Designing from a respectful stance - An interview with Daniel West
Updated: Jun 23
About Daniel West
Mr. West was appointed as the Managing Director of SPA Design and Project Services Ltd. in 2017 and has been with the company from 2013. In his capacity he has been responsible for the design and delivery of many of Yoma Land’s development programs. These include leading master planning activities for its landbank, providing design services for internal and related parties and project management for selected development projects.
In years prior to joining Yoma Land, Mr. West worked at ALDAR Properties in several capacities in the management of development, design, and delivery. Notable projects include Yas Island’s West Yas, Yas Acres, Yas Links, Ansam, and the recently opened Warner Bros. Theme Park.
As a consultant, he has provided advice to blue chip Clients across the US, Middle East, and Southeast Asia: Lotte Group, EMAAR, Nakheel, DAMAC Properties, Ghanem Holdings, White Lodging, Golub and Company and Forest City.
Mr. West holds a M. Arch. and B.Sc. degree from the University of Michigan and is a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
An interview with Daniel West
Yesterday I was asked what I thought was a funny question by a colleague, “how does the practice of respect impact your work as a designer.” This is not a normal question to an architect as we tend to work either in the realm of art and aesthetics where respect is a subjective mater or in contractual terms where respect is performance driven – you conform with the terms of the agreement or you don’t.
The fact is that respect has everything to do with the delivery of a building project. As the design and delivery process is latent with a multitude of participants and spans over years of development, we inherently rely on others throughout the process. The client provides his vision and facility needs. The designer composes spaces, forms an enclosure and fits the interior with finishes which hopefully enhance the functional requirements. The contractor performs the task of preparing the site, procurement of materials and management of labor necessary to assemble the elements of the building. At a bare minimum we must acknowledge that each participant has an ability and capacity the other does not.
As designers, we ask that clients look at our “masterpieces” and applaud us for our novel ideas. We usually receive a sigh and a request for more cost-effective solutions. “The shape is too complex… the material selected is too expensive… why is the design not done…” I believe that we must embrace this feedback and think deeper about the core objectives of the project while engaging others to come to the right conclusion. Respect in this case is listening and channeling of communication.
As to the performance of the work, I believe respect is expressed best through planning, practice and patience. Given that we must each perform daily tasks over months and years, it is critical to form habits of doing. And this “doing” must be aligned and re-aligned as new participants join the project. Take the time at the beginning to build the right team. Make time to reflect on the relationships an ongoing basis. And don’t be afraid to change participants that are not delivering desired results.
Ultimately, I would like to reflect on the age-old adage, “respect is not given, it is earned”. It is only through active participation that we reach others. It is the job of the design professional to activate, monitor and manage this participation – start looking for the measure of respect in your projects and do something about it.
SPA Design and Project Services Ltd. (SPADPS) is a design practice based in Yangon with a mission of Building Better Communities for the future of Myanmar. We are focused on improving the lives of our customers, investors and colleagues through constantly evolving our shared built environment. Our strength is our belief in design that is tied to functional use and the act of building.
More design sketches can be downloaded at https://www.slideshare.net/Yomaland/design-sketches-by-daniel-west