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Rana Abudayyeh: Native of Jordan, Architect, Mom, Mr. Rogers fan

Rana Abudayyeh with her son, Jasper, in New Mexico.

Rana Abudayyeh with her son, Jasper, in New Mexico.

At UT: Rana Abudayyeh is an adjunct assistant professor in the College of Architecture and Design. She came to UT in August 2015 after teaching at the University of New Mexico’s School of Architecture and Planning from 2004 to 2012. Previously, she worked at Antoine Predock Architect on numerous design competitions and large-scale federal, public, and private projects, including the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

One of Abudayyeh’s favorite projects at UT involved her fourth-year interior design studio last spring. Her students’ project was to design a research center for the visually impaired. “At first my students were hesitant, as designs are usually created to be a visual experience,” she said. “It challenged the students to think beyond ocular stimuli and gauge a holistic sensory experience that meets the users’ specific needs.”

Why architecture? Growing up in Jordan, Abudayyeh would go with her father to his dental clinic located in the old quarters of the capital, Amman. She became entranced by the city’s smells, sounds, and architecture; stairwells and alleyways that climbed the faces of hills, layered buildings, and covered old shops that overlapped old Roman ruins and colonnades are among a few city vignettes that she recalls.

“I am fascinated with people and how they occupy and generate space,” she said. “Few people hire architects in Jordan; it is mostly vernacular architecture and when you look closely it reveals a way of living … a way of being.”

Outside interests: A mother of two, Abudayyeh devotes much of her time outside of work to her family. They enjoy hiking and exploring and spend a lot of their time at outdoor outlets such as Ijams Nature Center and Mead’s Quarry.

Movies and books: Abudayyeh enjoys films that both entertain you and make you think. Some of her top picks include Brazil, Fulini’s Roma, and Memento.

Her favorite novel, Blindness by José Saramago, was a page-turner. “It’s one of those books I had to read in two days,” she said. “I couldn’t put it down.”

Music: One of her favorite artists is Citizen Cope, a bluesy folk-rock artist. She enjoys Middle Eastern music, but she is becoming a fan of East Tennessee music. “I’m starting to appreciate the bluegrass music that is popular in Knoxville,” she said.

If I didn’t do this, I’d: “Be a photojournalist.” She loves to observe people and would try to capture their stories in a photo—which is similar to how she tries to meld her architectural designs to the people who will use the structures. “It’s hard to think about what I would do if I weren’t in this field because I have never thought about anything else,” Abudayyeh said.

One last thing: “I love Mr. Rogers,” Abudayyeh said. “I love his message of tolerance and acceptance. I think he represents everything good about humanity.” One of his sayings in particular sticks out to her. “He said, ‘I like you just the way you are,’ and I think every kid—every human—needs to hear that. I believe in obscure acts of change. Not everyone can lead a revolution, but everyone can tell someone that they like them just the way they are.”

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