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In Conversation with Nigel Craddock, Design Director – IMKAN Properties

Nigel joined IMKAN Properties four years ago with over 20 years of experience in both Lead Consultant and client-side Design Management roles, gained from working with leading organizations in the UK and MENA region.

Nigel holds a BA(Hons) with Diploma in Architecture and graduated as a chartered ARB RIBA Architect with a Certificate of Architectural Professional Practice from Plymouth University in his home country UK.

His experience both regionally and internationally covers a wide variety of small and large-scale project types spanning multiple sectors.

1. Share your professional journey so far?

I studied Architecture in my home country United Kingdom, undertaking a three-year Degree, two-year Diploma and then two years of professional experience before qualifying as an RIBA Chartered Architect. I worked for 5 years in Exeter then Bristol for two of the most recognized award-winning Architectural firms in the South-West of England on some fantastic design projects before deciding to move to the UAE in 2006 to be a part of Dubai’s booming economy. I saw it as an amazing opportunity to take a big step up in terms of project size, exposure and responsibility. In 2009, a year after the global economy had fallen off a cliff, I was headhunted for a client-side Design Manager role for a major developer in Qatar. The company was working on some incredible masterplan projects in Libya and after one year of work in Doha our team was then shipped off to Tripoli to deliver on a fast-track mixed use waterfront development. The increased exposure was amazing and was another ‘level up’ in experience. Six months later we were blown out of Libya due to the Arab Spring (a story for another time!) and I soon found myself back in the UAE working as a Design Manager and then Regional Director for the branch office of my old architectural firm from the UK. The RD role was a fantastic opportunity to develop a huge business network in the region. We landed some great projects of which I am still immensely proud. Following one further headhunting into another RD role for a competitor firm, I finally transitioned into a Design Director role with IMKAN, where I have effectively been for 4 years.

2. Where do you find design inspiration outside of architecture?

Travel and everyday life. The biggest inspiration in my life to date came from nearly two years of traveling that I did some twenty years ago in-between my Degree and Diploma studies. Armed with a trusty rucksack I covered India, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, Canada and the U.S.A, and the diversity of things I lived and breathed in that two years was simply life changing. I still use many aspects of that trip as reference points in my life today.

3. Could you share your goals at IMKAN Properties?

To continue working on high quality architectural projects that genuinely add value to the built environment and people’s lives. At IMKAN I’ve had the opportunity to work with architects whose projects and books I studied at university, such as MVRDV Architects from Rotterdam. I’ve worked with designers who are interested in making the world a better and more enjoyable place to be. That’s an incredible thing to be part of.

4. What is your favorite project you’ve worked on at IMKAN Properties?

Makers District and PIXEL. PIXEL is the project which I feel captures perfectly the spirit of what IMKAN has been trying to do, namely: delivering best in-region high-quality mixed-use projects which drive a sense of community, belonging, and place.

5. What are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished the Beach club at Makers District in partnership with Cove, which launched on Friday November 27th. The feedback from the community has been incredible and as the first public realm activation point in Makers District, we are super proud to have moved this project across the line under some very challenging circumstances. The project will continue to be enhanced and evolve over the coming months as we seek to further activate the North Beach zone, followed by the Northern Promenade of this 186,000sqm district site.

The recently launched Makers District Beach is the only swimmable beach on Reem Island, offering guests an array of pursuits along its more-than-300 meters of beach front. Aligned on IMKAN’s philosophy of ‘placemaking’, an ethos that aims to create soulful places, the beach on Makers District perfectly blends art, aesthetics and activity, taking the beach experience to a whole new level.

6. Can you give an insight into the challenges and highlights of working in this region?

Honestly speaking, the biggest challenge is trying to achieve a work / life balance. Construction projects in this region are incredibly stressful and demanding and it makes little difference which side of the fence (consultant or client side) that you sit in terms of the extreme demands on your time, and that does not come without sacrifice. The highlights are obviously seeing the fruit of your labour. The act of taking something from an idea, to paper, constructing it, and then seeing people inhabit and enjoy that space or place is a very special process and an extremely humbling thing in life.

7. What trends do you see coming through in the architecture / interior design space?

Technology will continue to impact on architecture and design as we strive to ‘clean up’ what is traditionally a highly inefficient process. As the world wakes up to the magnitude and urgency of the unfolding sustainability crisis, we will see stringent legislation which forces cleaner end to end processes.

8. How COVID-19 has affected your work, the way of working, and plans for the future?

Beyond the initial disruption earlier this year, our team has returned to full time site or office-based work and is busier than ever, however the wider impact of COVID-19 on the industry and delays to projects is obviously still very much felt. The homeworking experience back in March/April was nothing short of enlightenment. We had this paradoxical situation of, on the one hand, a killer virus taking lives and up-ending the world as we know it, but on the other hand a utopian balance in that everyone was working remotely and being incredibly productive and effective and yet at the same time realizing additional time with their families. It was a once in a lifetime experience which gave a lot of people time to reflect on the important things in life. It was a stark reminder that life is incredibly fragile, and we should focus on those things in life most precious to us.


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