Heritage master

Design excellence doesn’t have to be all about the biggest and brashest constructions of glass and steel, according to Benoy’s Alex Cunningham.

Instead striking structures can reflect a nation’s culture said the 29-year-old who has been working in Dubai for the past eight months.

“You can look out of a window in the city and see the beauty of the buildings – and part of their attraction is an inconsistency when it comes to design,” he said. “But look closely and you can see some of the aspects of the traditional architecture that has been incorporated. Dubai is a very exciting place for architects.”

Cunningham explained why he was initially attracted to the profession.

“I see architecture as a mix of art, design, science, history and philosophy,” he said. “All these subjects are ones I find very interesting so to work in a field that brings them all together is excellent.

“I am the first member of my family to take up architecture as a profession – but my two younger brothers are following on from me.”

Cunningham said he had encountered preconceptions of what it was like to work in Dubai before moving to the emirate.

“People said that the business environment is fast-paced, unforgiving even, and that the clients are incredibly demanding. People were also critical of some of the more futuristic, perhaps whimsical architecture.

“But I found that to be a misconception. And clients are pretty much the same the world over. The clients we work for here are ambitious and utterly driven but also highly creative. They encourage their architects to explore all aspects of designs.


Alex Cunningham was born in Newcastle, UK and went to university in both his home city and Nottingham.

He was interested in architecture firstly by building with Lego bricks before realising that it offered a range of disciplines all of which he appreciated. Cunningham joined Benoy in 2011 and worked on projects across Europe with retail and masterplanning his major areas of expertise.

He originally was going to work in Dubai for one month – but has ended up staying since the start of the year.