Fine Fellow

Steven Nilles, partner in charge of Goettsch Partners’ new Abu Dhabi office, tells Oliver Ephgrave about the company’s regional expansion and his recent elevation to the AIA College of Fellows

W hen an architect rents space in a building they created, it’s a pretty good indication that they’re proud of their work. Given that Goettsch Partners has leased an office in Tower One of Sowwah Square, it’s safe to assume that the Chicago-headquartered firm is more than happy with its mega-scheme for Mubadala.

Sitting in the fully-glazed corner of the seveth floor office, partner in charge Steven Nilles is clearly thrilled about the new location.

“Not many architects can say they work in their own building. We knew there was an intangible benefit to being here,” he beams.

“People really enjoy coming here and we like people visiting. So much goes into delivering a project like this; it was a labour of love.”

Niles elaborates on his background and how he became an architect. “I grew up in Barbara North Dakota and ever since childhood I was fascinated with art and design and construction.

“At high school I had the opportunity to visit an architecture office. As soon as I walked in I saw that you get to draw and design. So I went to the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, for my architectural degree.
He continues: “After that it was just non-stop. I moved to Chicago and got picked up by Helmut Jahn. I did commercial work in every major city in the US. When things slowed there we were active in Europe.”

After 16 years with Helmut Jahn, with a focus on international work, Nilles yearned for work closer to home. The formation of Goettsch Partners came out of this desire, as Nilles explains.

“We had an opportunity to join forces with Jim Goettsch who had been the number two guy at Helmut Jahn for many years. Goettsch partners was set up. We now have 85 people in Chicago; a lot of those guys have been there for 25 to 30 years.”

Around four years ago, Nilles moved to Abu Dhabi to deliver the Sowwah Square project, following in the footsteps of associate Matthew Berglund. Nilles continues: “Matthew was the first guy to come over full time. Then we were asked to do the construction documents and the construction administration.We had a longer term plan, so we decided to commit. We were one of the first tenants to sign a lease.”

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