Darryl Custer joins KEO as the Executive Director of its Design Division and will be responsible for overseeing the Architectural and Building Engineering Practice

Darryl joins KEO after an 18- year career with Callison, the last five years in the role of senior vice president, Callisonrtkl Asia limited – Hong Kong, serving multiple sectors with a primary focus on healthcare, retail, and commercial mixed-use projects.

Roma Arora spoke to Darryl Custer as he takes on his new role at KEO.

Darryl, can you tell us about your new role at KEO and how different is it from your previous jobs?

I will be running the Design Division within KEO. I have had similar roles in the past however, this is unique because it includes disciplines beyond architecture, interior design, and landscape design. The division is positioned to offer a full complement of services in a multi-disciplinary format which is unique and a very exciting proposition.

Kuwait Authority HQ, Kuwait

What new do you want to bring at KEO and are there any goals you have set for yourself?

While KEO already delivers a high-level of design services, I hope to bring my global experience and perspective from past projects in other regions. The world is changing rapidly; climate change, urbanisation, and evolving consumer demands are forcing the industry to revisit their thinking on commercial project’s, and I hope this is an area we can explore with KEO’s clients

How important is leadership and communication for you?

This is fundamental to my working philosophy. I believe our clients are looking for forward-thinking expertise in these challenging times and this can only come with strong leadership. Of course, leadership can only be delivered through clear communication and open dialogue from beginning to end including strong follow-through.

What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the past 30 years in design and architecture?

This is a massive topic that could fill a book but in short and beyond the external forces changing design solutions the key topics that come to mind are the speed at which design is developed and the tools we use to develop them are most evident. I still remember my first job drawing with ink on vellum and being afforded weeks to figure out design problems. Fast forward to today where all of our work is developed digitally and in a matter of days and mostly presented online – it’s quite an evolution when you think about it.

Expo Village, Dubai, UAE by KEO

What is the greatest satisfaction you derive from your work?

I have been blessed over the years to work with visionary clients on impactful and compelling projects. Visiting old projects that I worked on in full use by the public is a truly satisfying experience. I also consider myself a teacher of sorts and internally speaking I enjoy working with and teaching the next generation of designers; passing down knowledge is something I really enjoy doing.

You have done a lot of mixed-use projects, what kind of commissions are you are keen on working on now in the region?

With KEO, I hope to continue helping our clients solve their problems in whatever project typology they pursue however, I do hope we can explore mixed-use models in the region. With so many critical issues facing us in the built environment, it really is a good model for communities to consider.

There’s obviously a lot of focus on sustainability now in the region. How has that evolved?

In years past this was a topic in and of itself and delivered as a service however in a rightful manner in today’s markets I believe it has become the backbone of the design and something we do as a matter of course. Responsible design in today’s world must include these considerations.

Which projects stick out for you as the most memorable that you have worked on?

As noted, I feel lucky to have worked on some great projects over the years in multiple geographies however the one project that sticks out the most is City Creek Centre in Salt Lake City, Utah USA.

The client’s ambitions brought a level of complexity and scale that designers do not often come across and I feel blessed to have been able to participate.

Kuwait Neighborhood Centre

What are your plans for the future? Are you going to keep doing this for a while?

With this new position, I hope to help KEO bring value to as many clients and communities in the region as I can by offering my point of view and perspective from past efforts. I am still having fun and plan on doing this for as long as I can.

Any parting thoughts?

I am super excited about this new venture and would like to express my gratitude to KEO’s leadership for their trust. It almost feels like this job was meant for me and am looking forward to where this may lead.