Meet The Designer: Award-Winning Design Manager Drew Gilbert04 Nov. 2021
INDEX gets to know up and close about Drew Gilbert, Design Manager at OBM International and INDEX Design Awards 2021 Rising Star winner...
ABOUT DREW GILBERT
Drew is a design manager at OBM International. He has been awarded the AIA Henry Adams award, INDEX Design Awards Rising Start, the Design Middle East Young Talent RU and featured in CID's Powerlist Creative 30 and Top 30 Architects Powerlist in MENA.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF?
I like to see myself as a naturally curious person that is invested in learning and exploring the latest in the fields of architecture, design, and technology. With a focus on embodying a comprehensive and naturalistic design process, benefiting the individual and supporting the evolution of the communities with significant contributions to humanity. Advocating sustainable design strategies and cradle-to-cradle thinking for long term impacts on the built environment.
HOW AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO BE A DESIGNER?
From a young age, I’ve been passionate about airplanes, building blocks, and drawing. My uncle was a pilot and I was inspired by air shows to create my own designs of aircraft and automobiles. I remember designing my first car at a very young age. Designing has always been at my core and the drive to explore the newest tools has led to the passion for creating spaces, buildings, and communities for the people.
In college, my professors were always impressed by my passion, energy, self-learning, and ingenuity for creative out-of-the-box designs that focus on sustainability and that gave me motivation and responsibility to delve more. In my third year, I was selected to work at an international design studio, and have won unanimously multiple design competitions. By the time I had graduated, I had already been working with top designers and that allowed me to shape my skills to build my path. As a designer I aspire for the quality of the built environment and the livability of indoor spaces as an essential part of the economic and cultural fabric of society, playing a central and intrinsic role in improving the quality of life that promotes health and wellness.
WHOM DO YOU DRAW INFLUENCE FROM?
I draw my inspiration from everything around me, particularly from people and nature. The beauty found in nature inspires me. Taking nature walks and learning from it. Putting people at the core of design allows the personalization of the design. Ultimately developing designs profoundly relevant to the place and people responding to the climatic, ecological and social emergencies of our time.
WHICH PROJECT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF AND WHY?
Each project has its own unique attributes. I think one of my favorite projects is The Gardens of Samarra, it was selected by UNESCO to be built as an archeological landmark in Iraq inspiring future growth and encouraging community engagement, offering a new platform for local craftsmanship. It has been recognized for multiple awards including winning the Future Project award in 2020. The architecture signifies an emblematic urban streetscape being integrated and responsive to the diversity of cultures within the local and broader spectrum of the community. Another project highlight is Al khan palace. The first Waterfront development resort in Sharjah and the newest addition to its skyline, the project integrated Sharjah’s downtown history with modern waterfront living.
One project that stood out was the floating houses masterplan in the Pacific Ocean, the islands are inundated by rising sea level, the highest level is only a few meters above water level and will be fully submerged in the next 30 years. The design of the units embraced interior environments that celebrated their cultural merit and family values.
IF YOU HAD TO PICK A FAVORITE MATERIAL TO WORK WITH, WHICH WOULD IT BE?
Each project has its unique requirements and we often find ourselves having to be more innovative in material selections. I tend to select Rammed earth for floors and walls, as it uses natural raw materials such as earth, chalk, lime, or gravel, enhancing the built environment. I think one of my favorite home materials is marble stone, has a luxe look and durable properties with no shortage of options in incorporating it and offers a timeless look to make every space look special.
HOW DOES MEETING PEOPLE FACE-TO-FACE HELP YOUR BUSINESS?
Face-to-face communication remains essential to establish a baseline level for long-term business relationships. It plays a key role in building strong relationships to the next level and strengthening engagement, participation in-depth discussions, and to mind map ideas. Body language, eye contact and tone of voice influence could be lost or weakened through emails and virtual meetings. During face-to-face meetings trust and quality is communicated more coherently than other mediums.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO ESTABLISH YOURSELF IN THE MIDDLE EAST?
When I was in the United States I developed a patent focusing on implying modular building design technologies for exterior and interior structure. One application was a proposal for an EXPO 2020 pavilion, where it provides the freedom to repurpose the structure and interior spaces after the end of EXPO. While working on that project, I was inspired by the incredible vision and ingenious feats of architecture that were demonstrated by the leadership and the sea of future design opportunities in the MENA region. I was impressed by how Dubai rose majestically from the sandy desert and has man-made islands mapped from space.
Dubai has become the world’s creative hub and the region’s most dynamic city with Longevity and working with the environment at the forefront as a unique incubator for futuristic innovations, a quintessence of a smart city and a green economy. Driving a revolutionary new vision for a smart and sustainable city through technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.
SAUDI ARABIA IS EXPANDING ITS PRESENCE WITH INFRASTRUCTURE AND REAL-ESTATE, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS?
With Saudi Arabia's plans of several infrastructures and development projects, the kingdom’s landscape will undergo major changes as new cities and skylines are taking shape. The kingdom’s megaprojects will enable social and cultural development. We are continually seeing Saudi Arabia’s huge ambitions come to life through its impressive range of megaprojects.
The amazing heritage and tourism precinct that is being developed in the kingdom is central to vision 2030 and amazing heritage experiences are being delivered empowering world-class entertainment, world-class education, world-class tourism and an outstanding lifestyle. The architecture of Diriyah is faithful to Najdi design that delivers a private and peaceful environment with a state of the art technology and sustainable credentials. The ambitions and commitment that we are seeing from the kingdom’s authorities and nation are truly incredible.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO ENTER THE INDEX DESIGN AWARDS?
Submitting to an award comes after a long run of hard work that gets to be recognized. Providing a boost to continue with a high level of passion and drive to keep influencing the region with full validation and confidence. Entering the INDEX Design Awards gives nominees exposure as they get to stand out from the rest and market their organizations and projects to a much larger audience. Whether winners or shortlists, everyone gets the acknowledgment of their hard work, passion, and the companies, individuals, and clients get to celebrate their success stories! I was honored to be the recipient of this year's Rising Star title, and it’s fantastic to be recognized and celebrate the victory with your company, clients, and contractors.