Gateway to South Asia, Vizhinjam

The GEN Z Series travels from the Swiss Alps to ‘God’s Own Country’ – Kerala. It will be fascinating for many across the globe to know as to why the Southern State of India – Kerala is known as ‘God’s Own Country’. Indian mythological belief states ‘Lord Parshuram, a manifestation of Lord Vishnu, threw his axe into the vast sea to develop land for his followers to reside peacefully. That is how the State of Kerala was born from the God itself’. Interesting isn’t it?

Shifany Mashoor Shah hails from Mulakuzha village – the ‘Land of Bamboos’ in Alappuzha district in Kerala. In the year 2022, she graduated with a B. Arch degree from the University of Calicut in Malappuram, Kerala. After her graduation, Shifany Mashoor Shah joined InSite – Planners / Landscape Architects in Dubai as a Level 1 Urban Designer and worked for a year. Excelling in her academic pursuit, she joined Technische Universität Darmstadt in Germany for her Masters in Sustainable Urban Design.

Lushgreen Garden at the Entrance

Shifany Mashoor Shah hails from an academic family. She reveals, “My father, Ahamad, serves as a Commercial Manager. My mother, Sheeja, holds a Postgraduate degree in Mathematics and teaches High School Mathematics. My younger brother is currently pursuing Medicine. Our family’s commitment to education and personal development remains a driving force. My parents’ collective influence has steered me towards an educational path that emphasizes cultivating a healthy and progressive mindset in life (smiles). I am truly blessed for the invaluable support system that has shaped my journey and fuelled my passion for contributing to the fields of architecture and urban design.”

Johnny D has an interesting interaction with Shifany Mashoor Shah about her quest and graduation thesis ‘Gateway to South Asia, Vizhinjam’.

Expansive View

What was your childhood ambition? Did you always wanted to become an architect?

Growing up, my childhood ambition was indeed influenced by a fascination with the built environment, but it was not always a direct path to becoming an architect. I was drawn to diverse forms of creative expression, from art to design. Early on, my interest in visiting historical places and a fondness for vernacular architecture emerged. The enchantment of Cinderella’s attic, Jasmine’s Palace, and Aladdin’s magic carpet fueled my fascination with magnificent magical cities (smiles).

Master Plan

How has architecture influenced your life as a student?

Architecture has been more than just a course of study; it has been a transformative journey that has enriched my life academically, creatively and ethically. Collaborative studio work throughout my college years has enhanced my communication skills and taught me the importance of constructive feedback. The journey continues to shape my worldview and aspirations, as I embark on a career as an architect and urban designer.

Shopping Centre

Briefly tell us about your University and the Course.

I began my Architecture Bachelor’s in 2017, marking five transformative years. My academic journey unfolded at the University of Calicut, known for its esteemed reputation in Kerala and India. Renowned for diverse courses and high teaching standards, it was a pivotal institution in shaping my architectural and urban design education. Bachelor of Architecture, a 5-year UG program provided a well-rounded education, covering essential aspects of design, planning and the integration of artistic and technical elements in the built environment.

Drive-in Park

The curriculum emphasized a practical approach, encouraging hands-on experiences and fostering a deep understanding of the complexities inherent in architectural and urban design. In line with the semester’s requirements, I actively engaged in internships, acquiring hands-on experience and refining proficiency in various software such as AutoCAD, Revit, Sketchup, Rhino and Adobe Creative Suite. Throughout my studies, I gained valuable insights into sustainable practices, technological advancements and the social considerations vital in shaping modern cities.

After completing my bachelor’s degree, I returned to my parents in the UAE and commenced my professional journey as an Urban Designer at Insite International. Presently, I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Sustainable Urban Development at the Technical University of Darmstadt.

Special Topic Study

What role do you performed as an Urban Designer at InSite, Dubai?

As an Urban Designer at InSite, Dubai, my role involves creating innovative and sustainable urban spaces. I engage in site analysis, collaborate on conceptual master planning, and contribute to the development of design concepts and ideas, moving forward with assisting on detailed master plans that align with the unique cultural and environmental context of each space designed specifically to tailor for different societies. Integrating aesthetics with functionality, I ensure urban spaces meet community needs and enhance residents’ well-being. My work brings me immense joy, leading me to lose track of time. The fulfillment derived fuels continuous creativity and unwavering dedication.


Briefly describe the significance of your project with the ‘Title of the Project and Site Location’.

My project ‘Gateway to South Asia’ is located in Vizhinjam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. The project originates from an ongoing initiative in Vizhinjam, a coastal city in Thiruvananthapuram, the Capital district of Kerala. Focused on the abundant opportunities in this coastal region, known for its high-level tourism, the project aims to establish a multi-modal transport hub with a strong emphasis on sustainable features, particularly catering to cruising ships.

Transport Hub

Situated at a critical juncture connecting the west and the east via waterways, Vizhinjam, as the deepest Greenfield port in India, stands as a potential Gateway. This development not only taps into the tourism potential of Kerala, but also positions India as a prominent cruise destination globally. Spanning 74 acres, this project serves as a new source of livelihood for the predominantly fishing community in Vizhinjam. The urban development envisioned has the potential to elevate living standards, while preserving the rich cultural traditions of the area.

Floor Plans – I

The project primarily includes an international cruise terminal featuring world-class amenities, powered by solar energy. Designed not only for passengers, but also for locals to sell or rent services. It aims to boost their daily income and contribute to the overall economic upliftment of the region. This multifaceted initiative envisions the infrastructural development with a holistic transformation that integrates economic growth, cultural preservation and sustainable practices. In addition to the above, a dedicated investigation into kinetic façades was conducted as an integral component of the terminal’s modeling process.

Road to Drop-off

Which National or International architect has inspired / influenced you? Please specify as to why?

In my dissertation research, I was captivated by Jan Gehl’s ideas. Based in Copenhagen, Gehl, a Danish architect, has dedicated his career to prioritizing pedestrians and cyclists in urban design, resulting in the transformative “Jan Gehl effect”. This humane approach, seamlessly integrating human-centric ideas, resonated with me, transforming me into an admirer of his work. Gehl’s influence became a driving force, shaping my perspective and fostering a commitment to creating urban environments that prioritize the well-being and experiences of their residents.

Connecting Sky Walkway

As an Intern, what is the most important lesson(s) you have learned from senior architects, while being a part of a project?

In my internship, I resonated with architects’ principles, influenced by Jan Gehl’s impact. Learning was not just about aesthetics, but also embracing a holistic approach, mirroring Gehl’s philosophy of functionality and sustainability. The architects emphasized a 360-degree view on projects, akin to Gehl’s human-centric approach. This lesson, echoing ‘Do not just design; think about the whole story’, became my design mantra. It ensures my work is visually striking, yet considering a long-term implications to serve people – a mindset owed to my internship and Gehl’s transformative urban design principles.

Floor Plans – II

Will the younger generation of architects make innovative changes to mitigate the catastrophic effects of Climate Crisis? Elucidate your perspectives.

The younger generation of architects holds immense potential to drive innovative changes and mitigate the catastrophic effects of the climate crisis. With a strong focus on sustainability, technological advancements and a collaborative mindset, we are well-equipped to integrate innovative solutions into our designs. This generation’s commitment to environmentally conscious practices and advocacy positions us to drive positive change in the industry and create a more resilient and sustainable built environment.


Which significant aspects of the global platform ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ did you liked the most, and why?

One significant aspect I like the most about ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ is its commitment to exploring new frontiers in addressing challenges, potentially focusing on innovative solutions for environmental sustainability, technological advancements, or other critical global issues. I value the global platform to foster collaboration, thereby bringing together diverse perspectives and expertise to create meaningful impact.


Local charm of cities has diminished due to Modern Architecture as every city looks alike and similar. How should architects / urban planners / landscape architects modernize cities, while maintaining the local charm intact?

In addressing the challenge of modernizing cities while preserving the local charm, I believe a holistic and community-centric approach is essential. Contextual design, cultural sensitivity and adaptive reuse are pivotal strategies. By understanding and incorporating the unique history and architecture of a city, we can create modern structures that seamlessly integrate with the local fabric.

Gehl’s theory centered around the idea that cities should be designed for people and human experiences, aligns seamlessly with the strategies mentioned. By incorporating these principles, architects and urban planners can create modern, sustainable and vibrant cities that not only meet contemporary needs, but also uphold the unique character and cultural heritage of each locale.

Floor Plans – III

Looking at the past in the current present, what are the futuristic architectural changes you would like to see in your home city / town? Elucidate the reasons for your vision.

Growing up in picturesque Mulakuzha, Kerala instilled a deep appreciation for its beauty and culture. Despite Dubai’s hustle and bustle, I am committed to preserving Mulakuzha’s identity. Surrounded by lush greenery, it holds a unique charm. While some favor radical change, I advocate a balanced approach —blending technology with sustainability, respecting climate and nature. Foreign-inspired designs disrupt harmony. My vision for Mulakuzha is innovative, yet rooted in cultural heritage. I aspire for a balance of modernity and sustainability, envisioning a hometown that values roots while embracing a sustainable future.

Outdoor Activities

Honours and awards related to architecture, if any.

During my academic journey, I earned the distinction of being the top performer in both my batch’s thesis presentation and university-wide rankings. My dedication to sustainable architecture was recognized through my Campus project, securing the ‘Best Studio Award’ in the South zone. Furthermore, my commitment to environmental consciousness and heritage preservation was acknowledged with a citation in the IGBC Green Design Competition for documenting the historic city of Kalpathy in Kerala.

Spacious Parking

Image Courtesy: Shifany Mashoor Shah

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