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.

Ahmed Bukhash

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.

Ammar Khammash

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.

Behzad Atabaki

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.

Benjamin Piper

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.

Brian Johnson

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.

David Lessard

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.

Duncan Denley

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.”

Emad Jaber

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.”

Firas Hnoosh

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.

Hani Asfour

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.

Hani Fallaha

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.

Hanna Salameh

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.

Hashim Sarkis

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.

Hend Almatrouk

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.”

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