Top 45 most influential architects in the Middle East in 2018

Ralf Steinhauer

Director, RSP Dubai

With two years under his belt as director of RSP Dubai, Ralf Steinhauer previously worked as project director at RSP, senior associate at Woods Bagot and design architect at RMJM. Racking up a total of 11 years of experience in the region, Steinhauer’s leadership saw a successful year with the completion of a massive extension to Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, which was shortlisted for an MEA Award in 2017. His key training objectives and programmes for the current year include ongoing Revit and BIM training as well as project management training. Steinhauer also pushes his inhouse team to be attend local or regional events organised by industry bodies, such as RIBA or AIA. RSP Dubai will be working on a number of upcoming projects including Palm Mall and Palm Tower, Deira Mall, Dubai Hills Business Park, and other projects in 2018.

Rasem Badran

Director, Dar Al Omran

The award-winning Palestinian architect Rasem Badran has long been considered a pioneer of modern Islamic architecture. The recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1995 for the Great Mosque of Riyadh, Badran has spent the better part of his career designing urban-scale developments and private residences across Saudi Arabia, as well as private projects for government authorities in other parts of the GCC. His office, Dar Al Omran, has three branches across the Middle East, from Jordan to Saudi Arabia to the UAE. In addition to his built work, Badran further contributes to regional architecture through public talks and engagement with regional initiatives, like the Tamayouz Excellence Award. At the end of 2017, Badran was nominated for the Nile Award by The Society of Egyptian Architects for his outstanding achievements and contribution to art and architecture. The announcement will be made by March 2018.

Raya Ani

Founder and design director, RAW-NYC

Having established RAW-NYC in 2012 in New York, Iraqi architect Raya Ani runs the boutique interdisciplinary architecture studio with a focus on “uniquely crafted buildings, interior spaces and urban design solutions in the GCC area and worldwide”. With a six to eight-member team, Ani opened the studio’s Dubai office in 2014, which has seen the recent completion of residential projects in Dubai. The female-led studio works across various sectors including residential, commercial, masterplanning and interiors. Beyond architecture, RAW-NYC supports initiatives aimed at social impact each year. The studio often works to promote awareness through design solutions that respond to challenges, like climate control or immigration.

Richard Fenne

Principal, Woods Bagot

The winner of MEA Awards’ Principal of the Year in 2016, Richard Fenne’s projects include the IRENA HQ building and the first residential development at Masdar city. More recently, too, the firm has been working on a number of highly anticipated projects across the UAE, including the Bluewaters Island Retail development in Dubai and the upcoming Aljada masterplan in Sharjah.

Sahel Al Hiyari

Principal architect, Sahel Al Hiyari Architects

Founder of an award-winning, Amman-based architecture practice, and a RISD and Harvard-graduate, Sahel Al Hiyari has long contributed to architecture through design and academia. The firm’s work covers a wide spectrum of design-related disciplines, including urban design, interior and furniture design, architectural installations and exhibition design, and boasts an extensive portfolio of built work perfectly suited for its context. Having served as a reviewer and a member of the Master Jury for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Al Hiyari is also a painter and has exhibited his art in Jordan, Lebanon and Italy.

Salim Hussain

Principal architect, Atkins

Serving as principal architect at Atkins’ Middle East office for the past two years, Salim Hussain recently completed a two billion dirham masterplan for Nabta Town in Egypt, which was shortlisted for three regional awards for both its masterplan and architectural design. He also completed the design work for a large mixed-use development in the GCC valued at over two and half billion dirhams, which includes two luxury towers. Beyond his extensive portfolio, Hussain also ensures regional staff stay committed to the office’s Graduate Development Programme, Women’s Business Network, and the staff training programme ‘My Career’. Currently, Atkins is involved in a Riding Centre for Disabled Children in Dubai, with Hussain overseeing the planning and development of the design proposals.

Shaun Killa

Design Partner, Killa Design

Since 2000, Shaun Killa has won multiple design competitions, such as the 21st Century Tower, Chelsea Tower, Millennium Tower and Almas Tower – all of which were during his time as design director at Atkins in Dubai. While Killa’s design specialisation is in complex mixed-use projects, hospitality and high-rise towers, he has also long been an advocate of sustainable design.

Following his success in the early 2000s, he went on to design the Bahrain World Trade Centre – the world’s first large scale integration of wind turbines on a building. According to Killa, the Bahrain World Trade Centre helped initiate the green building movement in the Middle East.

Over the years, Killa has focused his design philosophy on innovative low carbon buildings and challenged the norms to design recognisable projects. Examples of his work include the Lighthouse Tower, Address Boulevard, Habtoor Towers, Dubai Opera House, and several large-scale developments in India, Saudi Arabia and China. He has also led masterplans like Cairo Smart City, Dubai Promenade, Cape Town Waterfront 2030, and several new developments in Riyadh and Jeddah.

In 2015, Killa left Atkins to establish Killa Design, and in the short time since, he has won multiple international commissions including the Museum of the Future, Address Jumeriah Gate, W Hotel Mumbai, Vida Marina and Aycon Twin Towers. One of the firm’s most notable work is the recently completed Office of the Future, the first occupied 3D-printed building in the world.

Beyond the firm’s built portfolio, Killa participates on the advisory committees of architecture universities, regularly speaks at global conferences and mentors emerging talent.

Stephan Frantzen

Group director, P&T Architects and Engineers

With more than 20 years at P&T Architects and Engineers, Stephan Frantzen has swiftly moved up the corporate ladder to group director of the international firm’s Dubai branch. Overseeing the KSA, UAE, Kazakhstan and Jordan markets, Frantzen’s team recently completed Five Palm Jumeirah and the Hasabi Masterplan in Bahrain. For 2018, a number of projects are currently underway, including the Umm Ramool Development in Dubai and the Security Forces Medical City in Riyadh.

Steven Velegrinis

Director of cities and sites, Perkins+Will

A former senior associate and urban design practice leader at Woods Bagot, Steven Velegrinis is rounding out his fourth year as director of cities and sites at Perkins+Will – this year’s winner of MEA Awards’ Large Architecture Firm of the Year. Influenced by his multidisciplinary background, Velegrinis’ work has attempted to promote a more instrumental role for the landscape as an organising medium in urban planning. His recent research seeks to promote the idea of landscape urbanism as the future for sustainable urban development.

Sumaya Dabbagh

Principal, Dabbagh Architects and Chair, RIBA Gulf Chapter

Establishing her company almost 10 years ago, Saudi architect Sumaya Dabbagh has led the design on a number of award-winning projects, including the Mleiha Archaeological Centre in Sharjah. Dabbagh Architects is one of the first 10 practices in the GCC to be registered as an RIBA chartered practice, with Dabbagh herself assuming the chair position at RIBA Gulf chapter in 2015. The next 12 months will see a number of residential projects across the emirates, as well as a private mosque and a confidential museum project in the UAE.

Tariq Khayyat

Head of region, Zaha Hadid Architects

A graduate of the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, Tariq Khayyat has worked as an architect and project designer since first joining Zaha Hadid Architects in 2005. Currently based in Dubai to oversee all of the firm’s projects in the Middle East and North Africa. His projects include the Bee’ah Headquarters, Lusail Hotel, King Abdullah II House of Culture & Art, and the Bahrain International Circuit.

Wael Al-Masri

Chief architect and managing director, Wael Al-Masri Planners and Architects

Before founding his namesake architecture firm, Jordanian architect Wael Al-Masri worked with Rasem Badran as Dar Al Omran’s chief architect and head of planning. Largely known for his continuous work with Shurooq, Al-Masri is behind much of Sharjah’s development, with context-driven projects, like Al-Majaz Waterfront Development, Kalba Eco-Tourism Development, and the Heart of Sharjah Masterplan, which included successful renovation work.

Yahya Jan

President and design director, Norr

Overseeing a growing team of established and emerging architects, Yahya Jan instils his architectural office with a commitment towards the environmental and social well-being of various communities across the GCC. In addition to a growing portfolio of tall buildings across the region, NORR collaborates with a number of organisations that strive to make positive impacts, like assisting those with special needs.

During 2017, the firm saw the completion of a number of high-calibre projects, including Downtown Views II, The Address Boulevard Hotel and the Al Zorah Resort I in Ajman.

2018 will see the team deliver nearly 10 new projects that continue the firm’s high-end, luxury-oriented project focus with projects including Vida Residence Downtown Dubai, Vida Za’abeel, Hotel Indigo, Ajdan Rise Waterfront Development in Saudi Arabia, and many more.

In 2015, Jan won MEA Awards’ Principal of the Year due to his dedication to the architecture industry in the region. And in the years since, it seems he hasn’t slowed down, and he’s making sure those working with him at NORR are on the same page.

In keeping up with the technology revolution, Jan has implemented a programme that embraces the latest thinking in design technology in the hopes of incorporating such advancements into the firm’s design work. And it’s obvious – of the projects NORR worked on this year, many of them were super tall towers that featured intricate façades.

“We believe that technological change will continue to have a revolutionary impact on the design and construction industry,” he said. “Within our group, we have implemented an ambitious programme that embraces the latest thinking in design technology to produce truly integrated design solutions – that is, designs that effectively integrate architecture, and structural and environmental engineering.”

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