Director and Regional Chair of the Middle East Region Jonathan French has won Middle East Architect’s 2018 Principal of the Year Award. The architecture and design publication announced the honor during its ceremony on Wednesday, November 21, 2018, where French beat out seven other candidates from across the region. The judges noted that his “immense positive impact” on the firm’s Middle Eastern studios and his mentorship for “the next generation of leaders both locally and globally” helped him to stand out.
“I am delighted to be awarded Principal of the Year at the Middle East Architect Awards. My role as a leader is simply to set the tone for how Woods Bagot behaves in the region, should work with one another in the studio, and collaborate with others on our projects, as well as how we should conduct ourselves professionally with our clients, consultants and contractors. This award is recognition that we—the entire Woods Bagot team and our clients and collaborators—are doing something right in these areas,” French said of the honor.
Jonathan French is an exemplar of the firm’s Global Studio—which sources sector expertise from each of its 15 studios in five different regions to deliver high-level architecture all over the world. For the past four years French has Chaired the firm’s Global Commercial Risk Committee, an internal committee that reviews potential project agreements to mitigate risk. His work has dramatically improved the commercial and contractual management of the practice on an international scale. As a leader of the Middle East studios located in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, he has been instrumental in establishing Woods Bagot’s Global Masterplanning and Urban Design team in the Dubai Studio, which is now a hub of excellence within the multinational business.
With a multifaceted background working for significant global practices for over 35 years, French is committed to shaping a business that is financially resilient and focused on distinctive design. He believes that this stems from providing dynamic careers for future generations of architects to ultimately elevate the practice.
“Jonathan is a selfless individual who has developed the career of many young designers and has set the professional and cultural standard for the studio by instilling new values across the business and focusing on the highest quality and environmentally appropriate design,” said Richard Fenne, Principal and Studio Chair of Woods Bagot’s Dubai studio.
Jonathan is particularly supportive of the local architecture and academic community. Acting as Honorary Secretary of the Royal Institute of British Architects - Gulf Chapter, he is passionate about growing membership in the region, linking it with educators, practitioners and other professionals so that the voice of the consultant is heard. The Middle East region’s studios have strong associations with multiple institutions such as the American University of Sharjah, American University in Dubai and Manipal Academy of Higher Education Dubai Campus and have built these relationships through internships in both architecture and interior design.
Jonathan has championed Woods Bagot’s Middle East Studios efforts to lead the sustainability debate and its integration within the design process. This has led to a number of projects receiving recognition for their exemplary environmental design and significant, measurable sustainability outcomes such as IRENA Headquarters in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, which won Middle East Economic Digest’s 2016 Sustainable Project of the Year; Emirates Green Building Council’s 2015 Green Commercial Building of the Year and a Four Pearl Estidama environmental standard. Additionally, Etihad Eco Residences in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, which also won Middle East Economic Digest’s Sustainable Project Award in 2017, Emirate Green Building Council’s Sustainable Design of the Year in 2017, and Big Projects Middle East’s 2017 Sustainable Project of the Year. The firm is also a founding Board member of the Emirates Green Building Council and regularly participates in their activities and initiatives.
“A natural leader, Jonathan is a constant source of inspiration to his colleagues as he extends his sustainable principles to both his life and work,” Fenne added.