Killa Design's Damon Wu discusses his previous work in Europe and the new 'made in Dubai' attitude of young architects

“Why architecture?” started Damon Wu in his nomination for Middle East Architect Awards’ Young Architect of the Year category. “I think of it as an art form, a political statement, an engineering challenge, and a representative of who we are and what we believe in – it is something to live in and encounter.”

Born and raised in Keelung, a port city near Taipei, Wu attributes his interest in architecture to a ferry sighting when he was 14. While his hometown consists of informal houses scattered along a hillside, with no great historical landmarks, this large vessel, called ‘SuperStar Aquarius”, had a lasting impact, he said.

“It was the largest object I had ever seen, and I was fascinated by the sum of its complexity,” said Wu. “That is my inspiration and it lives in my subconscious.”

Having originally obtained a Bachelor of Art in sculpture at the National Taiwan University of Art, Wu went on to study architecture at the National Taipei University of Technology.  In 2014, he moved to Vienna and obtained a Master’s in Urban Strategies.

“Vienna is a Baroque city with a famous radical and formalist design school, and that’s where I formed my thinking of innovation and sustainable initiatives,” he said.

While in Vienna, Wu worked mostly on private residential projects. He freelanced with various practices, including Chalabi Architekten & Partner. However, inspired by the Middle East, and Dubai’s innovative nature in particular, Wu chose to move again and joined Gianni Ranaulo Design in 2016 as a project leader for one year. In 2017, he joined the award-winning practice Killa Design.

“I was fascinated by the UAE,” he said. “The country’s ability to make an impossible environment liveable and beautiful intrigued me.

“I always try to dig into a project, even when the context is changing so fast that contextualism doesn’t exist anymore. How can architecture have a conversation and excavate what has been forgotten?” he added. “I like to integrate complex solutions – I believe in transforming the global energy consumption back to the local scale, so that it can be traced directly back to the buildings.”

Wu has worked on such projects as the Valbonne Open Sky in France, The Village in France, 9GG Tower in the UAE, JBH 5 High-End Resort and Marina in the UAE, as well as competitions for projects like Dubai’s Creek District Mosque.

“I see myself in the Middle East for the long term,” he said. “A lot of young architects and designers here are using this base to their advantage…I see a lot of new school thinking in Dubai coming up, which [poses] a very interesting future.”