Recently joining CallisonRTKL’s Dubai office, Reem Ekay discusses the new aesthetic developers in the UAE are seeking
“I knew I liked drawing and creating things,” said Reem Ekay, a LEED accredited architect who recently joined CallisonRTKL’s Dubai office – the firm’s first in the Middle East. “But studying architecture taught me how to create spaces and experiences, and that’s what I really fell in love with. To me, architecture is the orchestration of experiences within a space, and depending on how I design, I can tell people how to navigate or behave. So studying architecture really put me in that zone, and I just kind of grew into it.”
Born and raised in the UAE, Ekay studied at the American University of Sharjah before joining Perkins+Will, where she worked with industry heavyweights including Steven Velegrinis and Diane Thorsen. A part of the Cities+Sites team, Ekay gained experience in hospitality design, masterplanning and landscape design in the span of two years. And in April 2018, she joined CallisonRTKL.
“Both firms are great,” she said. “They both have their merits. With Perkins+Will, I was more a part of a macro scale and I think that was good for a junior designer stepping out of university, because I was trained for two years in that sort of realm. During architecture school, you’re taught the basic principles of design, but when you practice, it’s a whole different exercise. So being part of an urban planning team and working with hospitality as well, I was taught to zoom out and look at the bigger picture.”
“Now, I feel like it’s time to kind of zoom back in and focus on the architecture and really start taking projects all the way from concept to design development,” she added.
Ekay has worked on a number of high profile designs and developments including Culture Village in Dubai’s Al Jadaf, the Dewa Headquarters, and the Oman Investment Fund. She has also worked on competitions with UAE property developer Meraas and a 3D-printed beach club. In her current role, Ekay has continued growing her portfolio as part of CallisonRTKL’s commercial department, which also takes on residential and hospitality projects.
“I’m working on a very interesting mixed-use project that’s up and coming,” she added. “We’re working with a really good developer that has an interesting take on design. There’s an interesting trend that I’m seeing with developers in the UAE, where they’re not only looking at complete flexibility when it comes to designing, but also a new aesthetic or tailored way of designing for a younger demographic. Designs need to be flexible and communal, yes, but they don’t need to be polished. They can be a little more raw and industrial.”