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Firas Hnoosh, principal, design director of architecture, Perkins+Will

Based in Perkins+Will’s Dubai office, Hnoosh has over 17 years of professional design experience, and has previously held design director roles for the Abu Dhabi practices of two large international architectural firms. His strong commercial and institutional building portfolio includes projects such as The National Bank of Abu Dhabi Global HQ on Al Maryah Island, The Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal in Mina Zayed for the ADPC, a large mixed-use development in Dubai for Majid Al-Futtaim Group, Manhattan Loft Gardens, a 42-storey mixed-use residential and hotel tower in east London at the Olympic Village and a large retail center in Bahrain Bay in Manama. Firas has also designed various commercial, and mixed-use buildings which currently under construction in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

What role have awards and competition played in shaping your career?

Awards are a recognition of someone’s potential, passion and energy for design. Although I did not seek to win awards through my designs, every award I won injected me, and more importantly my team, a huge amount of energy to keep going and do more.

What are the universal qualities successful architecture must possess in order to be outstanding?

Timeless beauty, inspiring spaces and a healthy environment. Successful architecture must appeal to the masses aesthetically, inspire them, excite them and make them proud among other things. Successful architecture must also inspire its users by capturing delightful views and offering them to their occupants. It should offer spaces that use scale, colour and light to inspire people and delight them. Last but not least, buildings should promote a healthy existence; through promoting physical activity, offering users natural ventilation, access to daylight, delightful views and communal spaces to socially interact.

To what extent do you feel the architect’s role in society has changed during your career?

While the value of design today is more recognized than ever before, the role of the architect has shifted. Architects are no longer master builders, they are often seen as packaging consultants or gift wrapping experts.

What do you think that role should be, ideally?

Architects have a social role to play in society and as such should actively advocate their roles in improving our lives; through better housing, better school environments, better healing spaces, better workspaces and much more.

What most excites you about the contemporary architecture scene?

The innovation that’s taking place. One is always pleasantly surprised by the inventiveness and creativity of young designers. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, someone comes up with something very fresh and original.

Conversely, are there any trends that you find particularly troubling?

Many architects have moved to work on the client side in the past two decades. Our clients in many cases are our colleagues. In their effort to protect the best interests of their employers, they end up downgrading or diluting the design quality and the level of innovation resorting to tested methods and safe solutions.

What building constructed in your lifetime do you wish you could have designed, and why?

I have enjoyed many buildings designed by many architects, yet I have never desired to design any of them myself. I’ve always desired to do better.

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