Middle East Marvel


Passionate about bespoke design and celebrating local culture, OBMI managing director of the Riyadh office, Jamil A. Adra, shares the firm’s storied beginnings and passion for combining heritage with innovation in the Middle East

OBMI is a premier architecture and interior design firm celebrated for bespoke private residences and storied destinations. Since 1936, the firm has built a reputation for exceptional design that expresses a true sense of place. OBMI’s portfolio includes some of the world’s most iconic and luxurious properties, with names like Four Seasons, The Ritz-Carlton, Capella, Rosewood and The Royal Mansour, that transform those who inhabit them—for a weekend or a lifetime.

What are OBMI’s origins?

The company started a world away from the Middle East, on the soft sands of the British territory of Bermuda. Here, founder Wil Onions established the distinctive Bermudian architecture style of stepped limestone roofs that would become the backbone for OBMI’s iconic design style. Decades later, we expanded to include offices and studios throughout the Caribbean, North America, the Middle East and beyond. With an extensive portfolio of projects, we have positioned ourselves as a prestigious design firm whose work adds to the beauty of coastlines, hillsides and cities worldwide.

What is OBMI’s history in the Middle East?

OBMI has had the privilege and pleasure of working in the Middle East for over 25 years, where we have been entrusted with creating architectural masterpieces that celebrate the region’s rich heritage. Ensuring convenient proximity to our clients and their active projects, OBMI opened a studio in Riyadh in 2018. To continue expanding our footprint and placing our design teams in the heart of the communities where we design, OBMI opened the Dubai studio in 2020.

What makes OBMI design so unique?

At OBMI, we believe that design excellence stands the test of time – it’s why our work continues to be part of an architectural legacy and heritage internationally. We approach the world and project-specific challenges with agility, resilience, vast experience and an innovative mindset to consistently deliver the extraordinary.

When beginning a new project, we always start by uncovering the story of the place, digging deep into the local environment and understanding the heritage by dissecting a destination’s culture, geography and community. This research sets the backdrop for the design as we craft a storyline. We’re very focused on developing genuinely authentic projects that give back to the community and foster the riches each community has to offer.

Our projects are heavily driven by local artisans’ traditional craftsmanship and skills. Some of the designs we’re working on are inspired by century-old vernaculars. It’s critical that we don’t simply attempt to design these in a contemporary style but instead look at how we can capture the original heritage design and elevate it to a level of quintessential luxury.

Tell us about your passion for architecture in the Middle East

There’s such a rich heritage in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, so bringing architecture back to the origin of these countries is what I find most interesting. The biggest mistake we could make in the region is disconnecting the past from the present and future. The Middle East is going through a pivotal moment in its design history, and a big part of this has been about making sure its history isn’t left behind.


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