DAMAC: What are developers looking for in architects?

Architecture is a “magical mix of art, science and business” says DAMAC’s technical general manager Sherif  Seleem when asked how he defines the profession.

And, when stating the most important factor when it comes to the developer hiring a design specialist, he has no hesitation in ranking “creativity” as number one.

Seleem, himself a trained architect, says: “Top of the list when I am looking for a professional to work with is their ability to align themselves with our vision. There is a balance to be struck in architecture between art, science and business so of course they have to achieve that as well.

“The market environment is something they need to understand. This can include such things as local regulations, environmental aspects and the availability of materials.

“The success of any project depends on the close understanding between a client and the architect.

“They need to establish a dialogue. From our point of view we have to present them with a really serious challenge, then another, then challenge them again so we can get the very best out of their abilities.”

Seleem feels the diverse projects architects are involved in gives them an insight into many different aspects
of the human psyche.

“Throughout different jobs the architect is always talking to people, they have to understand people’s needs in order to successfully design a new building,” he explains.

“If it’s a hospital they are working on, they need to be a little bit of a doctor, if it’s a school, they need to understand what it means to be a teacher.”

Akoya Oxygen, an environmental-based residential development is a current project by DAMAC with the second stage of release of residential units taking place early this month (October).

It involves parkland and wooded areas with sports facilities and properties which are designed with sustainability as one of the most important factors Seleem says it is a project which architects can significantly contribute to.

“We are offering a luxury resort lifestyle, which will be a contrast to the city,” he says. “It is not luxury in the sense of lots of gold and branding. It is about greenery and an ecological lifestyle so architects need to understand that.

“It is a large, open, very well landscaped area. A large number of trees are part of the development – that is where the name comes from. So architects can contribute by such things as offering solutions as to how to reduce the carbon footprint.”

Developers are also becoming increasingly involved with the design process through the application of new technology such as Business Information Modeling – BIM – which allows them to see the initial masterplan and the structure as it develops.

They can also access details of project management, costs and any issues which arrise during construction. For the last 14 years Seleem has worked with BIM “even before it was called BIM” and sees it as a way for the architect and client to work together successfully. But he admits he has some reservations.

“I don’t think the full potential of BIM for the industry as a whole has been developed quickly enough,” he says.

“If it is in place from day one of a project than it is possible to see, feel and touch a project and fully understand how it is going to turn out. This fully integrated approach is, to me, the best use of the technology.

“The other way I call ‘in parallel’ and this will see a two dimensional design put together in the traditional way with a model then made which highlights any mistakes which can then be more easily rectified.

For the relationship between developer and architect to work successfully Seleem says there is one over-riding necessity.

“It comes back to creativity,” he says. “The architect needs to come up with new, fresh, solutions to achieve the targets then the developer has set. This becomes easier if we have worked with them before and have a relationship. They will more easily understand our methods, be able to react faster and discover ways we can enhance the original vision.”