Holding a 30-year career trajectory with the firm, Tim Peck directs OBMI’s
widespread business portfolio, which includes master
planning, hospitality, residential, commercial and interior design.
The veteran architect oversees the company’s seven global offices.
Prior to this position, Peck was OBMI’s CEO for the Caribbean
region, during which time he was responsible for the oversight
of operations, business development and providing his
expertise on site analysis for developments in the Caribbean region.
Peck was also in charge of managing OBMI’s successful expansion into
Sub Saharan Africa...
Much has been discussed these days about expanding business in growing markets such as China, Brazil and India, which have quickly transformed into powerful emerging economies. However, hidden behind the growing shadow of these markets rests a continent known for its natural resources, large available workforce, outstanding wildlife, a vast expanse of undeveloped coastline and the world’s largest desert. Africa has recently gained considerable strength and demonstrated economic progress thanks, in part, to vigorous investments in the region made by other emerging economies. For us architects and developers, this surge in capital, infrastructure, export and tourism presents significant opportunities to expand our practice and contribute to the progress of many African countries.
At OBMI, we have long believed in the continent’s potential. For the last decade the company has had the privilege of expanding its architectural services in various countries within the North and sub-Saharan region, including: Egypt, Morocco, Tunis, Mozambique, Tanzania, Ghana, Namibia and Libya. OBMI’s focus of expansion in the continent has been directed mainly toward extending our core business functions, which include master planning, resort and hotel design. Years ago, entering some of these countries, especially less developed ones, would have been extremely difficult, mainly due to the political instability and lack of infrastructure. Today, some of these countries have reformed their governmental policies and regulations resulting in increased stability and democratization, which in turn has opened the window for more international dealings, internal regeneration and development. Although this process has been slower on this continent than in other stronger economies, Africa’s new scenario and growth poses promising benefits for the architecture and development industry.
For starters, Africa counts with an incredible wealth of untapped natural resources and raw materials. These reserves not only allow many regional countries to increase their global export activity and inject much need capital flow back to their nation, but it also provides architects with greater access to local materials and services. Among these many resources is its unparalleled natural beauty.
With its vast and beautiful landscapes, incredible wild life, rich history and its amalgam of cultures across the continent, Africa presents a remarkable canvas for the creation of unique destinations with a true sense of place moreover, combining Africa’s natural resources, wide-ranging cultural elements and rich history within our master planning and design concepts, encourages local systems and programs that promote cultural tourism and new urbanism. When building in delicate
environments, these systems and programs also become imperative to the preservation of the environment and its surroundings.
Africa’s new wave of development also provides a wonderful opportunity for architects and developers to integrate exciting design and construction innovations consistent with the region’s ecological needs and challenges. Additionally, new development funding introduces greater possibilities of creating innovative technology that can elevate eco-preservation to new industry standards. Just as important to this process, is the participation of local services and the integration of the community in the overall project scheme, providing them with the adequate tools and the infrastructure necessary to foment local progress and self-sufficiency.
Following this vision, countries like China, India, U.S. and the E.U. have taken strong interest in the continent and have already made investments in Africa’s growth by sponsoring development funds destined to benefit various areas including infrastructure, energy, agriculture, multi-sector, natural resources and social programs. For instance, The China- Africa Development Fund has already committed nearly $400 million in African projects and its expected to contribute an additional $2 billion by the end of the year. A series of international private investments in the region directed toward different industries such as telecommunications, have also increased the continent’s global competitive interest.
Contributing to this cause and following OBMI’s tenet value of sustainability, most recently the company joined forces with Soroma Capital, an African-based investment group, in the development of a fund established with the purpose of increasing advancements in Ghana. The idea of this fund is to invest in programs and projects expected to generate a positive impact in Ghana’s community, tourism and environment, while providing a solid return to investors. The projected development will include a mix of educational facilities, tourism, residential and commercial developments. Simultaneously, all these elements are planned to target LEED accreditation.
Over the past two years, OBMI has embarked in a broad expansion strategy within the African continent. Some of our current and future master planning and hospitality design projects in the region include:
- Ritz-Carlton Cairo, Palm Hills: The firm is the lead designer for the 160-room luxury hotel featuring views of the Great Pyramids of Giza.
- Libya: Bab Al Madina, Tripoli: A 16.7-hectare master planning project including residential, hospitality and commercial component in the heart of the Libyan city.
- Tunis: North Lake Tunis Waterfront, Tunisia: A 240-hectare master planned project enveloped by a network of landscape spaces and waterways.
- Morocco: Tourism planning for the Government and World Bank; Desert Agafay, a mixed use resort development southwest of Marrakech overlooking the Atlas Mountains; Royal Mansour, an ultra luxury boutique hotel and currently four new hotels integrated into the Mogador development.
- Ghana: Development fund project including a broad range of projects within the country destined to augment progress in the country.
- Tanzania: Conservation focused mixed-use coastal development, including a chain of properties and lodges.
- Mozambique: Cabo Delgado, Quirimbas Archipelago: Master planning covering three islands and 18,000 hectares of the mainland, envisioned to be an eco-conscious, conservation-based, sustainable resort.
- Namibia: Camp design within the Cheetah Conservation Fund property.
Operating in remote and delicate sites, such as the many regions found in Africa, where infrastructure is usually scarce and the topography varies tremendously, requires careful consideration and sensitivity. For over 75 years and with a network of offices in the Caribbean, Miami, Madrid plus an associate office in the Middle East, OBMI has had the opportunity to work directly in many untouched sites around the globe. With projects in over 40 countries worldwide, our breadth of
international experience has ensured our understanding and knowledge of effective processes when designing and building in these types of locations.
Similarly, our roots, which are based in the Caribbean, have given us a high level of sensitivity, ensuring that our projects are carried out in a sustainable manner. For us, this means that the projects we work on must respond to the tripartite factors of environmental, cultural and financial sensitivity. The latter refers to the importance of providing a financial return for the developer critically ensuring there is a financial benefit for the communities in which projects are taking place. In emerging countries like Africa, this approach is crucial in constructing sustainable growth across all social structures.
Achieving financial benefits for the community can be obtained through a combination of efforts that involve the participation of local entities and resources. For instance, employing local consultants wherever appropriate skills are available ensures that important local issues and intricacies are addressed. Moreover, this close incorporation allows fees to remain in the local communities. The circulation of local currency results pivotal in stimulating the local economy. Similarly, the use of locally sourced materials in the design and construction detailing wherever possible and economically appropriate can also help expand the African commerce.
Integrating local contractors when possible should also be embraced in the design and detailing of projects, while being sensitive to the skills and expertise of the labor force. Depending upon the scale of the development and the availability of local resources, it may be necessary to employ an international construction management team to coordinate this process.
Perhaps, most gratifying of this holistic design approach is creating entrepreneurial opportunities for the local communities. This factor must be a mindset of the developer and will often require offering business development skills to the communities, fomenting partnerships or seeding local businesses in the creation of associated entrepreneurships.
Our sustainability philosophy also mandates that we remain highly conscious of the critical emphasis on all projects being appropriate to their context and culture. We feel that it is essential for a development to be authentic and to have a real contribution or historical relevance as a destination. We are fortunate to count with a team of experts that has established a finely tuned level of sensitivity to identifying the cultural drivers of communities and their contexts. This attention to detail often requires significant research into the history and architectural traditions of the region, which can later be applied to the project’s design. As a goal we strive to make projects that immediately become part of the fabric, and the history, of the communities in which they are developed.
Key to creating successful places is the understanding of our client’s operations and the ultimate business drivers of the project in combination with excellence in design. Being authentic does not require the design to be pastiche. Creativity thrives against the background to an understanding of the context, whether it is in a contemporary or a traditional architectural solution. For us, Africa represent that ideal blend of a place that is open to progressive development, offers a rich cultural context, distinct natural beauty and the opportunity to create greater influential impact in the eco-system through sustainability practices.
Editorial , London
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