Salem Al Qudwa has joined Hani Shafai’s growing team at Dream Design International as a Construction Manager and Housing Specialist. Salem, a native of Palestine, is an architectural engineer with experience in emergency architecture and affordable housing. He earned his PhD from Oxford Brookes in the UK and was a 2020-22 Harvard Fellow in Conflict and Peace.

Salem spent 15 years working with low-income families in Gaza by helping them build houses and renovate their homes after attacks. In that time, he gained expertise in finding the most efficient and cost-effective ways to construct homes for intergenerational families.

Salem analyzing a Gaza home in need of repair

Salem says one of the most important lessons of his career thus far is the need for input when designing a home. He routinely held participatory design sessions with the families he served and challenged cultural norms by involving women and children in the process whenever he had the opportunity.

“Whenever we are talking about affordable design, what it’s mainly about is being a good listener and trying to translate the needs into something tangible,” said Salem.

Salem was shortlisted for the 2018 World Habitat Awards (organized in partnership with UN-Habitat) and received a Commendation for the Rehabilitation of Damaged Houses Project, the Gaza Strip, Palestine. In 2020 and upon his arrival to the U.S. with his Palestinian American family, Salem worked as a Consultant with The World Bank in Washington, D.C., and his consultancy included a desk review of the literature on the economic impact of delays in procurement and contract execution. More recently, his research ‘Ethical Implications of Experimental Design on Affected Communities’ was shortlisted for the Royal Institute of British Architects President’s Awards for Research 2021.

At Dream Design, Salem will help lead the work on the Sky Ridge workforce housing development in Spearfish, as well as future affordable housing projects for the company. Salem says he is most looking forward to serving Rapid City and the communities surrounding his new home.

Salem discussing and ideating plans with families for their homes