Middle East architecture & design reaching a stage of maturity

Design experts at the Design Executive Roundtable.

The days of building iconic buildings for the sake of being iconic are a thing of the past and the global recession has had a positive impact in the region in terms of helping people place a higher importance on ‘the real value of things’.

This was the consensus of industry speakers, chaired by Cheryl Durst, CEO International Interior Design Association (IIDA), at a Design Executive Roundtable, at The Office Exhibition 2012 last week.

“A younger, internationally educated workforce is making more informed and considered decisions when it comes to workplace design. They understand more the importance of efficient, fit for purpose buildings”, said Steven Charlton, MD, Pringle Brandon

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Professor Shams Naga, Principal of Naga Architects, Designers & Planners, agreed. “The global recession has had a positive impact in the region in terms of helping people place a higher importance on ‘the real value of things’. We are now collaborating with clients on the design process.  This is better for us as an industry as design should be a two-way process. Now is the time to produce ‘good’ architecture,” he said.

Scott Whittaker, executive director and founder, dwp, added: “Cultural diversity, coupled with pressure from international firms in the region to conform to global standards of design, is leading designers to create a new, unique style for the region.”

The group said technology has influenced this shift towards a more mature design market, because it improves clients’ access to information and contributes to how people interact in the workplace.

Durst said the design profession worldwide now has a mandate to create spaces where people can think. “Our attachment to technology means reacting and responding to situations has replaced true work. Human beings need interaction and they need time to think. The question now becomes what kinds of spaces do knowledge workers need?”

The panelists agreed that while employee mobility and connectedness requires office spaces and products that are flexible and simple, people will always gravitate towards a physical location in which to interact and collaborate. The workplace will remain an important part of the built environment, but there is now greater demand for creating spaces that are designed to last.

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