Kaif Ali

New Delhi, India

Kaif  Ali

Kaif is an architecture student at Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi, India who has a passion for helping others with his skills and creativity. Moved by the living conditions of refugees fleeing from war in Syria, he has received international recognition for his work designing sustainable homes and safe spaces for the developing world. Kaif experienced first-hand the devastating impact of the COVID pandemic when his father was struck down by the virus leaving him unable to work. Because of this, Kaif is now funding himself through university. Seeing the growing unemployment and homelessness in his community during the COVID crisis, he led and inspired his friends to help distribute food to some of the worst affected people. Through the Majdoors organisation, Kaif also works with fellow undergraduates to help find work for migrant workers, who have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic. 

Kaif is passionate about sustainable development and improving the life chances of refugees and disadvantaged people across the world. He has spoken on global stages such as Youth Stem 2020 Summit and virtual conferences on disaster relief and lessons from COVID. He has also been interviewed by mainstream and specialist architecture media in India about his innovative designs to create COVID-safe accommodation in communities.  

Kaif has won multiple awards and global admiration for his Space Era project – an architectural solution to the risks of COVID patients quarantining in confined spaces with family and friends.  Space Era is a portable, recyclable shelter system made of metal shipping containers, fitted with solar power, water and sanitation. The containers can be repurposed as treatment centres, washrooms, low-cost housing units, or accommodation in refugee camps – and multiple containers can be joined together, adding flexibility in the size of indoor space that can be used. The project embodies multiple United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and has been commended by many international bodies, including the Indian government. The first Space Era prototype is soon to be built in Lagos, Nigeria, offering a ready solution when accommodation is needed urgently in crisis situations for homes, hospitals, clinics, shelters or vaccination centres. 

Kaif and his project have attracted recognition from across the globe. He is a youth icon for the charity Youth Connect, and Space Era won the UN Climate Innovation Lab award for Asia Pacific. In September 2020 Kaif featured on NDTV as one of their “lockdown heroes”, and in 2021 he was awarded a scholarship from Ubuntu Architecture Summer Abroad programme to take his designs to Durban, South Africa. If he wins the Global Student Prize, Kaif wants to establish a startup dedicated to supplying sustainable, modular accommodation to house vaccination and medical centres throughout India and the developing world.