The project specifications called Al Ittihad Square and the Central Market in Sharjah to be re-designed into a venue that would operate as a lifestyle hub. Weaving together five major programme elements, namely retail, dining, art, outdoor recreation, and ecological enhancement, the students were charged to use the landscape as the medium that binds the strands of the contemporary city together. Shurooq will be rewarding the student with the best design in March 2013, which may also be implemented in the redevelopment of these two key areas. Speaking about this landmark project, Shurooq CEO Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal said, "We are extremely pleased to be able to collaborate with the American University of Sharjah in this exciting project. As we continue to develop Sharjah's infrastructure, we also realise the vital importance of investing in the emirate's most important resource - its people. Sharjah has a wealth of human potential to tap into and through projects such as this one we wish to encourage and empower bright young minds to make a real contribution to building our Emirate. These fourteen students represent the great impact that their generation could have in the future of the emirate as can clearly be seen through the outstanding designs they have created." Al Sarkal went on to add that the project aimed to encourage students to broaden their horizons through the acquisition of real life experience beyond the scope of traditional university projects and that Shurooq would continue to initiate projects such as this one as part of their sustained commitment to support students in Sharjah and the Emirates. Professor Peter Di Sabatino, Dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) added: "It has been a great pleasure to collaborate more closely with Shurooq, and this has resulted in a real positive impact on the students educational experience. While our primary mission at AUS and CAAD is to provide the best possible education for our students, this is coupled with an aspect of the original vision of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qassimi, Member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates, Ruler of Sharjah, and President of the American University of Sharjah that charges us to become 'organically linked' to the economic, cultural, scientific and industrial sectors of society in 'productive cooperation.' This collaborative project with Shurooq, particularly through the excellent contributions from CEO Marwan Bin Jassim Al Sarkal and Architect Khawla Al Hashimi, is a direct instance of the mutual benefits of 'productive cooperation.' We look forward to even stronger and deeper relations with Shurooq and other entities in Sharjah." Architect Khawla Al Hashimi, from Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) commented on the program saying: "During the course of the project Shurooq organised a fieldtrip to Al Majaz Waterfront to serve as inspiration for the students. I had the opportunity to interact with each of the students and it was a true pleasure working with such a hardworking and dedicated group. Knowing they were working with Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), each student gave their absolute best. Their enthusiasm and innovative concepts are an excellent indication of the great contributions they are sure to make to Sharjah and the UAE's continued progress and development. We certainly look forward to many more collaborations with the University, as the students' potential and creativity are unmatched by any others." The project, which ran over the course of six months, forms part of a greater Ecological Urbanism project, which re-envisions the entire landscape of central Sharjah as an operative green infrastructure. It aims to stitch the centre of old and new Sharjah together and will act as a flagship within the series of Shurooq developments. Steven Velegrinis, Urban Design Practice Leader at Woods Bagot, and the part-time faculty member leading the studio at CAAD notes: "Underpinning the studio was the idea that the city is a living, breathing organism, and like all ecosystems, it evolves over time. The students were asked to 'weave' strands of the urban fabric together, making connections between people, places and ecological settings. Shurooq was a perfect partner in this regard as it has distinguished itself as a development agency that brings the same social, ecological and economic agenda to its projects." Shurooq was established in 2009 with the aim of achieving social, cultural, environmental and economic development on the basis of Sharjah's distinct Arab and Islamic identity, and to encourage investment by adopting the best international standards in providing quality services that help attract investors from the region and the world. Shurooq's key mission is to provide facilities and incentives to help overcome obstacles facing investment activities in the Emirate, evaluate investment-related infrastructure projects, and lay down the necessary plans to complete such projects.