Commercial architecture and design in the Middle East reaching a stage of maturity
Architecture and design in the Middle East is at a point of inflection as the industry moves to create a distinct design vernacular.
This visual language is being shaped by the region's cultural diversity and a young, internationally educated and technologically inclined workforce. That was the broad consensus of industry leaders at the Design Executive Roundtable, held yesterday at The Office Exhibition 2012.
The session, represented by the heads of leading architectural and design firms, was chaired by Cheryl Durst, Executive Vice President and CEO of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA). With the practice of design universally recognised as a cultural imperative, the panel lists debated how workplace design is helping to elevate standards of architecture in the region.
The group agreed technology has profoundly influenced this shift towards a more mature design market, not only because it improves clients' access to information but also by necessitating a fundamental change in how people interact in the workplace.
According to Durst, 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 also flexible and simple in their configuration, 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.
Closing comments from the group explored the future of design practice in the Middle East. Participants said the global recession has forced clients to assess the "value" of everything in business and this has extended to design as well.
In closing the session Durst concluded:"Design is meant to improve the way we do things and in turn improve the human condition. This is, and will be, the basic and the most important contribution of design, in any age and era. And that should be the focus of every designer."
The Office Exhibition is currently taking place at the Dubai World Trade Centre until 17 May.