Architects and designers discussed the still prevalent issues of time constraints and speed pressures from clients, despite agreeing that the design and build industry has seen an increase in maturity over the past years.
“We see developers needing to go through riggers of… what the rest of the world has to through to make a project feasible. They’re looking at risk analysis way more now. The new era is very sophisticated,” said Justin Wells of Woods Bagot.
“Clients understand the proper constraints of putting a project together, getting the best use, thinking into other sectors – like education, unusual mixes of development, bringing landscaping through a building rather than plunking 6 little trees. Now it has to be more attractive and more intrinsic value,” he added.
“We’re finding that the time for us to do the work is also squeezing, so this talk about the market maturing and clients who are maturing, they’re also starting to want things quicker. So something isn’t adding up,” he said.
The issue of non-standardisation also came into play, where a lack of proper client guidelines have given way to unrealistic project expectations.
“Usually, there’s a client’s guide that you can give out that shows you how to engage an architect, and they’ll look at the list and say, ‘okay they have this many stages of work and it’s this amount of insurance and this many responsibilities.’ We don’t have that here,” said Jonathan Ashmore, founder of Anarchitect.
David Lessard, director of hospitality at Perkins + Will added that these issues aren’t necessarily exclusive to the Middle East and that organisations such as AIA and RIBA allows professionals in the region to be in tune with such discussions.
“Here things like fee structure, contracts and specifications – these are all non-standardized and it’s up to us at the table with clients to agree or disagree, to bend or not bend, and we all know that in these times it’s easy to say ‘we’ll never do that again’, but at the moment when they’re dangling the check and you have mouths to feed and the studio, you of course keep going. So the undercutting and bending will always be there,” he explained.
The panel, who came together to set the agenda for the annual designMENA Summit, included Sumaya Dabbagh, principal of Dabbagh Architects; Neil van der Veen, principal of RMJM; Salim Hussain, principal architect, Atkins Global; Paul Bishop, owner and managing partner at Bishop Design; Johnathan Ashmore, founder and director of Anarchitect; Tatoum Athanassiou, director of interior design at Marriott International; Martin Dufresne, partner of U+A Architects; Justin Wells, regional leader of lifestyle design at Woods Bagot; and David Lessard, director of hospitality at Perkins+Will.