Aedas - Architect of urbanisation

Aedas - Architect of urbanisationKeith Griffiths (right) says Aedas combines local knowledge with global expertise / Image Credit: Aedas

One of the world's leading architecture and design practices, Aedas' own special brand of cultural design is intimately woven within the fabric of Dubai's cityscape. As its strives to create exciting experiences through its designs, Aedas insists on stationing its teams locally to become part of the social fabric of the community — a unique approach when many others are outsourcing jobs off shore.

Keith Griffiths, the design leader and founder of Aedas, founded his own architectural firm when he moved to Hong Kong in the mid 1980s and renamed it Aedas in 2002. The Hong Kong office is still Aedas' largest, though the firm now also has offices in the UK, Germany, the US and across the Middle East and Asia.

- How do you run a company that can as easily create iconic structures in London as it can in China?

At Aedas we believe that a great design can only be delivered by people with a deep social and cultural understanding of the communities they are designing for. This is why we have set up 15 offices across the globe and created a global platform for creative excellence in design to enable some of the world's most talented designers to plug into the latest information and delivery systems they need to produce truly world-class design solutions. All our clients, whether they are in Dubai, London or Beijing, can benefit from our collective expertise.

- There is a growing demand for large-scale, high density development in major cities. How does Aedas support this trend?

Our experience from designing many new and urban cities in Asia, in particular China, has equipped us with highly specialised knowledge to create bespoke large-scale, high-density developments. We foresaw that this special building type would spread across the world because it is such an appropriate solution, not just for an emergent economy but also for an established economy that is attempting to urbanise within an existing framework.

Aedas has developed extensive experience in designing large-scale, high-density developments. We have developed our own theories of high-density urbanization and are well-positioned to serve clients no matter where they are.

- What makes Aedas so successful in emerging markets such as the Middle East and Asia?

Aedas has been in Asia for 30 years and we established our first Middle East office in Dubai in 2005. We have grown from a two-person company to a global design firm with a reputation for quality design. I think we are unique in that we have so many offices that understand the local culture and environment, while designing at an international level. Our growth since 1995 has been fueled by emerging markets such as the Middle East and Asia. Our wide network of offices and wide spectrum of building types are very important to our success.

- What is the process involved in understanding what a city wants. For instance, how did you design the Dubai Metro?

The secret behind our growth is that we set up a local office and establish a base for more work in that region. We hire and train local designers who understand the local communities.

For Dubai Metro, the original brief said the station architecture should ''have an aesthetic form and external appearance which is unique, innovative, iconic and reflecting Dubai's identity''. In our search for form references, the design team pondered the history and traditions of old Dubai and its history of pearl diving. The team took to the idea of the rough outer surface of pearl shells and how it was different from its smooth interiors.

With those broad ideas the team began to explore appropriate shapes and what they might mean in terms of construction. The local team liaised with the company's sustainability and advanced modeling experts on our global platform to develop and refine the standard shape of the stations and establish the cost feasibility. This is a good example of Aedas' local and global strategy.

- Is there any particular house style that your designers follow? How do you create an environment that motivates them?

As I said, we believe that great design can only be delivered by people with a deep social and cultural understanding of the communities they are designing for. We do not impose a house style to our designers, but create an environment and culture that celebrate the value of truly bespoke creative solutions, which embrace global diversity.

- How are urban centers across the globe changing and what will be some of the most significant changes?

The world is looking for more efficient, sustainable and vibrant cities. Mixed-use developments along existing roads and railways will become urban hubs that house office, retail, residential or hotel spaces all in one complex, significantly shortening journey time between work, live and play areas. We believe that the public realm will be extended to basement and upper levels of buildings and will connect across and between buildings in a connective tissue of retail, dining and entertainment facilities, which will become the community hub of high-density developments.

- Tell us about some of your key projects under way in the region?

We are currently working on some major projects, including the first Hard Rock Hotel in the Middle East and North Africa [located in Abu Dhabi] and a corporate headquarter in Saudi Arabia.

Get a glimpse on putting sustainability to action

Source: Sanaya Pavri, Special to Property WeeklyPW


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