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20 June 2016

Profile: Daniel Hajjar, HOK’s Managing Principal in London

New London Quarterly profiles Daniel Hajjar, managing principal of HOK’s London office.

HOK's Daniel Hajjar, Managing Principal of HOK in LondonHajjar was working in the UAE in 2001 when HOK recruited him to establish the firm’s Dubai office. In 2014, he relocated to London to lead the office as managing principal.

“The key threads Hajjar has picked up running through all his locations are threefold. ‘Number one, you do the right thing, all the time, even if it works against you. Number two, you deliver a good quality product to your client because it’s not about the first commission, it’s about the second and third and fourth that you want to get and work with the client on. And number three, be fair with the people who work with you or for you.’”

“The London studio has a positive atmosphere, with its uniqueness in the HOK stable being its exposure to different cultures from the city and world-leading architecture schools. ‘Having said that we want to make sure we are regarded as a London practice.’ Some 65 percent of the work is London-based in the London studio, but there is also work on the go in Korea, Turkey and West Africa, for instance. ‘But London as a global hub still has a gravitas to it that no other city has,’ said Hajjar, with a design culture based on architecture, industrial design and its multifarious arts communities. ‘That’s healthy, because people don’t become complacent and know they have to remain at the top of their game.’

“Hajjar believes what sets it apart is that HOK works more collaboratively with its clients. The whole notion of ‘signature’ or ‘black cape architecture’, as he calls it has existed since Frank Lloyd Wright to Aalto or Corbusier, but Hajjar feels that HOK sits outside this patch. ‘Our approach just happens to be fundamentally different to that, and I don’t think it’s a negative. I think certain clientele will say I have got my Cartier watch on as opposed to my Swatch. They’ll want that. That’s not how our studio works. The diversity is a very strong thing behind the practice.’

Hertsmere House includes 861 private and affordable homes, and also includes public realm and landscaping improvements alongside shops and cafés.

“… Projects are many and varied. HOK is working on Hertsmere House” (pictured above and now named London Spire) “at West India Quay, which will be Europe’s tallest residential tower. … Residential and mixed use remain big sectors, as is aviation and transport–with a focus on the latter–with healthcare, higher education and science and technology other strong sectors. But sport is the one area where HOK is wanting to grow.”

“A group of around 15 people of 130 in the London office is doing work in the UK and the Yas Arena, which is in design in Abu Dhabi as well as Barcelona’s new arena and sport academy” (pictured below) “for basketball, roller hockey and futsal, a project won in international competition.”

FC Barcelona New Palau Blaugrana

“The firm is also behind the remarkable Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, with an eight-panel retractable roof that resembles a pinwheel and–for those with long memories–opens up a little like the opening sequence of Camberwick Green.

“So, where next? ‘We want to strengthen our position in the London market in terms of private development,’ said Hajjar, ‘in addition to the public and institutional.’ But importantly, he also wants to correct a failing he sees in his performance so far and spend more time with juniors in the office. ‘It’s the old adage,’ laughs Hajjar. ‘Your first job is to find your replacement when you’re appointed to a position. I think that’s an important thing for a firm. My role is to set up the London office so it has the ability to move into the next generation.’”

New London Quarterly