This month we are extremely proud to have Yousef Lootah chat with us. An exceptional designer from the UAE. Yousef Lootah Founded Plus 971 Architects in 2005, a Dubai-based architectural firm that provides a packaged service that transitions a clients’ initial idea from conceptual design to construction and project management.
1. How has your culture and background been reflected in your designs?
Born and raised in a great cosmopolitan and modern city like Dubai that constantly saw drastic, impressive changes, I was motivated to not only be an architect, but to be a unique changemaker in the field of architecture. For instance, it is imbedded in our culture to not waste the limited resources we have, therefore it is second nature for my team and I to adapt our designs to our clients’ needs, as well as the needs for the environment itself. Additionally, my team and I constantly brainstorm and research the UAE’s diverse traditions and heritage to allow for designs that appreciate the land they stand in. I believe that is becoming increasingly important as the country is becoming more culturally diverse.
2. A Designer or Architect that has inspired you?
Through my studies and career, many architects and designers have inspired me. That being said, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe are the top three architects in my opinion. From a very young age as I believe that the elements of all three architects allows for the perfect architect.
3. Your work has fluidity, in the sense that the indoor and outdoor merge almost naturally. How crucial is it to have that organic flow in your residential projects?
It is very important to instill our signature organic flow in all our residential projects. We value both the indoors and the outdoors. We do not attempt to merge these two parts in a complex way. In essence, we are looking to diffuse the indoors to the outdoors and vice versa through a minimal approach. Take the kandoras we wear as an example. They are timeless, simple and minimal. At +971 Architects, we approach all our projects in a similar way. We are designing timeless creations for many generations to come.
4. One piece of advice you would give to young architects.
Read, sketch, see, listen and capture all that is around you. These are the basic daily activities of a talented architect. Remember that inspiration for architecture does not only lie in structures; it is everywhere. Through these simple tasks you will be able to find your signature and unique type of architecture.
5. What are the biggest challenges you have faced when working on a project?
As every project is unique, the challenges we see are also unique and variable dependent on the project. However, some challenges are inevitable and will find their way in almost every project. Building a client’s trust is truly a challenge. Myself and my excellent team of talented individuals recognise that having a successful project is not about spending the client’s money wherever possible. We strive for the best everywhere. Therefore, we always ensure to communicate frequently with our clients to keep them updated with the status of their projects from the beginning to the very end through uncountable meetings. For instance, in our very first meeting with a client, we ensure to get to know them, learn more about their hobbies and interests, and then based on that are we only able to begin the design process. Upon reaching that stage, we meet with clients regularly to clear any concerns with the design leading onto the construction and the completion of the project. Communication skills are key to overcome this challenge, therefore, my team and I engage in many discussions throughout the day to better improve these skills and limit such challenges. We, at +971 Architects have recognised that challenges are inevitable, and thus have begun to collectively ensure the innovation of new and improved ways of tackling obstacles, stronger and stronger each time.
6. How would you describe the growth of architecture and design in the UAE?
We have been in a race that first started in 1972; our founding fathers of the UAE, HH Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and HH Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum have laid the first building blocks of the country. Their legacy has continued and expanded leading to the architecture and design that we enjoy today. They have always viewed the country and its robustness their utmost priority, a trait that all us Emiratis have inherited. This race certainly has no end, and I am certain that our future generations will achieve greater heights, particularly in the field of architecture, for we are seeing the construction of many high-quality and unique structures. Despite all the challenges and obstacles, our country continues to prove itself through regaining its ambition and strength.
7. Any upcoming projects where you see Purity products as a perfect fit?
We are currently using the amazing Lithea products to add the right feel in a beach resort we are currently designing. My team and I are working on many projects at the moment which we wish to keep private as per our clients’ requests until the completion of the project.
8. One thing about yourself which our readers might be surprised to know?
Architecture led me to becoming a passionate falconer. It all started when my client, whom I have a great deal of respect, gave me a falcon as a gift 6 years ago. It is interesting how a special client can influence your life greatly. Additionally, my father unfortunately passed away recently. When I first started +971 Architects in 2005, he decided not to hand us any of his company’s real estate projects in order for me to be independent and not dependent on him for business. However, he gave us one opportunity to design a building, which was the final building of his company before his passing.
9. Do you prefer a hand sketch or digital?
Given that I have graduated from Pratt Institute in New York, USA in 2002, I surely do prefer a hand sketch over digital.
10. Favourite coffee shop in Dubai?
I will never share this for two main reasons! Some of the best coffee shops in Dubai are owned by my close friends. Additionally, I love going to hidden gems, especially for coffee shops.
11. A project that you have yet to design, but would like to in the future?
I hope to design a luxury farm resort for old age dependents (60/70+) that consists of facilities they need to enjoy and take some time for themselves by themselves. For instance, there could be a bespoke clinic, spa, health facility, food court, golf courts horses, etc. They can spend however long they wish in this center to feel happy and cared for out of passion, and not through a medical approach.