By Claire Davenport
The Egyptian government has minted AUC’s centennial coin, designed by five AUC students.
This accomplishment was the culmination of a summer of work, research and brainstorming for graphic design students Ahmad Khalil, Ingy Fawzy, Lana Kurdi, Mariam Ibrahim and Mariem Abutaleb. Aiming to highlight the impact of the University’s architecture on AUCians past and present, the minting of the coin finally made the group’s vision a reality.
To create a coin for AUC’s centennial, the five students took part in a mentored workshop supervised by Nagla Samir, associate professor in the Department of the Arts and co-chair of the Materials and Collateral Taskforce for the centennial, and Ghalia ElSrakbi, instructor in the Department of the Arts. “They are the dream team,” Samir exclaimed. “Ahmad and Mariam are seniors, Lana and Ingy are juniors and Mariem is a sophomore, so the team brought three-generation perspectives to the design.”
The team conducted extensive research before beginning the design process. Over the summer, they administered an online survey to determine what the campus meant to old and new AUCians. They then held multiple focus groups, narrowing down their designs until the two finalists were shown to President Francis Ricciardone. The final selection embodied what AUCians had expressed in the survey: that everyone related to AUC’s architecture, specifically its idiosyncratic arches and portals. “We worked throughout the summer, mainly on research,” explained Khalil, one of the student designers. “We went to the library and the archives, and this is where the design stemmed from. We wanted to base our design on AUC’s architecture, so we looked at books about that and studied photos of the campus.”
For the students, it was very important that the coin would resonate with the AUC community. “This wasn’t just a theoretical project; it was something that was going to be made,” said Ibrahim, another student designer. “Your eyes and your professor’s eyes are not the only ones that will see this. Everyone has to understand it, and it has to be of value for all. Architecture is the connecting dot between all the generations.”
Explaining what he hopes people would envision when they look at the coin, Khalil noted, “I hope they get a feel of the heritage of this institution and realize that’s it’s been there for a very long time.”
The final coin features two striped arches on one side, one slightly smaller than the other, bowing together to create an impossible bridge where they alluringly meet in the middle. “We picked the old and the new arches and morphed them together,” Ibrahim said, explaining how they used a rendition of AUC’s classic arch to connect the old with the new. It seemed fitting to ElSrakbi that the campus would be the inspiration behind the coin’s design. “The campus is where everything happens, where people meet, where people study, and where faculty and students spend time together. The campus itself is a kind of time capsule,” she said.
Besides reflecting the values and history of AUC, the coin’s design also carries symbolic weight. “The arches connect the past to the future, and the portals take on another meaning. They become a portal to the past, where 100 years ago, people walked through the first arched portal to AUC,” Samir explained.
Beyond the design, the five students who worked on the centennial coin also got exposure to the technical side of the design process. They had to make sure the coin’s design — including logo size, spacing and lettering — all conformed to government standards. “Working on a coin is not something you get to do every day. It was cool because we got to see the technical part of it,” said Kurdi, a student on the design team. Samir and ElSrakbi both believe that creating the coin and going through the minting process gave the students valuable real-world work experience. “It was the first time I produced something that would go out into the world; it’s very meaningful,” Khalil expressed.
The students also designed a unique packaging for the coin. While it has not been finalized, the essential concept was to make the package interactive, with fold-out flaps containing information about AUC and 100 years of its events. “It’s not designed to go into a drawer. It’s designed to stand,” Samir explained proudly.
“The campus is where everything happens, where people meet, where people study, and where faculty and students spend time together. The campus itself is a kind of time capsule.”
There will be both a silver and a gold coin for sale. The silver coins will be available for sale at the AUC Bookstores, while some of the gold coins will be given as gifts to donors and trustees. The rest will potentially be auctioned off. AUC ordered 1,000 silver coins and 20 gold coins. The coins will be sold for a bank set value. Samir hopes that AUC will always keep one gold coin, “perhaps in a time capsule or in the University Archives,” she said.
The coin is ultimately a celebration of AUC’s 100 years of learning, growth and service in and outside of the University walls. “As well as commemorating this important occasion, these coins will help raise money for student-related causes and scholarships,” explained Lamia Eid ’82, ’92, head of the Materials and Collateral Taskforce for the centennial.
“One hundred years is a big thing, so commemorating this event is really important,” added Fawzy, a student on the team.
As ElSrakbi explained, the coin is a perfect vehicle because it withstands time. “The coin as a medium has been there for so long, as an object to preserve the memory of an event that happens,” speculated ElSrakbi. “By collecting it, you preserve this event for the future, but you are also trying to talk about the past.”