Ahead of the Curve
Published by: Design Middle East
Boran Agoston, design director at Studio International Engineering Consultants (SIEC), on his inspirations, exciting projects he’s currently working on, and his dream commission.
Briefly describe your professional journey and your role in SIEC?
My international career has spanned almost four decades, of which 14 years I have spent living in the Middle East. It’s been an exciting architectural experience and a worldwide journey through different cultures in Europe, USA, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East. I have been with SIEC since its establishment in 2014, as design director, where my global exposure brought skills required to lead the design and delivery of significant, high-quality designs and developments ranging across all major sectors of the industry. Under my leadership, the company’s design portfolio has grown from local projects to international projects spanning from UAE to MENA Region.
What were some of the key influences that inspire your design?
For me, the idea of simplicity and efficiency is important. I can be inspired by culture, nature, history, climate and local architecture for my new ideas that are modern but still connected to the past and surrounding. Once I capture my inspiration, it is a question of what to do with it and how I translate that into something meaningful.
What trends do you feel are important in architecture/design?
Historically, architecture and design were at the forefront of mankind’s progress. I see a huge, almost tectonic shift toward renewable materials, sustainability, automation, and new technologies that architects and designers are actively promoting. Design philosophy should be based on sustainability with an emphasis on innovative low-carbon buildings with unique structures, challenging the current norms of designing quality buildings. Reduction of fossil fuel dependence in the near future will unleash a totally different architectural design and style. This shift will be facilitated with quality contemporary thinking and education for the new generation of architects.
Tell us about your recent projects. And the one you are most proud of?
Our clients are located predominantly in the UAE where we have completed several large projects. Our design was recognised by industry leaders and SIEC was awarded the prestigious ‘Architectural Firm of the Year’ while my design SZ 21 was awarded as ‘Innovation in Design’, 1st runner-up by Design Middle East Awards in 2019. Currently, our main projects are in KSA where we have been commissioned to develop some large-scale projects such as a mixed-use Staff Village and airport development. The Staff Village has been designed as a small town for 15,000 people and includes all supporting elements necessary for a lifestyle that is conducive to a healthy and happy community. With the remoteness of the site, the client aspires to create a residential community that retains its staff from the housekeeping team all the way to hotel managers and provide them with all day to day facilities and amenities. For the airport project, we are the main consultant in charge of all ancillary buildings and the main terminal building engineering. We are now living in very challenging times during the COVID-19 pandemic, so my time goes out to all of our projects no matter how big or small they are because the company’s success and survival depend on solid leadership and teamwork.
What would be your dream commission?
To live with indigenous people on a small Pacific Island, where I would like to design a sustainable resort using local materials and construction techniques only. I have always been interested in learning new building techniques coupled with traditional materials and craftsmanship. That would be a great ‘synergy experiment’ between tradition and technology of the modern world.
What could be the next 10 years hold for design and architecture especially if we talk about the region?
I believe that the next 10 years will bring very exciting progress, especially in the architectural field. New opportunities will arise due to generational changes, through legislation and education. In this constantly changing world, I am particularly excited about the Middle East, where we are witnessing the creation of mega projects in KSA, investment and renewable energies in UAE, and new trade deals with other regions. All these will have a positive impact and will create a new construction cycle engaging architects and designers to meet new challenges.
As someone in the leadership position, how would you take yourself and others through this COVID-19 crisis at SIEC? Also, what have been your learnings from this pandemic?
This unprecedented pandemic has caught the world by surprise. It took considerable time for society to organise itself to fight back this disease. Our rapid response in SIEC was to raise staff awareness and to create a working condition that immediately embraced new realities. SIEC has introduced flexible working hours and work from home scheme. Interestingly, we noticed that our productivity rose in this period due to less meetings and travel restrictions. The main lesson learned from this pandemic is to see how quickly we, as architects, could rise and adapt to the new challenges.