With eight years under his belt working as a designer across the Middle East, we invited Neil Serridge to reflect on what he's learnt and the key trends and ideas that he sees emerging in the region.Return to Design Thinking
The view from here - Q&A with Neil Serridge, Senior Associate Director in our Dubai studio
How long have you been working with Benoy in the Middle East region?
I’ve been working with Benoy for almost seven years and have been based in Dubai for eight.
'Creating integrated communities which have access to everything they need within walking distance is important, especially moving forward post-pandemic.'
What do you particularly enjoy about working in the region?
There are not many places in the world where entire regions are re-inventing themselves. KSA has changed in many ways and in opening itself up to the world, has presented unique opportunities to re-think the way cities work. The type of projects and clients we get to engage with are really fascinating. A consequence of that hunger for progress and change is that the work in the region is very demanding and fast-paced. However, saying that, there is also less red tape, and projects move much more quickly than in other parts of the world, On a personal level, working in this environment has meant I’ve been able to see much of what I’ve worked on be delivered to completion which as a designer is always exciting.
Tell us about some of the projects you’ve been working on recently
For the past six months I’ve been working mostly on competitions for Amaala in KSA. Amaala is targeting the international tourist market and developing a series of destinations along the North West Coast of Saudi. The site locations are beautiful, overlooking the Red Sea. Both competitions have had a similar mix, in terms of creating a central village surrounded by a series of hospitality assets. They have been inspired by the historic street patterns of the local towns, creating a series of open-air streets squares and plazas, all focused around a marina setting. On each occasion, we’ve been able to draw on our experience of nearly 18 years in the region plus incorporate fresh thinking from our teams based in the UK, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore.
What design trends are you seeing emerging in the region?
We’re definitely seeing more mixed-use developments. The retail market as we know it is changing, and requires a different approach to remain relevant. Retail needs to be supported with a mixture of experiential uses and integrated with different offers such as hospitality, office, residential, leisure and entertainment. Creating integrated communities which have access to everything they need within walking/?cycle distance is important, especially moving forward post-pandemic. In this region, clients also look for a blended approach to indoor/?outdoor spaces, allowing people to be outside during the cooler months and being shaded during the humid warmer months. This is a challenge which we see on most projects.
What’s been you’re proudest achievement during your time with Benoy?
The first competition we did with Amaala, Triple Bay Marina Village, I feel was one of the best projects I have been involved with. The quality of our submission led to it being recommended to the Saudi Crown Prince as the preferred masterplan. We unfortunately lost out to Foster + Partners, which was disappointing, however the quality of our work on that submission has led to multiple new opportunities. It’s always quite nerve-wracking presenting to future kings, however having these types of opportunities definitely offers moments to be proud of and experiences that will always stay with me.
'The retail market as we know it is changing, and requires a different approach to remain relevant. Retail needs to be supported with a mixture of experiential uses and integrated with different offers such as hospitality, office, residential, leisure and entertainment.'