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Insights Shaping Dubai's skyline

06 April 2020

Meet Yahya Kaddoura, Lead Design Architect at Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group, in the UAE. He has been with us since he graduated in 2013, making us proud by delivering a full scale of projects, from master planning and urban design to architecture. He most recently took away the Young Talent Award in Design Middle East 2019 and was ranked in the prestigious Creative 30. We caught up with him for his top career tips and to hear what keeps him thriving #InsideAtkins.

Image of Yahya smiling

What is it you do as Lead Design Architect in the Dubai office?

In a nutshell – I'm responsible for the well-being of the communities and the lifestyle of the city. I ensure our use of space, materials, light and shadow gives people positive emotions and feelings of comfort in our buildings. I am also helping our clients get the most value out of the project by managing spaces, efficiency, sustainability and ecosystemic design. 

Congratulations on your ranking in the prestigious Creative 30! What does this achievement mean to you?

Thank you. It is a great honour to be selected from all the competitors and to be listed as one of the most influential architects and designers in the Middle East. It was a result of years of hard work and support from my team and mentors. What a feeling to be appreciated, not only by Atkins but also in our industry. As a result, I've been inspired to look for even more challenges and opportunities!

What inspired you into architecture as a career? 

I was born in Dubai, and I have seen the city grow. As one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, I've seen its development driven by the needs of the people, technology, innovation and, most importantly, a vision. I found it fascinating to see people's behaviour change as the place we live in has changed. And that's what got me interested in architecture. 

In the beginning, I thought of architecture as a mix between engineering (math and physics) and art. But the more I learnt, the more I discovered that it has elements of science, human psychology and innovation, as well as marketing and branding. 

What I love the most is that there's no limit to learning in architecture. Each space you design requires a new study. You need to understand the nature of the user or business, the lifestyle and culture, the surroundings and context. I always think, how can I create a space that creates the most value for people, while creating the most impact in line with the client's vision?

Which one best piece of advice would you give to young men and women, thinking about a career in architecture and construction?

image of Yahya giving a presentation

It's an honour to play a part in creating your city, making the vision reality. When you can see what's missing – what does my city need, how can I make it more efficient, safer, more comfortable, enjoyable and memorable? There's no feeling like working hard to enhance your communities and giving them a personal touch. 

In a modern city like Dubai, many investors tend to imitate well-known areas in other cities, bringing these ideas to the UAE. The fact is that those cities have developed their identity over the years. They were influenced by different factors, like culture, traditions, weather, population, or people's needs. 

Copying others might cause us to lose identity of the place. We should instead study the world's architecture, understand how it developed in the way it did. And then, we can use that knowledge to design culturally unique neighbourhoods for this country. This is probably one of the biggest challenges that architects face in a modern city.

What has been the most exciting change/development in construction since you became an architect?

In general? The idea of building a colony on Mars. I think it will be pushing construction to create more efficient and sustainable designs than we've ever seen. It would also require us to think of new construction techniques and innovations that haven't been thought of yet. We'd have to expand how we use current innovations like 3-D printing and modular design. This research widens our vision and highlights challenges that weren't previously considered, especially in sustainability. It’s more oriented to the user experience (function + engineering) rather than the exterior appearance, especially in cases where you need to stripe down the “additional” values and focus on main target factors that drive the architecture, which are survival and the human need to sustain long term impact.

Dubai is known for pushing the boundaries in architecture and construction. What is it that makes the impossible possible in the UAE?

It's good to see that Dubai is open to new ideas to help improve the quality of life and efficient use of resources. Three of the UAE's primary goals are people, innovation and sustainably. Dubai has become a regional hub for creativity and innovation and it is always looking to develop something "different" and “unique” at a global scale. So, there are a lot of investments in research and new technologies – that's what makes most great things possible.

What are some of the recent, most exciting projects you've been involved in at Atkins?

image of Yahya giving a presentation whilst holding a tablet

I'm currently working on designing and delivering Emaar x Elie Saab residential tower, which will soon be occupying the marina skyline. I recently worked with Meraas on the iconic Blue Water, Caesar's Palace Serviced apartments. 

I'm passionate about learning and research. Most recently, I've been researching sustainability, efficient design spaces and dual-functions through kinetic and adaptive architecture. The work I'm doing will help us understand and develop the schematics and structural features of what would become the X MOSQUE, which will expand or contract according to the number of people inside! This is an experiment for futuristic leap of smart cities which might seem unrealistic today but it’ll have an impact in the near future.

What is your team like in the Dubai office?

The team is made up of many different disciplines, or experts, which means i have a lot of people to learn from. This constant knowledge sharing means the team never settles in comfort zone. Everyone has plenty of opportunities for personal growth and development.

When I'm working on a research project, the support I get from different disciplines is phenomenal. We have this ability to quickly expand the research to a more extensive range because of the diversity of our team.

What keeps you at Atkins?

I enjoy having exposure to many different fields, with projects that vary in scale, function and prototype. From villas to master planning the city. Not to mention being involved in the management and the commercialism of every project! The key area that keeps me excited is learning and growing. Six year ago, I started my journey with Atkins as a graduate, and today I’m an award-winning young designer in the Middle East. This was made possible by seeing and seizing the opportunities provided by Atkins and thanks to the great support from my manager, Manoj.

How about being surrounded by colleagues you can learn from and be inspired by? We're hiring, check out our live vacancies.