The Wright Approach to Architecture
What projects do you have in South East Europe?
At the moment we have three projects in Croatia. Two of them are located in Rovinj: one is the Tobacco Factory project and the other is the Park Hotel. The third project is in its early stages and is located to the north of Dubrovnik. It is quite an interesting project since the person in charge wants to build a new touristic city and so the challenge will be to attract tourists to this new area.
Do you receive many enquiries from South East Europe?
Not particularly from that specific region, but three projects in Croatia is not bad. Most of our enquiries are from the North of Africa. Muslim people tend to appreciate our work given that the Burj al Arab in Dubai is our most famous work. It is somehow their way to show the world they also have something very special. As Germans have Mercedes or Italians have Ferrari, they want to have magnificent buildings which are symbols of their culture, and the Burj is a bit of that.
What are your clients looking for?
What clients are trying to get from us it not another Burj - they do not really want to get a massive, colossal icon. While the Burj had pretty much no financing restrictions, our general clients are very much sensitive to price. They usually have a certain amount of money and what they are trying to do is to make the most of that money. The fact is that there are many architects and many firms around the world that can deliver high standard projects. I believe the reason people come to us is to get something unique within a certain budget, something different which people will want to see and to which they will want to go.
What is your approach when someone proposes you a new project?
What we do first is to go and take a look at the location. Then we try to visualise something different, something outside of the box. When someone is online and ready to book their hotel, the first thing they see is a picture of the place. If their first impression is: "Wow, I want to stay there", there is a high chance they will just book it. What our clients are realising is that if they spend a little bit more money in the conception stage, they will profit in real life when they have the hotel built.
How can a developer catch your attention and enroll you in a new project?
We love great sights! So if you have a great sight and we go "Wow, what a great place for a hotel! We gotta put one there!", it is a very good sign. Then what we want is a yes to the following questions: "Do you own it? Do you have the money to get it going? Have you got any investors?"
However in cases where the location is really bad or the client's wishes do not match our expectations, we generally do not go forward even if they have plenty of investors and money to invest.
What would be the perfect location for one of your projects?
Some cities such as Venice or Paris are iconic by themselves; even people in South America, thousands of kilometres away, can recognise them easily. On the other hand, before the Burj was built nobody in Middle America had heard of Dubai. So what we are looking for is a place which is seeking an identity, something to be known and recognised for - a town which wants to be put on the map. Our job then is to create something that does that.
How did the Burj al Arab in Dubai become so famous?
The design of the building itself played a major role of course, but we cannot forget the huge amount of marketing behind it. The amount of money spent on advertising Dubai in Europe and the rest of the world was tremendous. It is some kind of combination of design and marketing that ensures the success and visibility of a project.
Where does your creativity come from?
Here at Atkins [where Wright is Head of Architecture] we have a great team of creative people and generally when we meet to discuss ideas, we have some kind of strategy we use. First of all, no pens are allowed in the room. We are just allowed to share our ideas verbally so each and every person in the room can visualise the project in his or her own way. After we have discussed all the features of the project and shared our ideas, everyone is allowed to pick up their pencil and start drawing their vision of the project on their own. Interestingly, when we come back to the meeting table, we all have different drawings and different ideas of how the project should be.
What advice would you give to young architects who dream of being part of a project as iconic as Burj al Arab?You have to be in the right place at the right time, and you have to recognise the right place and the right time. When you are young, you have a lot of energy and that is generally when the best projects can come out of your creativity. So what I advise young architects is to really believe in what they do, to be passionate about their projects and transfer this energy and drive what they have forward. Because once you get older, you will find out that all of the things you thought were absolute, you are not so sure about.