Interviews

Perkins+Will’s Dubai studio MD on his designs for growth

Middle East Consultant talks to Roger Wilson about his appointment as managing director of Perkins+Will’s Dubai studio and his plans for the architecture and design firm

Perkins+Will (P+W) has been working in the Middle East for over 40 years and has accumulated substantial experience across multiple sectors such as hospitality, healthcare, commercial, education and culture. The global architecture and design firm opened its Dubai studio in Dubai Marina in 2010 and today employs more than 100 professionals including architects, interior designers, urban planners and landscape architects.

In early October 2017, P+W Dubai announced that then managing director Steven Charlton was moving to the firm’s London studio, to lead the business there. Roger Wilson, a veteran of the construction industry with experience in aviation, large-scale retail and mixed-use commercial projects across the Middle East, Europe and the Far East, was announced as his successor.

“Although I only recently moved to Dubai for my role with P+W, I’ve worked on many master planning projects over the years in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Most recently, I worked with Perkins+Will on a regional aviation project – I was brought in as a retail master planner and design consultant. That’s the most recent active experience I have in Dubai, and P+W is still very much part of that particular project,” explains Wilson.

Asked what drove him to join P+W and move to Dubai after so many years working in the region on a project basis, Wilson notes, “One of the main reasons I came out here was because things work at a much faster pace, maybe necessarily so. I think there’s a lot of vigour and excitement in the market. There’s a can-do approach which I like, but beyond that I also like this part of the world.”

With regard to his role and focus going forward, Wilson is very clear. “My role is to run the business, and that’s very much based around client engagement. Part of what I’m going to do is take stock of the market with a fresh pair of eyes. I’m going to listen to people, of course, so I’m already very much on receive mode rather than transmit. Ultimately, I’ll make my own informed decisions about what I’ve seen and how I see the market shaping up in the future.”

On his involvement in design strategy within the firm, Wilson confidently asserts, “I’ll be less focused on design because I’ve got Diane Thorsen and Firas Hnoosh, the two key principals who lead interiors and architecture respectively. Design is in very safe hands with them.

“I’m looking at how to grow the business, which sectors to push, and I’m looking at potential new markets which will be run from Dubai. Perhaps most importantly, I’m also looking at a much more collaborative approach with our London office, where Steven Charlton, my predecessor, is now based. I having experience of London and the European market, and he having experience of this market, we think there are some areas where we can leverage experience and skill sets for the business of Perkins+Will.”

Business Goals
Wilson – who has been with P+W for less than a month when Middle East Consultant interviews him – already has his first quarter planned. Part of his focus going forward is to further establish his company as a regional leader in two main areas.

“We want to be more prominent in the architectural field, as well as in the corporate interiors market, where we are already doing quite well. I think we have a very good architectural principal in Firas Hnoosh, together with another key hire from another company in the region in the mixed-use architectural sector. We’re looking to really push that, but above all else P+W stands for quality of design, and we’re not going to dilute that in any way. We want to bring our design ethos forward and build on the architectural work that we’ve already done.”

Beyond Dubai and the Middle East, Wilson is keen on expanding. “We’re looking east from here, and I think that will potentially cover a number of countries. I’m confident that there are opportunities to work in central Europe, particularly in teaming up with our London office. Over-arching all of this is our ability to tap into some of the skill sets and experience that we have in the United States from what is the main bulk of the Perkins+Will offices.”

Wilson is also confident that the P+W team in Dubai has the necessary skills and bandwidth to grow without turning to recruitment. “We are pretty comfortable here in terms of the skill set that we have. We want to get more market share of architecture, and although we are already quite busy, we’ve got the capacity to do a little bit more. The key to all of this will be maintaining our status as a preeminent designer. We always want to improve and show our clients that we are the best in this part of the world.

“On a personal level, I want to bring to P+W my style of working with clients, which comes from a fairly broad corporate background in Chapman Taylor. P+W has grown from a small company into what is a significant player in the market, and I want to tap into that – the ethos that is P+W – but equally I’ll bring to it what I believe are some very well developed professional approaches to how one engages with clients. Everyone has their own start, and I will endeavour to make my mark gently.”

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