With offices in Australia and Middle East and projects in various continents across the globe, Omiros Emmanouilides shares with us his experience of working in India.
Born in Greece and educated in Australia, Omiros Emmanouilides became the youngest registered practising Architect in Australia in 1981. In 1987, he founded O1A, which currently has offices in Melbourne and Abu Dhabi and collaborates with various associate offices in the Asia-Pacific region and Europe. A design-orientated practice, providing a unique combination of award winning design skills and an accurate commercial awareness, O1A is committed to producing innovative, contemporary, efficient and sustainable projects of distinction that meet and exceed the needs of both developers and end users.
Noted for producing many award winning buildings of prominence such as the Yas Island Yacht Club and Marina Facilities on the F1 track in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and the Health Spa and Gymnasium for His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum in Dubai, Omiros has demonstrated his understanding of what it takes to achieve a successful project.
Sumisha Gilotra chats with Emmanouilides about his work and global experience.
Tell us about your journey from Australia to the Middle East.
The initial expansion is never a conscious effort. Architects are not business people. We just do our work and we try to do it as well as possible. So, it´s usually through word-of-mouth that one project leads to another. We architects are all in love with the design process and we don´t think enough about the business until later when the business gets too big or you finish a project and then you don´t have another one. These are the two primary directives where you start to recall your thoughts into the business aspect of architectural practice.
How did you come to the Middle East and eventually to India?
I was invited to the Middle East for a conference. However, my fortune took me all the way to China, for designing hospitals. We started our work in Australia with residences and ended up doing hospitals in China, and from there we came to the Middle East. When I was in the Middle East, a young engineer contacted me and asked me to come to India and see whether we can work together. In 2009, I started work in India.
Tell us about your projects in India.
In India, we did two large residential projects (large from the point of view of Australians) with the Omaxe group in Delhi. They were two 35-storey towers that set the tone for the high rise residential development in Noida.
Then I designed a show flat for Dosti Group, which was another interesting experience because in a show flat you have so much freedom. This was one of our most enjoyable experiences in India because Dosti was a good client, never interfered with our work and paid our fees on time. That´s a big hurdle in working in India, because clients back out even after reaching an agreement and the legal system here is almost non-existent.
We started another project in Goa. It was a large master planning project for a Pune group. The project stopped midway because of some crisis. We also got the opportunity to work with vaastu shastra for a home for a large successful family in Kolkata.
There are only a few people that are really worth working with in India in terms of clients. The people are great but the developers have got a mindset of doing things on the run and they don´t want to pay the right fees.
What are your thoughts on vaastu shastra?
Vaastu shastra like Feng Shui are the simple man´s planning guidelines. They make good sense but are often generalised. They mean nothing if you don´t have design confidence and sensitivity. They have shortcomings, too. But while designing in different parts of the world you have to be sensitive to different cultures. You cannot ignore people´s belief systems. Vaastu shastra is also a belief system. So, being a good designer you have to be sensitive. You have to somehow respond, manipulate and address those issues. It´s a further challenge to look at. I don´t holistically agree with it but I don´t disagree with it either.
How would you define your design style without labelling it?
Sensitive. There is no style as such. Design is about a response. You need to be responsive. If you have looked at my work it can be super hi-tech and highly iconic or it can be minimalistic. It all depends on who I am designing for and where I am designing. If you are following a response, you are always appropriate.
What has been your most interesting work so far?
There are many aspects of interesting. For interesting in terms of design, I am working on a 44 storey in Azerbaijan in Baku, which is a fully rotating, zero carbon emission building. So, the whole building will be rotating 360 degrees every 25 hours in Azerbaijan.
From my completed projects, the Yas Island Hotel in Abu Dhabi on Formula One Marina is probably the most interesting for me and the most challenging. Currently, we are doing an interesting residential develop¡ment in Melbourne on the shore lines.
Do you have any advice for Indian architects?
You have a socio economic problem and your low cost housing the way it is being blended or segregated is not appropriate. It still carries on this stigma of existence of different classes. The designer needs to be conscious and sensitive. I know the developers are pushing for segregation because they don´t think they can achieve the prices that they should be able to achieve. The greater population needs to be treated with dignity and respect and should have equal and amicable facilities. That´s a challenge that needs to be addressed by your architects. Also Indian culture has a lot to offer and it shouldn´t be ignored. But that doesn´t mean you copy Indian architecture everywhere.
You have got great topography, especially in Mumbai. But humans have destroyed it and continue to do so as there is no respect and regard to the environment. Greed is ruling everywhere you go. Your designers need to show confidence in order to convince the developer that there is more than one way of making pleasant living environment.
Omiros One Architecture
G Floor, 639 Little Bourke St.
Melbourne 3000, Australia.
Tel: (03) 9670 8899
Fax: (03) 9670 0808
Omiros One Architecture
Middle East LLC
P.O. Box 107729, Abu Dhabi. UAE.
Tel: +9712 495 0500
Fax:+9712 442 4672