The art of diversity

WB Dubai welcomes Karim Benkirane

Woods Bagot’s Karim Benkirane says his relocation to Dubai will increase synergy between the region’s most defying
projects and the firm’s global portfolio


Having worked with Woods Bagot for more than a decade, Karim Benkirane has spent almost six years in studios on Australia and seven years managing European projects from the firm’s London office before relocating to accept a new  role as managing principal at the Dubai studio.

“The opportunities which present themselves within a global business is what makes my job so rewarding; varying   clients, the spread of geographies and the differing projects,” he begins.

Oblivious to his flair for technical drawing, it was a school teacher who encouraged Benkirane to pursue his talent in  high school, advice he heeded, commenting only that: “the rest is history, as they say”.

“I would love to say that I have wanted to do this since I was a small boy but I would be lying,” he explains.

“It is probably one of the most diverse professions in my mind and no one day is ever the same. It has to rank highly as  one of the most rewarding professions; I get an enormous satisfaction working with all the talented individuals seeing something sustainable being created which is shared with so many,” he adds.

Project approach

Having worked on dozens of diverse and prestigious projects throughout his career, Benkirane says that despite every  project being unique, one of his most memorable was the five star Banyan Tree Resort on the Croatian border with Montenegro.

“The rugged landscape and mountainous surroundings, which plunged almost uninterrupted into the bay, was simply  breath taking.

“The project vision was to create a resort which gave meaning to luxury which differs from opulence. This was done by  creating the smallest possible footprint on the landscape and letting the resort almost disappear into the  landscape, creating a true intimate guest experience.

“We adopted sustainable principles and technologies to ensure the native flora and fauna was impacted as little as  possible and we utilising local materials and building techniques to capture some of the local vernacular in a modern and contemporary way,” he recalls.

Explaining that each project is approached based on its and its clients unique attributes, Benkirane says architecture  may not allow a “one size fits all approach”, but that client, community and company outcomes are ensured through strong team collaboration.

“This ensures that everyone contributes and buys into the outcome throughout the design evolution of the project,”  he asserts.

“Our clients demand value, innovative solutions and exceptional results, this is the demand of us in all of our regions,  the subtleties are more about ensuring your approach is calibrated and tailored to suit the local cultural and social  demographic.”

Continuing to say he believes this is achieved through research, respect, tolerance and “above all, patience”,   Benkirane also says commercial management remains a careful consideration.

“With the economic crisis continuing to loom we remain focused on the commercial management of the practice. We  have a well established business here in the region with some very talented individuals who are familiar with the local

The highrise Icon Piccadilly Tower, Manchester, UK

way of doing business and I look forward to getting to know as many as I can and learning from their experiences.”

Common goals

Commenting on Benkirane’s appointment, the firm says Benkirane is an experienced project director with the ability  to realise the development aspirations of clients, by producing a product of “exceptional design quality and intelligence”.

“Karim maintains a strong grasp of all the project constraints such as programme, budget, procurement and  construction; ensuring the client is embedded in the design team and that the team all work to the same goals.”

Part of a global network of 700 professionals operating across education, science and health, and lifestyle and  workplace in five regions, the firm has realised projects for Kempinski, Muscat; DIFC, Dubai; Saudi Arabia Bank,  Riyadh; and Durrat Al Bahrain, among scores of others.

“This is a region with enormous opportunity and ambitions which sometimes defy belief,” Benkirane adds.

“I am looking forward to assisting the business to continue to grow and expand further into the region; building upon a strong platform and reputation, which has come from the successful delivery of projects such as the Burj Residences, Index Tower, St Regis Hotel on Saadiyat Island, Qatar Science and Technology Park and the Emirates Towers.

“There is also a strong desire to forge much greater ties back to our relationships globally, particularly London  because of the synergy of those relationships, sharing a similar global structure and a desire to offer intelligent  solutions,” he says.


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