In January this year Awkar travelled to Copenhagen as part of a specially chosen group of students to undertake a six-week Multidisciplinary Australian Danish Exchange program, funded through the Opera House’s philanthropy program.
MADE allows five engineering, architecture and design students from Australia to work together on a cross-disciplinary project, mentored by a range of prestigious Danish firms and organisations. The program aims to continue the international and interdisciplinary links first forged by Jørn Utzon, the Danish-born architect of the Opera House.
While in Copenhagen, 21-year old Awkar and his fellow students will prepare a response to a built environment brief, informed by study tours, masterclasses and workshops.
“I want to gain as much knowledge as possible while I’m there, learn as much as I can because I think it’s a great experience,” Awkar told Sydney Opera House before his departure. “I want to come back as a different person with a different mentality and different approaches to problems which will push me in my career and my studies.”
He says multidisciplinary design is critical as it leads to unique solutions that would never be reached unless architects, engineers and designers come together. (The Opera House itself pioneered novel building techniques thanks to the close relationship between Utzon and engineer Ove Arup.)
Awkar is determined to use his life to create change, whether through his passion for sustainable design or inspiring others by sharing his experience as a refugee.
“When you see other people struggle, people who don’t have their basic human rights, electricity, water and shelter, you appreciate how lucky you are and you want to give back,” he says.
He recently spoke at Amity College to a group of year twelve students, encouraging them to never take their experiences for granted as their unique story is what makes a person who they are. Awkar has lived in a war zone, became a refugee, learnt fluent English and overcame high school taunts of being an ‘import’ to become school captain and now a scholarship recipient.
“As Steve Jobs said, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking back. And when I trace my life from the beginning I can see what lead to this moment - working so hard and now earning a place on this program.”
Awkar will complete his MADE program in March 2017.
Established in honour of the Opera House’s 40th anniversary, the MADE program supports five Australian and five Danish students each year and will create an alumnus group of 100 students by the Opera House’s 50th Anniversary in 2023.