main lobby. We also incorporated lots of green foliage in our vaulted atrium spaces, and in our library. Classrooms were designed with a mix of individual and group seating, inviting science labs, and spacious graphic design labs. Technology that is seen on only top tier US college campuses was chosen for this project.


Question: What design elements were incorporated in the interest of the academic success of AIU students?


Jackie L. Shaw: We brought over 100 containers of specialized higher-education specific furniture from the US, that is cutting-edge and student-focused. I wanted them to have lounges that were welcoming yet offered some degree of privacy for group projects. This encourages our students to stay on campus and study, whether alone or in groups.


Question: Why so much effort in the design and appeal of the space when many Universities in the region just don’t put the focus here?


Jackie L. Shaw: The university years are demanding years, and beyond the education they acquire, I wanted a campus that students would feel proud to call their own. I look forward to seeing how students use these spaces and the campus across the years. AIU students will do many great things in the coming years and decades, and I look forward to seeing their local and regional impact.

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