An award-winning British architect who studied at Cambridge University, the Oxford School of Architecture and the Architectural Association, John Avery joined Lom Architecture and Design shortly after it was established more than 20 years ago.
With extensive experience across the GCC, from Oman to the UAE, Kuwait to Saudi Arabia, Avery’s clients with Lom have so far included the United Arab Bank, HSBC Middle East, Ahli United Bank, and the National Bank of Oman.
“We see ourselves as being a commercial practice, but it is really important to us that design is at the core of everything we do, as well,” he says.
“We try to use a quite analytical approach, quite strategic approach, while also trying to create the beauty and wonder that architecture is all about.”
“So with Lom, we have done work in the region since the beginning, and for various reasons, we have had a really long-standing relationship with the regional banks, and that’s spanned everything from retail design through to head office buildings,” he adds.
Avery’s first project was the head office for a commercial bank in the Gulf, which opened in 2005, and mostly consisted of glass. “It is not a building you would design now,” he says. “I don’t think we would anyway, because it is all transparent.”
Indeed, visually and architecturally, this early project seems somewhat opposed to the design firm’s more recent projects, such as the National Bank of Oman headquarters building. Avery explains this latest project is far more context-driven and reflective of the local environment.
“I see those two projects as bookends, in a way,” he says. “And in between, we’ve done a variety of things of different scales.”
The National Bank of Oman project posed what Avery calls a “unique opportunity” for Lom. Building in Muscat, he explains, comes with a set of conditions and criteria that are “not particularly prevalent in other GCC cities”, from building heights to creating an architectural language that is “perhaps more responsible toward the cultural and environmental context”, he adds.
“The Muscat Municipality is quite keen to see a new style evolve. And there are a few examples that I think are quite interesting, like the German University of Technology,” says Avery. “The buildings have elements that are contextual – they use the local stone – but they are very much contemporary. So I think there is a really interesting style evolving there, which is different to some of the architecture that we are seeing elsewhere in the Gulf.”
In addition to buildings for the financial sector, Avery has also worked on projects for the residential, educational, and cultural developments. Before joining Lom, he worked as a designer for various projects in London before returning to the field of architecture. He won the Corus Architectural Competition in 2001, received an Architects Journal Award for Architecture in 2002, and has also exhibited work at the Royal Academy Architecture Room in London.
At the moment, Avery is based in London and travels to the GCC monthly. In Dubai, he is currently working on the interiors of an office for HSBC, as well as on a mixed-use building that will consist of twin towers featuring residential, office, and retail facilities.
Describing his current mixed-use project, he says it has “a triangulated skin” that reflects the sky.