Arch. Joseph Requilme, without the knowledge of most Filipinos, is the architect behind the Al Murooj Hotel in Dubai. The hotel is considered as one of the landmark projects Dubai architects at the Emirates. It has a very unique design that has been admired by travelers around the world.
He was a fresh graduate when he worked in Kuwait in 1983 alongside top American designers of SOM the group known for skyscrapers and the contractor for Burj Dubai, acknowledged as the world’s tallest building. “It was my first brush with real quality architecture. When I moved to a different company, I took a senior designer status.” says Joseph.
Joseph went back to the Philippines seven years later when the Gulf war broke off. “It was timely that my family stayed behind in the Philippines after our vacation or they would have been caught in the war. It was indeed a terrible experience. More so for those Filipinos whose children didn’t even have milk to drink when we went through that long journey on a convoy to Baghdad en route to Jordan where we would catch a plane going back home.”
In the Philippines, Joseph was interviewed by a Chinese who eventually hired him for Singapore. He resigned after a year because he disliked how his employer intimidated the staff. He secured another job before he resigned. He found a really nice boss this time and so, he brought his family.
“My projects in Singapore were not as big as those in Kuwait but it was a good career move because there was a good variety in the projects. I became better-rounded as a designer. After my stint in Singapore and learning that Dubai was in a construction boom, I went there in 1998 to look for a job through my sister.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY
He tried a year alone in Dubai and then he brought his family. “That’s always been my strategy. When I see that things are okay, I bring them. A man’s decisions are affected when he already has his family. There’s not much option left even when the boss turns out to be rude. It’s important that me and my family are together.” says Mr. Requilme.
SEEK FOR THE BEST POSSIBLE EMPLOYMENT
You don’t have to sell yourself short when you know what you’re good at. Here in the gulf, there are a lot of slave drivers. You need to set boundaries or you’ll get taken advantaged of. You need to communicate that you have other priorities beside work. My boss knows that my priority is my family and that’s why I don’t do overtime. So much so, that when he sees me working after office hours, he’s delightfully surprised.
You can see if your employer is good or not. There are patterns to observe in the office. When despite your excellent services, the employer cannot still serve your purpose, quit. If after 10 years of selling peanuts you concluded that you won’t hit the jackpot, think of another “gimmick” for your own success.
Many of our graduates just settle. They accept salaries of 2000 to 3000 Dirham for designing buildings. But you know how much the employers earn from their designs? You wouldn’t want to know. Believe that there are good employers and seek them out.
EXCELLENCE IS THE WAY TO GO
“I do my best at work”, says Joseph. The efforts he put in designing a building is the same with what he put into designing a toilet. Even what others consider as insignificant requires your best. Excellence is difficult but it pays off. Even when others don’t take notice, excellence always results to something… eventually.
Excellence connotes reliability. “When my boss comes to me for a project, he knows I will produce the result. He doesn’t doubt that. If my boss wants things done, he comes to me.”
“I buy a lot of books and research on the latest architectural trends. People can design but it’s important for designs to go with the times and market demand. Architecture in Dubai is more lavish and dominant in features. In Singapore, they go for practicality and functionality.”
GREAT PRESENTATION COUNTS
People know that Filipinos are great architects. We have the “gift of eye”. We know aesthetics by nature. But most of the Filipino architects who have made it internationally are those who have studied in the states. They came out of school skilled, bold and aggressive. They could speak well and are able to sell themselves. Other Filipino architects don’t dress up well nor possess the confidence needed for client presentations. Even when you’re good but “papolo-polo” lang, it’s hard to break through, according to Arch. Requilme. Power dressing makes a difference. “One of my mistakes is not having cultivated my skills with clients. I got stuck to this attitude of minding only my designs and leaving presentations to my boss. It would have been good if I could do both.” he adds.
LOVE WHAT YOU DO, DO WHAT YOU LOVE
My boss initiated if I would be interested with management. I said it’s useless to work in an area where I am not effective. I have to be where I am an expert. I say that as long as I can still hold a pencil, I will continue to design. I have reached a certain acceptance in my field that designing is enough for me. I don’t need to have my own firm, I enjoy what I do.
Arch. Requilme consider Al Murooj as his signature project. From initial concept, its interior as well as the landscape, he poured himself out in this project. Even with details assigned to others, he got involved.