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Meet Ignacio Gomez: Shaping the Middle East’s architectural landscape

In this exclusive interview, Ignacio Gomez, Global Design Principal, Aedas outlines his design philosophy and the trends shaping architecture in the Middle East

Meet Ignacio Gomez: Who is shaping the future of Middle Eastern architecture through innovation and cultural sensitivity

Ignacio Gomez, Global Design Principal at Aedas is a visionary in the field of architecture. He is always pushing the boundaries, seeking ways to improve, and embracing change with open arms. Gomez has pioneered numerous projects that have left a lasting impact on the architectural landscape of the region. As we sat down for an exclusive chat, he shared how excited he was about the innovative opportunities and progress that await in the Middle East.

With over 19 years of architectural expertise, you have established yourself as one of the leading architects in the Middle East. Can you share with us some insights into your journey?

It’s been nearly 20 years since I set foot in the Middle East as an architect, and let me tell you, it’s been quite the ride. Back in 2006, full of dreams and optimism, I arrived in this region. Fast forward to today, and I’ve made it my home, started a family, and watched as the Gulf has grown and changed before my eyes. Thanks to some incredible leadership, this place has made a name for itself on the world stage.

I’ve been fortunate to work as an architect with Aedas, where our contributions to local projects have helped define the region’s architectural identity. By merging captivating stories with innovative technologies, we’ve pushed the limits of architectural possibilities and played a part in establishing the region as a global design hub.

Your portfolio showcases a diverse range of projects. How do you approach each project, and what are some key principles that guide your design process?

For me, each project I undertake is a profound commitment, regardless of its scale. There’s no hierarchy of importance—every endeavour receives the same meticulous attention and bespoke treatment because every project, and every client, is unique. I believe in forging emotional connections between people and the spaces they inhabit. After all, many of life’s most significant decisions are driven by emotion.

While efficiency is undoubtedly crucial, I believe that if a design fails to evoke emotion in its users, it falls short of its purpose. Emotion isn’t an afterthought in the design process, it’s at the very core. Because life, ultimately, is about more than just numbers and calculations. It’s about the human experience, and that’s something I strive to capture in every project I undertake.

You have been the Global Design Principal at Aedas Middle East since 2021, what sets the firm apart from other architecture firms globally?

Here at Aedas, we believe in nurturing local talent to create designs that truly reflect the unique cultural and social heritage of the Middle East. We don’t just import designs—we invest in individuals who are part of this region, born, raised, and educated here. This ensures that our designs are not only beautiful but also deeply connected to the people and places they are meant for. We see the Middle East as our home, and our approach to design reflects our commitment to creating spaces that benefit both the environment and the community.

At the heart of our work is a special design process. We take the time to listen and understand our client’s needs, as well as the unique vibe of the location, the people who will be using the space, and the goals we want to achieve with the design. Our process involves thorough research, brainstorming, and exploring a range of design ideas. Each project starts with a fresh outlook, allowing us to adjust and adapt to the current situation as needed. We believe in a cycle of analysing, testing, evaluating, and problem-solving to make sure our designs not only meet but exceed our clients’ expectations.

Can you elaborate on some of the key projects that you have worked on or are currently working on?

Among the numerous projects we’ve undertaken, I will briefly highlight three that provide insight into our approach, but each would require a longer conversation to truly understand the methodology.

NEOM’s Trojena Ski Village stands as the region’s inaugural outdoor ski resort, nestled amidst the pristine mountain landscapes in Saudi Arabia. Our strategy was to craft a design that seamlessly melds with the untouched environment, envisioning a vertical ski village that harmonises with the natural topography. We aspire to create a structure that not only endures the test of time but also becomes an integral part of the topography and its surroundings, blending gracefully alongside nature.

The restoration of the Red Palace, situated in the historic heart of Riyadh, presented an opportunity to transform a cherished landmark into an exquisite ultra-luxury boutique hotel. Our objective was to curate an experience that immerses visitors in the opulent ambience of 1940s Saudi hospitality, encapsulating the palace’s rich history and grandeur. This project exudes nostalgia and evokes the allure of a bygone era, marrying timeless elegance with contemporary comfort.

Lastly, our involvement in the Design Quarters at D3 marks a milestone as the premier residential offering within the Dubai Design District. With our office situated in D3, we intimately understand its ethos and distinct character. We envisioned living spaces that resonate with the creative spirit of the UAE, designing a project that seamlessly integrates with the vibrant atmosphere of D3 while offering a unique lifestyle proposition for the community.

These projects exemplify our commitment to thoughtful design that not only respects its surroundings but also celebrates the cultural heritage and aspirations of the people it serves.

What has it been like working in this particular region and what unique challenges and opportunities do architects face here?

The rapid development in the Middle East, particularly in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, is reminiscent of the architectural revolution seen in New York in the 1920s-1930s. The region has evolved significantly, pushing boundaries and redefining what is possible through innovation and ambition. A new wave of inspiration is sweeping through the Middle East, showcasing the impact of visionary thinking and transforming the landscape.

Despite facing challenges ranging from tight timelines or constrained budgets, there’s an exhilarating spirit driving us to turn the seemingly impossible into reality. This dynamism is what sets this region apart, infusing every project with infectious energy and determination.

As architects, we grapple with unique day-to-day challenges inherent in a rapidly growing environment where processes and communication are still evolving. However, there’s an undeniable sense of being at the epicentre of global activity—a feeling of optimism and excitement fuelled by the presence of some of the brightest minds in the world. In this place, we’re not just shaping buildings; we’re part of a larger narrative, contributing to the pulse of innovation and progress that defines this region.

What trends do you foresee shaping the future of architecture in the region?

One significant trend is the increasing emphasis on sustainability. As environmental awareness grows, clients and communities are demanding more sustainable and environmentally responsible buildings.

Another trend is the integration of technology into architectural practice. From Building Information Modelling (BIM) to virtual reality (VR) and parametric design tools, technology is revolutionising the way architects design, visualise, and construct buildings.

Additionally, there is a growing focus on cultural identity and authenticity in architecture. Clients are seeking designs that reflect the unique heritage and traditions of the region, while also embracing modernity and innovation.

How do you leverage cutting-edge technology in your design process to push boundaries?

At Aedas, we firmly believe that people are the true drivers of innovation, with technology serving as a powerful tool in their hands. From generative design to AI, VR, and 3D printing, we harness a spectrum of technologies not merely to automate tasks, but to seamlessly integrate them into our workflow, enriching the design process and delivering unparalleled value to our clients. We understand that it’s not the technology itself that defines a cutting-edge firm, but rather how we leverage it to foster bold creativity and experimentation.

Equally paramount to us is the human aspect—how technology can enhance the lives of our team members, who are ultimately its primary users. We actively explore ways to transcend physical limitations, asking ourselves, ‘How can we liberate our workforce from the confines of traditional office settings?’ As pioneers in the industry, we’ve invested in cloud-based technologies that empower our staff to collaborate from anywhere in the world, it’s not about where we work, but the innovative spirit and dedication we bring to every project that truly defines us.

Architects have the power to significantly influence the built environment. How are you and Aedas creating more liveable, sustainable, and culturally relevant spaces?

We understand the importance of cultural relevance in architecture. Each project presents a unique opportunity to celebrate and honour the local heritage, traditions, and identity of the community it serves. Through careful research, consultation, and collaboration with stakeholders, we ensure that our designs resonate with the cultural context and enrich the fabric of the surrounding area.

Besides, we prioritise sustainability in our design process to create buildings and spaces that positively impact their surroundings and promote environmental stewardship. Our focus is on creating liveable spaces that prioritise human well-being and comfort.

Can you share details about your future projects?

There are potentially some ambitious large-scale projects in the pipeline. While we can’t disclose all the details just yet, what we can reveal is that we’re spearheading the design and architecture for what has the potential to be some very exciting projects.