Studio visit: NAGA Architects

Founded in 2000 by Dr Shams Naga, NAGA Architects has been one of the key architecture firms in the UAE, with offices throughout the Middle East including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Libya, as well as in the United States and Canada.

Having received numerous design and construction awards, Dr Naga explains that the firm’s success is rooted in the success of Dubai itself.

“For the most part, architects do projects that are funded and made available to them by clients’ aspirations rather than the other way round. Many of my peers have asked me if the office would have achieved its current status had I founded it in the United States and my answer to them has always been a definite ‘no’. We attribute a good portion of our continued success to being in Dubai and being a part of its recent construction activity,” said Dr Naga.

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Stepping into NAGA’s office on Sheikh Zayed Road, one is instantly overcome by the academic ambiance of the firm. Bookshelves stand along walls stacked with various books on topics ranging from architecture, interior design, landscape design and art. It is instantly clear that NAGA Architects, as well as being a place for architectural creativity, is also a place of research.

“Having a background in academia, we’ve operated the office as an academic studio from the outset,” Dr Naga explained. “Architects and designers produce designs and drawings that are subsequently  subject to open review and critique. Open critiques are an integral part of our design process, and have contributed to the success of our projects.”

The office itself is spread across two locations: one on Sheikh Zayed Road and another in International City.

The first is a Conceptual Design Studio (API), as the founder describes, while the other is a Construction Documentation/Engineering Studio (IC).

“Having this separation allows these entities to focus on their specialties and naturally, reviews and critiques will be focused as well.”

There is a total of 220 employees working in Naga, 95 in the first office and 59 in the second. Projects usually start in the Design Studio before moving onto the Construction department. Employees often move from one office to the next depending on the work process.

Two features in the Naga offices struck us the most. First was the library in the Design Studio filled with the most desirable books such as biographies and works by famous architects such as Piano, a collection of Domus’ books, and books on the history of art.

Another area that was incredibly interesting and exciting to see was the model room where all the architectural models of Naga’s projects are made by Elson Bunyi, who said that on average, a model takes about a month to be completed.

Architectural models are placed spread across the two offices, making it interesting for visitors to browse through many of the firm’s projects as in a museum.

NAGA’s latest projects include the Akoya Golf Course by Damac and Hidd El Saadiate by Lead, which ate both currently under construction. They are also working on Al Zora Golf Course community by Solidaire and various hotel projects for different developers.

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