Top 45 most influential architects in the Middle East in 2018
Middle East Architect magazine rounds up 45 of the Middle East’s most influential, established and emerging architects. From Lebanon to the GCC to Iran, this list highlights the architects that have positively contributed to the growing development of the region.
Alphabetically ordered, our list, entitled ‘Who’s Who’, consists of 45 established architects and five up-and-comers that should be on your radar for 2018.
Chief architect and founder, Archidentity
Having established his architecture practice, Archidentity, in 2009, Ahmed Bukhash has long identified the need for developments to reflect their surrounding culture and embody the spirit of place through modern abstractions and reinterpretations of traditional archetypes. In the near decade since launching his boutique firm, he has guided the nine-member team through successful project turnarounds. In 2017 alone, Archidentity saw the completion of four projects across Dubai including the kindergarten school extension for Dubai Japanese School, residential villa developments in Al Barsha and Umm Suqeim, as well as an art installation project created in collaboration with Architectural Digest and Bentley Motors. Largely working across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, Bukhash and his growing team are looking forward to the developments of a three-star hotel and a residential tower in 2018, as well as further engagement with the Dubai Expo 2020.
Amir Hossein Hajizadeh
Lead architect, Hajizadeh & Associates
With seven years under his belt at the Tehran-based architecture firm Hajizadeh & Associates, founded by his brother Kourosh in 2008, Amir Hossein Hajizadeh has served as lead architect since 2013. His projects include the Tokyo Music Center, which won MEA Awards’ Public Sector Project of the Year in 2015 and the Chabahar Free Zone Complex that was awarded MEA Awards’ Concept Design of Year in 2017. Through design, Hajizadeh aims to create events, or interactions within communities, and dialogue between people and place. His context-oriented design process results in projects that reflect the vernacular elements of their environment, and the challenge of shaping an event for the end-user allows Hajizadeh to categorise his work – whether architectural or other – as conceptual art. Along with the Hajizadeh & Associates team, the architect is looking forward to a number of projects across the hospitality and residential sectors in 2018.
Ammar Al Assam
CEO, Dewan Architects + Engineers
As CEO of one of the region’s largest architecture firms, Ammar Al Assam has led the firm’s steady growth since assuming his role four years ago. Expanding the total staff count from 271 in 2013 to 464 in 2017, Al Assam was recently shortlisted for MEA Awards’ Principal of the Year 2017. Among his many accomplishments, Al Assam spearheaded the integration of modern technology at Dewan, which now prides itself on being a fully-fledged BIM compliant firm. Al Assam has also taken great strides to reduce the negative impact of Dewan’s buildings on the environment by ensuring it adopts strict sustainability regulations – many of the firm’s architects and engineers are LEED Aps and Estidama PQPs. Under Al Assam’s supervision, Dewan has had an active 2017, with the completion of many across the UAE and Saudi Arabia, including First Avenue Mall and the AKH Tower. Over the next 12 months, Al Assam will lead the company’s expansion into new markets across South East Asia and Africa.
Founder, Khammash Architects
Jordanian architect, photographer and artist, Ammar Khammash founded his practice in the late 1980s, while he worked as a travelling architect with his office wherever his laptop was. In the decades since, his studio has enjoyed an organic growth and development of a design identity that has seen the completion of context-driven projects across the Levant. His portfolio includes the Wild Jordan Center, the Royal Academy for Nature Conservation, the Darat Al Funun workspace and the Columbia University Middle East Research Center in Amman. Specifying in ethnoarchaeology, Khammash has long been involved in significant historical-architectural constructions and renovations. He is working on a number of projects that continue his combined respect for heritage and contemporary architecture, with the past year seeing an ongoing collaboration with Peter Zumthor on a pedestrian bridge in Jericho.
Arash G Tehrani
Founder and principal at Arash G Tehrani Design Studio
Since founding his namesake design studio in 2013 in Alborz, Iran, Arash G Tehrani has worked to establish a humanitarian, research- and design-driven practice. The firm’s achievements include the creation of economic and easily-assembled shelter for victims of war or natural disasters, as well as the homeless. Tehrani encourages a research-based creative process for his office, which sees the creation of heritage-saving design concepts and public education projects for the “improvement of general taste”. Over the course of 2018, Tehrani hopes to continue developing the studio and collaborative projects with different organisations. The studio will also be launching its product design services.
Founder and CEO, Behzad Atabaki Studio
Behzad Atabaki has successfully headed his boutique firm with projects across Iran including the Park Residential Project, Aftab office building, Kish residential tower, and many more. His nine-person team intends to focus on more large scale projects for the coming year, as well as urban design projects including rehabilitation developments across different territories. Atabaki has been nominated for many awards including the Aga Khan Award for Architects and a World Architecture Festival Award in 2017.
Principal and design partner, Killa Design
Before joining Killa Design in 2015, Benjamin Piper developed a reputation for spearheading the growth of Perkins+Will’s Dubai office. Since 2015, though, Piper has been involved in moulding the design ethos of Killa Design with its founder Shaun Killa. His portfolio, which spans across his career, includes the BLVD Address Hotel, Diplomatic Quarter Hotel in Riyadh, Mumbai’s Namaste Tower and Dubai’s Office of the Future. Committed to sustainable design, Piper is LEED accredited and continues to implement numerous energy, water and waste saving principles into his design work.
Managing partner, Godwin Austen Johnson
Brian Johnson has maintained an almost constant presence throughout the GCC since 1975, and he is currently rounding out his 28th year with the Dubai-based architecture and design firm Godwin Austen Johnson (GAJ). Opening the GAJ headquarters in Dubai in 1991, Johnson played a role in modernising traditional architecture across the UAE, with his work comprising some of the country’s most recognisable buildings, such as the Dubai Creek Golf Club, Bab Al Shams and the Arabian Court at the One&Only Royal Mirage. With his leadership, GAJ is looking forward to a number of projects over the coming year including Muscat Bay and a DoubleTree in Riyadh.
Director of hospitality, Perkins+Will
Since joining award-winning architecture practice Perkins+Will four years ago, David Lessard has worked side by side with the firm’s leadership to grow its architecture studio into new areas of expertise. LEED accredited, Lessard is an advocate for sustainable design and has worked on many projects across the GCC including DT1, The Chedi, Movenpick Resort on Al Marjan Island, BLVD Heights and many more. Before joining Perkins+Will, he served as senior project architect for American firm Asymptote Architecture, based in New York.
Managing director, Desert INK
Duncan Denley has been a UK chartered landscape architect since 2008. His professional experience includes a wide range of international work, as he has been based in the UK, US and UAE. With 16 years of experience in the Middle East, Denley is one of the most experienced and sought-after landscape architects in the UAE.
Having being involved in many projects in the GCC, such as the Burj Khalifa, Mall of the Emirates, Abu Dhabi Central Markets and Doha’s Sheraton Park, Denley is well-versed not only in creative design, but the technical complexities involved in such massive construction projects. As he leads his team with equal doses of enthusiasm, passion and knowledge, desert INK has developed a growing collection of design awards, which is testament to his passion for design.
Scooping up a high profile installation at the entrance to this year’s Downtown Design, the future looks bright for desert INK. The studio of landscape architects, engineers, product designers and architects is keen to do things differently this year, as evidenced in their soon-to-be-finished d3 Park – which will sit on a prime strip of land and utilise 700 concrete blocks found at the site to construct the park. The project will feature a beach, outdoor gym, climbing ravine and a skate park.
Future prospects include several high-profile resorts and a substantial city park in Riyadh constructed around an existing wadi. Beyond his work portfolio, Denley often contributes to publications and discuses his design philosophies with those willing to listen.
“We believe that the very best designers do not have a formula,” he said. “We like to approach each space with fresh eyes, study the surrounding elements, architecture, natural environment or the existing uses of the site and generate ideas from there.”
Founder, La Casa
Founder of La Casa, Palestinian architect and engineer Emad Jaber has built a reputation for himself within the region’s industry. With work across the Middle East and Africa baring his company’s name, Jaber has maintained operations from Palestine to Saudi Arabia, Libya to Sudan.
Throughout his tenure, he has been involved in masterplan developments across the UAE including Dubai Internet City, Jumeirah Beach Residence, the Executive Towers and the Skycourt Towers. This past year saw the company’s efforts in Palestine grow as well, with upcoming education and retail projects contributing to Ramallah’s built environment.
Shortlisted for this year’s Principal of the Year at the MEA Awards, Jaber has seen his company swell to more than 300 people over the years. By continuously adding to its service offerings in response to market demands, La Casa has been able to deliver complete solutions to its clients. And by doing so, the firm maintains the same standard of quality across all disciplines.
“I’m always saying, ‘We need to prove ourselves!’ And a lot of people ask, ‘Don’t you think we’ve proven ourselves already?’ And the answer is always no,” Jaber told MEA in a 2017 interview.
Since 2012, La Casa has been riding a wave of success, with developers coming back to the company and green lighting projects that were paused in 2008. And though industry dynamics have changed a little, with design competitions a thing of the now, La Casa remains as steadfast as ever, taking home seven out of every 10 design bids, said Jaber.
“I wouldn’t change anything,” he said. “I’m living my life as though it’s a dream that I really like. When I was in high school thinking of becoming an engineer, I couldn’t have imagined this. My reality is so much bigger than I planned for myself.”
Principal, design director of architecture, Perkins+Will
Before signing on as principal at Perkins+Will’s Dubai office almost two years ago, Firas Hnoosh worked as design director for Gensler and BDP. His extensive portfolio includes a number of commercial and institutional projects including the National Bank of Abu Dhabi Global HQ on Al Maryah Island, the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal in Mina Zayed for the ADPC, a mixed-use development in Dubai for Majid Al-Futtaim, and many more. A chartered member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, an ARB registered architect and a LEED accredited professional, Hnoosh continues to guide the growing team at Perkins to create sustainable solutions.
Gijo Paul George
Co-founder and Principal, Studio Toggle
As one half of the dynamic duo that runs Kuwaiti architecture firm Studio Toggle, Gijo Paul George has been in his current role for more than six years. Previously working as junior architect at KEO International Consultants, George’s portfolio includes the Emerald Gateway and the Lantern House, Bean 2 Bar Boutique, and NJW Apartments. Since co-founding Studio Toggle with Hend Almatrouk, he has continued focusing on research-driven architecture and co-led the development on the firm’s award-winning projects, such as F.LOT and the Edges Apartments, which won a nomination for an Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2015.
Partner, Polypod and Associate Dean, DIDI
Since founding the Beirut-based multidisciplinary design and architecture studio Polypod in 2006, Hani Asfour has led the firm’s collaborations with international and local clients including Solidere, Microsoft and The Edge. The boutique design studio has enjoyed steady growth, with its 12-member strong team winning several design awards across its 11-year life span including the ReBrand 100 Distinction Award, IPA’s Highly Commended Architecture Multiple Residence, and, most recently, the MEA Award for Community and Cultural Project of the Year in 2017 – won for its latest project, the Anwar Sabbah Musalla in southern Lebanon.
Partner and architect, LOCI Architecture + Design
A graduate of the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, Hani Fallaha was the recipient of the RIBA Presidents Medal for the best design project upon completion of his studies. A visiting critic at the American University of Sharjah, he now co-leads the Dubai-based architecture firm LOCI with partner Hamad Khoory. Under his leadership, the 19-person staff works across the industry’s many sectors including medical, retail, residential, commercial and education. Across 2017, they delivered nine projects in Dubai and are currently planning for another six in the coming 12 months.
Founder and design director, Hanna Salameh Design
Founder of the Amman-based architecture and design studio Hanna Salameh Design, Jordanian architect and designer Hanna Salameh is adamant about developing a new perspective on the ‘production of modern architecture’. A sustainability enthusiast who’s developed projects of high-energy efficiency and environmental consciousness, Salameh’s studio is separated into various departments that handle architecture, design and research. Of its many projects, two of Hanna Salameh Design’s notable works are the centre for the Queen Rania Foundation and its efforts in rehabilitating the Jordan Gate Towers. The latter went on to spark a community debate that the architect said was the first time in years that Amman residents felt a part of the conversation regarding the city’s development.
Founder, Hashim Sarkis Studios
With dozens of projects and publications under his belt, Lebanese architect and academic Hashim Sarkis, founder of Hashim Sarkis Studios, seems as busy as ever, with his work taking him from the coast of Byblos to the outskirts of Boston. Though he’s worked in the GCC, Asia and Canada, it’s Sarkis’ contribution to the development and reconstruction of Lebanon, from Beirut’s downtown to the country’s fishing village of Tyre, that stands out so prominently. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and Harvard, he launched Hashim Sarkis Studios in 1998, and has since built an extensive portfolio of residential towers and urban masterplans. At the moment, Sarkis has delivered more than 30 buildings and is now working on a few new projects in the Boston area set on the edges of the city.
CEO and partner, Studio Toggle
Working alongside Gijo Paul George, the award-winning Kuwaiti architect Hend Almatrouk has lead the boutique firm Studio Toggle from strength to strength. Growing the staff to a total of 10 employees across two branches – one in Kuwait and one in Portugal – Almatrouk has spearheaded a number of successful developments including a residential project in Yarmouk, a retail design for a chocolate brand, and the full design for TAP Office. The firm is looking forward to a busy 2018, as well, with projects like TWINS Apartment complex, Al Seeb, 6ZAG and The Beacon. Almatrouk was this year’s Young Architect of the Year at the MEA Awards. Upon winning, she said, “We always try to come up with solutions instead of producing a beautiful building for the sake of creating something beautiful.”
Principal designer, La Casa
Having joined La Casa more than a decade ago, Ihab Nayal started out as one of the key designers at the then-young firm. Over time, he gradually assumed more responsibility in the office and now runs the firm’s design department – in charge of his own projects as well as growing and managing the team. Some of his most high-calibre work includes the Dubai Wharf and GV11 in DIFC. Moving forward, Nayal has been working on a number of projects across the UAE including a project in Dubai’s Business Bay for Gemini Developers, as well as residential projects for Al Ghurair and near Dubai Wharf. According to the architect, the latter is a continuation to La Casa’s development in that area.
Islam El Mashtooly
Senior project architect, Perkins+Will
Winner of MEA Award’s Young Architect of the Year in 2015, Islam El Mashtooly has since left his post at Godwin Austen Johnson and joined Perkins+Will. In the two years since his career transition, El Mashtooly has enjoyed an eventful work path. 2017 alone saw his projects win international design awards, while he was also a finalist for the World Architecture Festival. The good fortune continued to the end of the year, as he was recently announced as one of the curators for the Egyptian Pavilion for the Venice Biennale 2018. He will be working with a team of Dubai-based architects and academics including Cristiano Luchetti from AUS, Mouaz Abouzaid of Dewan Architects + Engineers and Giuseppe Moscatello, director at Maraya Art Centre.
Managing director and partner, NEB
With more than 33 years of experience in the architecture industry in the Middle East, Jamil Jadallah joined NEB in 2002, and through his vision, has led the massive architecture and engineering firm with his vision, business intelligence and attention to detail.
According to others in the growing organisation, his “enlightened approach to business” has fuelled the company’s multidisciplinary approach, providing high-standards of service across the full spectrum of the built environment. The 572-member team looks forward to a number of building completions in 2018 including Marina 106, which is set to become the UAE’s second tallest tower, as well as the Crowne Plaza in Dubai Marina and Sharjah University Tower.
Regional design director, Atkins
With more than 20 years of experience, Janus Rostock joined Atkins in 2006 and became part of the team working on the Dubai Promenade and Cape Town Waterfront masterplan. After a three year stint working as associate design director for Atkins in Copenhagen, he returned to the UAE in 2011 and assumed responsibility for Atkins’ Middle East architecture and urban design team. Of his many projects, perhaps most notable is the Dubai Opera. And while upcoming projects are confidential, he will continue to work on projects across the region. In a previous interview with MEA, Rostock once declared the time of the ‘starchitect’ over. “I think we are moving away from the star architect…That I think is a thing of the past and, in my opinion, the starchitect is no more,” he said.
Partner and head of education design, Godwin Austen Johnson
Specialising in the education and commercial mixed-use sectors, Jason Burnside has led the design of 20 schools in the region since being appointed his role in 2012 – the same year he won Architect of the Year at the MEA Awards. With more than 16 years of experience in the region, his 2017 projects included the Dubai College English Block, the new reception building at Dubai College and the Sharjah English School Early Years building. The architect has also long contributed to conversations around education design and offered his input to publications discussing the topic. Looking ahead, Burnside will lead the design of more than five upcoming projects including Al Furjan School, Dubai College Centre of Sporting Excellence, and the Dubai College Learning Centre.
Managing director, JT+Partners
Since leaving his post as regional design director at Atkins and launching his own company three years ago, Joe Tabet has managed to establish his 44-member architecture firm, JT+Partners, as one of the UAE’s key firms. As recipient of MEA Awards’ Principal of the Year at it 2017 cycle, Tabet has been largely recognised for successfully leading his growing team to build for the future.
The office culture emphasises not only quality, research-based design, but it also stays up to date with technology advancements and remains active in CSR initiatives and conversations aimed at the betterment of the industry.
At the awards, the judges labelled him a “revolutionary”, and revered him for having “broken out of the mould and proceeded to plan structures and communities that would transcend design and encompass societal and environmental issues.”
Upon winning Principal of the Year, Tabet said, “I recently found that when I look over the past two years, from where I was when I started on my own to where we are today with three offices and 50 people, I feel that it’s been unbelievable.”
The last 12 months saw the completion of a number of large-scale projects, including Al Barsha First Townhouses in Dubai, One World Development in India, the Morocco Winter Retreat Resort, a private residence in Abu Dhabi, the Mango House in Seychelles and Maskeliya VIP Resort in Sri Lanka.
As the company continued its extensive work across major global markets including the UAE, north and central Africa, Saudi Arabia and India, JT+Partners expanded with the opening of its Beirut office – third in line to the firm’s Abu Dhabi and Dubai locations.
The next 12 years will continue the reign of the firm’s success with major projects across the UAE. Such projects include the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Ras Al Akhdar Hotel, Khor Al Raha Courtyard and Al Raha Residences all in Abu Dhabi, as well as the Hampton by Hilton in Ras Al Khaimah.
Founder and director, Anarchitect
Since leaving his post as senior architect at Godwin Austen Johnson in 2013 and founding his own award-winning firm Anarchitect in Dubai, Jonathan Ashmore has truly made a name for himself. His consistent work quality, design aesthetic and understanding of the context local to wherever he is working has allowed him to guide his small but formidable office to continued success. Anarchitect’s 2017 projects included Dubai projects like El Chiringuito Ibiza, Belgravia One and the Rossano Ferretti Hairspa, which won the Retail Design of the Year at the CID Awards 2017. Over the next 12 months, the firm will see the completion of its Fossil Rock Desert Resort and Spa, a private residential project in Sri Lanka, Belgravia Two in Dubai, and many others.
Principal architect, Hajizadeh & Associates
Founder of the award-winning Tehran-based architecture firm Hajizadeh & Associates, Kourosh Hajizadeh has long shown interest in the history and culture of his homeland. In 2001, he published a book titled ‘Dooman’, which explores the lost culture and historical values of Tabriz. And from 2002 to 2007, he worked with architects Bahram Shirdel and Seyyed Hadi Mirmiran before establishing his office. As MEA Awards’ Architect of the Year in 2013, Hajizadeh has shown great design integrity throughout his ever-expanding career and has led his office with a mentality that appreciates an artistic approach to architecture. While he leads his team on a number of upcoming projects, Hajizadeh will continue his pursuit of a PhD in architecture from the Islamic Azad University.
Design principal and partner, U+A
As co-founder, design principal and partner at the Dubai-based architecture and design firm U+A, Martin Dufresne leads the firm’s project teams. Since his win in 2013 for MEA Awards’ Principal of the Year, he has gone on to work on a number of large-scale projects. While 2017 saw the development of the Floating Homes, as well as the completion of the Swiss International School, a middle and high school, 2018 looks to be an even busier year. Dufresne is currently looking at a number a residential projects with Emaar, the Deyaar Midtown Development, Deyaar Millenium Hotel, Wasl Experience Centre and many more. Across most of his work, Dufresne serves as lead architect and provides the full scope of design services to clients as well as advises his inhouse teams.
Mohamed Al Assam
Founder and executive chairman, Dewan Architects + Engineers
Iraqi architect Mohamed Al Assam founded his architecture firm more than 30 years ago, and in the decades since, it has grown to be a key global firm with branches across the Middle East. As chairman of the board of directors, Al Assam has participated in setting the strategic direction of the firm. With his sound awareness in business development, the firm has achieved several international awards and nominations. Dewan is currently staffed with over 300 professionals and is working on an extensive portfolio of projects in various sectors across the GCC and North Africa. The firm’s recent projects include The Fountain Views, the Marriott Courtyard Khobar, the German School in Cairo and many more. Al Assam is also a member of various initiatives like the Tamayouz Excellence Award.
Architect, Mohammad Khavarian Architects
Working across architecture, urbanism, interior design and research, Mohammad Khavarian imbues his practice with an ethos centred on critical thinking, extending beyond the boundaries of architectural production to realise specific and unexpected solutions. Khavarian’s work ranges from city-defining structures to cultural buildings, and the office engages in non-architectural projects and interventions, from art exhibitions to installations, graphic design to identity and positioning. His studio, which currently numbers at 16 staff members, worked on a number of projects this year including Chamestan House in northern Iran and a residential project in Yazd. For 2018, the firm looks to complete residential projects across Iran and K Mall in Baghdad.
BIM manager, Dewan Architects + Engineers
Cairo-born and a graduate of Alexandria University, Mouaz Abouzaid is Dewan’s BIM manager and a former recipient of MEA Awards’ Young Architect of the Year in 2016. In 2017, he made waves in the local architecture scene for his development of the ‘Sheltainer’ project – a collaborative initiative that included other Dubai-based architects Bassel Omara and Ahmad Hammad. A concept that can be built anywhere and intended for destitute communities, Sheltainer picked up an MEA Award in 2017. Abouzaid’s 2018 outlook includes a number of projects across the UAE including Reem Mall Abu Dhabi and Makers District Phase 1 in Capital Bay on Al Reem Island. At the end of 2017, Abouzaid was also appointed co-curator of the Egyptian Pavilion for the Venice Biennale 2018.
Principal and founding partner, AGi Architects
Receiving his PhD in design from Harvard Graduate School of Design, Nasser Abulhasan co-founded the Kuwait-based AGi Architects with Joaquin Perez-Goicoechea in 2006. His design experience includes commercial office buildings and complexes, government buildings, mixed-use facilities and other institutional buildings. Since 2006, he has completed several projects across urban design, planning, interiors and industrial design, and has been honoured on several occasions both nationally and internationally. Beyond his built work, Abulhasan has held teaching positions as adjunct professor at the Boston Architectural Center and Kuwait University. He’s also guest lectured at conferences and universities across the world.
Managing director, U+A
Co-founder of U+A, a large Dubai-based architecture firm that was shortlisted in four categories at the last MEA Awards, Pedram Rad has worked alongside Martin Dufresne to grow the in-house team to 114 members. With 40 qualified architects, it would seem that Rad is successfully leading an increasingly influential firm. This year, the architects at U+A saw the completion of a number of projects including the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, St. Regis Polo Club and Hotel and DAMAC Heights. The company is also looking forward to its global expansion, with offices opening in London, Toronto and Johannesburg in 2018.
Principal and managing director, Middle East and North Africa, B+H Architects
A Toronto native, Phillip Jones has enjoyed nearly 30 years of work in the GCC. Known for a number of projects and masterplans across the region including the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies Public Realm Design, and the Lu’Luat Al Raha Masterplan, Jones has spearheaded the firm’s regional presence. An avid commentator, Jones also contributes to conversations on design technology and urban development.
Director, RSP Dubai
With two years under his belt as director of RSP Dubai, Ralf Steinhauer previously worked as project director at RSP, senior associate at Woods Bagot and design architect at RMJM. Racking up a total of 11 years of experience in the region, Steinhauer’s leadership saw a successful year with the completion of a massive extension to Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, which was shortlisted for an MEA Award in 2017. His key training objectives and programmes for the current year include ongoing Revit and BIM training as well as project management training. Steinhauer also pushes his inhouse team to be attend local or regional events organised by industry bodies, such as RIBA or AIA. RSP Dubai will be working on a number of upcoming projects including Palm Mall and Palm Tower, Deira Mall, Dubai Hills Business Park, and other projects in 2018.
Director, Dar Al Omran
The award-winning Palestinian architect Rasem Badran has long been considered a pioneer of modern Islamic architecture. The recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1995 for the Great Mosque of Riyadh, Badran has spent the better part of his career designing urban-scale developments and private residences across Saudi Arabia, as well as private projects for government authorities in other parts of the GCC. His office, Dar Al Omran, has three branches across the Middle East, from Jordan to Saudi Arabia to the UAE. In addition to his built work, Badran further contributes to regional architecture through public talks and engagement with regional initiatives, like the Tamayouz Excellence Award. At the end of 2017, Badran was nominated for the Nile Award by The Society of Egyptian Architects for his outstanding achievements and contribution to art and architecture. The announcement will be made by March 2018.
Founder and design director, RAW-NYC
Having established RAW-NYC in 2012 in New York, Iraqi architect Raya Ani runs the boutique interdisciplinary architecture studio with a focus on “uniquely crafted buildings, interior spaces and urban design solutions in the GCC area and worldwide”. With a six to eight-member team, Ani opened the studio’s Dubai office in 2014, which has seen the recent completion of residential projects in Dubai. The female-led studio works across various sectors including residential, commercial, masterplanning and interiors. Beyond architecture, RAW-NYC supports initiatives aimed at social impact each year. The studio often works to promote awareness through design solutions that respond to challenges, like climate control or immigration.
Principal, Woods Bagot
The winner of MEA Awards’ Principal of the Year in 2016, Richard Fenne’s projects include the IRENA HQ building and the first residential development at Masdar city. More recently, too, the firm has been working on a number of highly anticipated projects across the UAE, including the Bluewaters Island Retail development in Dubai and the upcoming Aljada masterplan in Sharjah.
Sahel Al Hiyari
Principal architect, Sahel Al Hiyari Architects
Founder of an award-winning, Amman-based architecture practice, and a RISD and Harvard-graduate, Sahel Al Hiyari has long contributed to architecture through design and academia. The firm’s work covers a wide spectrum of design-related disciplines, including urban design, interior and furniture design, architectural installations and exhibition design, and boasts an extensive portfolio of built work perfectly suited for its context. Having served as a reviewer and a member of the Master Jury for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Al Hiyari is also a painter and has exhibited his art in Jordan, Lebanon and Italy.
Principal architect, Atkins
Serving as principal architect at Atkins’ Middle East office for the past two years, Salim Hussain recently completed a two billion dirham masterplan for Nabta Town in Egypt, which was shortlisted for three regional awards for both its masterplan and architectural design. He also completed the design work for a large mixed-use development in the GCC valued at over two and half billion dirhams, which includes two luxury towers. Beyond his extensive portfolio, Hussain also ensures regional staff stay committed to the office’s Graduate Development Programme, Women’s Business Network, and the staff training programme ‘My Career’. Currently, Atkins is involved in a Riding Centre for Disabled Children in Dubai, with Hussain overseeing the planning and development of the design proposals.
Design Partner, Killa Design
Since 2000, Shaun Killa has won multiple design competitions, such as the 21st Century Tower, Chelsea Tower, Millennium Tower and Almas Tower – all of which were during his time as design director at Atkins in Dubai. While Killa’s design specialisation is in complex mixed-use projects, hospitality and high-rise towers, he has also long been an advocate of sustainable design.
Following his success in the early 2000s, he went on to design the Bahrain World Trade Centre – the world’s first large scale integration of wind turbines on a building. According to Killa, the Bahrain World Trade Centre helped initiate the green building movement in the Middle East.
Over the years, Killa has focused his design philosophy on innovative low carbon buildings and challenged the norms to design recognisable projects. Examples of his work include the Lighthouse Tower, Address Boulevard, Habtoor Towers, Dubai Opera House, and several large-scale developments in India, Saudi Arabia and China. He has also led masterplans like Cairo Smart City, Dubai Promenade, Cape Town Waterfront 2030, and several new developments in Riyadh and Jeddah.
In 2015, Killa left Atkins to establish Killa Design, and in the short time since, he has won multiple international commissions including the Museum of the Future, Address Jumeriah Gate, W Hotel Mumbai, Vida Marina and Aycon Twin Towers. One of the firm’s most notable work is the recently completed Office of the Future, the first occupied 3D-printed building in the world.
Beyond the firm’s built portfolio, Killa participates on the advisory committees of architecture universities, regularly speaks at global conferences and mentors emerging talent.
Group director, P&T Architects and Engineers
With more than 20 years at P&T Architects and Engineers, Stephan Frantzen has swiftly moved up the corporate ladder to group director of the international firm’s Dubai branch. Overseeing the KSA, UAE, Kazakhstan and Jordan markets, Frantzen’s team recently completed Five Palm Jumeirah and the Hasabi Masterplan in Bahrain. For 2018, a number of projects are currently underway, including the Umm Ramool Development in Dubai and the Security Forces Medical City in Riyadh.
Director of cities and sites, Perkins+Will
A former senior associate and urban design practice leader at Woods Bagot, Steven Velegrinis is rounding out his fourth year as director of cities and sites at Perkins+Will – this year’s winner of MEA Awards’ Large Architecture Firm of the Year. Influenced by his multidisciplinary background, Velegrinis’ work has attempted to promote a more instrumental role for the landscape as an organising medium in urban planning. His recent research seeks to promote the idea of landscape urbanism as the future for sustainable urban development.
Principal, Dabbagh Architects and Chair, RIBA Gulf Chapter
Establishing her company almost 10 years ago, Saudi architect Sumaya Dabbagh has led the design on a number of award-winning projects, including the Mleiha Archaeological Centre in Sharjah. Dabbagh Architects is one of the first 10 practices in the GCC to be registered as an RIBA chartered practice, with Dabbagh herself assuming the chair position at RIBA Gulf chapter in 2015. The next 12 months will see a number of residential projects across the emirates, as well as a private mosque and a confidential museum project in the UAE.
Head of region, Zaha Hadid Architects
A graduate of the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, Tariq Khayyat has worked as an architect and project designer since first joining Zaha Hadid Architects in 2005. Currently based in Dubai to oversee all of the firm’s projects in the Middle East and North Africa. His projects include the Bee’ah Headquarters, Lusail Hotel, King Abdullah II House of Culture & Art, and the Bahrain International Circuit.
Chief architect and managing director, Wael Al-Masri Planners and Architects
Before founding his namesake architecture firm, Jordanian architect Wael Al-Masri worked with Rasem Badran as Dar Al Omran’s chief architect and head of planning. Largely known for his continuous work with Shurooq, Al-Masri is behind much of Sharjah’s development, with context-driven projects, like Al-Majaz Waterfront Development, Kalba Eco-Tourism Development, and the Heart of Sharjah Masterplan, which included successful renovation work.
President and design director, Norr
Overseeing a growing team of established and emerging architects, Yahya Jan instils his architectural office with a commitment towards the environmental and social well-being of various communities across the GCC. In addition to a growing portfolio of tall buildings across the region, NORR collaborates with a number of organisations that strive to make positive impacts, like assisting those with special needs.
During 2017, the firm saw the completion of a number of high-calibre projects, including Downtown Views II, The Address Boulevard Hotel and the Al Zorah Resort I in Ajman.
2018 will see the team deliver nearly 10 new projects that continue the firm’s high-end, luxury-oriented project focus with projects including Vida Residence Downtown Dubai, Vida Za’abeel, Hotel Indigo, Ajdan Rise Waterfront Development in Saudi Arabia, and many more.
In 2015, Jan won MEA Awards’ Principal of the Year due to his dedication to the architecture industry in the region. And in the years since, it seems he hasn’t slowed down, and he’s making sure those working with him at NORR are on the same page.
In keeping up with the technology revolution, Jan has implemented a programme that embraces the latest thinking in design technology in the hopes of incorporating such advancements into the firm’s design work. And it’s obvious – of the projects NORR worked on this year, many of them were super tall towers that featured intricate façades.
“We believe that technological change will continue to have a revolutionary impact on the design and construction industry,” he said. “Within our group, we have implemented an ambitious programme that embraces the latest thinking in design technology to produce truly integrated design solutions – that is, designs that effectively integrate architecture, and structural and environmental engineering.”