Historically, the architect has been the leader; the master builder with the design vision who brings the requirements of a client into reality.
The rise of master developers across the region, however, the line of design leadership has perhaps not been so clear.
Cash rich and empowered by regional governments, a new breed of master developers has emerged in the GCC in the last decade that defined the urban landscape of new cities and the communities where we live in the region.
While it may appear to some as a blurring of the classic leadership role of the architect in defining the design vision, the emergence of these developers has in fact created greater opportunities for architects to dream even bigger.
Take developments such as the integrated community of Downtown Burj Khalifa in Dubai, or even the more ambitious King Abdullah Economic City in KSA.
The scale of such developments, driven by the vision of a master developer, required that several architects be brought together to create a cohesive and coordinated realisation of the developer’s vision.
These developments have gone beyond the scope of a mere singular development, to become a veritable image of national pride catapulting a country into the global limelight. Speak of Dubai and images of the Palm Jumeirah immediately come to mind.
Buoyed by cash liquidity, and with increased building experience and financial sophistication, these master developers now drive and shape the course of development of many cities in the region.
To be sure, as instrumental as these developers have now become in shaping the built environment around us in the Middle East region, the architect remains an integral partner in this process.
This successful partnership is greater than the sum of its parts – it has provided leading models and templates that are being followed around the globe, for construction quality, design aesthetics and community integration.
I believe it is now time to direct this partnership effort beyond the current focus on the luxury sector, to address the growing needs of our expanding cities and our ever-increasing populations.
We have proven that the master developer/architect partnership formula works to successfully drive development and the building industry in the region.
Now is the time to lead by example and demonstrate that the partnership can set a new course – one that is socially responsible and sustainable to drive growth for this generation and the one to follow.
Hisham Youssef is project director at Gensler and a founding board member of the American Institute of Architects’ Middle East Chapter.