Darryl Custer serves as the Managing Director of the Design Division for KEO International Consultants.

He has 34 years of design leadership and project management experience with a keen understanding of development, design, and operations across multiple sectors. Currently based in the UAE, Darryl’s experience is truly global, spanning China and Southeast Asia, the US, the GCC, and North Africa. 

Darryl’s passion lies in urban mixed-use project design, and he is dedicated to enhancing communities through sensible, sustainable, and creative vertically stacked mixed-use configurations. 

Leading a team of approximately 300 architects and engineers across KEO’s offices, Darryl collaborates with them to craft designs that push boundaries, and projects that tackle sustainability issues, utilising architecture to establish intelligent, community-centric, and vertically integrated mixed-use environments that cater to the needs of today and tomorrow. These start with solutions within the architectural concept design process with his teams guiding clients, making the case that sustainability is an investment and not a cost.

Darryl sees technology as a significant enabler for a better tomorrow and investing in digital design will be a focus for KEO Design this year as the industry pushes to make a stronger connection between the human and machine to enable design teams to deliver solutions in a manner that fully leverages all the available design technology.

He is also spearheading a strategic focus on 3D digital concept design, pushing the boundaries of what is possible and creating designs that are not only beautiful but also thought-provoking and meaningful. In addition to digital design, Darryl and his team are working with new AI platforms to enable faster client interface with enhanced project administrative follow-through.

“Design technology is rapidly evolving, and I see a tremendous need for design firms to embrace this change to better deliver results to their clients. As an example, using digital design and machine-driven ideation can enhance the design process by offering more solutions early in the process for better results downstream, explains Darryl Custer.

Confidential mixed-use luxury development set in a five-star environment, featuring upscale sea villas and high-end apartments.

As he grows his team, Darryl remains dedicated to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment by actively seeking a broad cross-section of multicultural designers. This is supported by KEO’s recently launched Nationalization program that aims to attract, empower and develop National talent, to become the next generation of architects, designers and business leaders.

Darryl is actively involved in delivering projects around the region, including a diverse mix of civic, commercial, hotel, residential and educational projects. One project worth noting is the newly designed U View mixed-use tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. A modern, cutting-edge residential, office and hotel mixed-use tower along the Jeddah Corniche offering spectacular views of the bay and Downtown Jeddah. The tower features high-end luxury retail, a five-star hotel, serviced apartments and class-A office space all vertically stacked in a single plot including a host of world-class amenities.

Darryl has overseen the prototype design for one of the largest residential developers in the region. These homes fuse modern with traditional architecture to deliver high quality villas, duplexes, and townhouses to the communities they serve.

Darryl is also overseeing work on several mixed-use developments in the region to elevate the typology and create exceptional levels of livability based around live, work and play principles. One of these is a confidential mixed-use masterplan criteria program planned in multiple locations in Saudi Arabia with a confidential PIF entity. The design embraces the city of the future, promoting sustainable living, an active lifestyle, and smart mobility throughout each master plan. The results will be walkable commercial centers that will include vertically stacked and interconnected mixed-use environments as true, modern and livable urban environments.

Darryl is passionate about the architecture profession. In the early days of his career, Darryl was fortunate to be mentored by several world-class architects who introduced him to a broad range of ideas, methodologies, clients and project typologies. This foundation led him to a philosophy where he considers himself a teacher more than a Managing Director, working to offer young architects, designers and engineers a platform for growth, happiness, and success with a pay-it-forward frame of mind.

Darryl holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the US and is a licensed architect and NCARB certified. He is also a LEED Green Associate and an executive at large member of the American Institute of Architects Middle East (AIA ME).

KEO is a creative enterprise, where innovation is a way of life. We are uniquely resourced with end-to-end services to take clients from inspiration – through conceptualisation – to realization of design or project delivery in the built and natural environments. In our 60th year, we continue to lead with vision, contributing to many of the world’s most ambitious projects, iconic places, remarkable experiences and prosperous communities.  

We are guided by a profound sense of purpose, with an abiding responsibility to those who experience it. Our ambition is to create, engineer or manage the delivery of essential environments that reward users and owners with prosperity, comfort, community, health, safety and memories. 

Darryl describes: “I believe architecture is a vehicle to improve communities and the overall human condition. Good design has a way of inspiring people beyond borders and if done properly can uplift and connect humanity immeasurably.”

“There is also no doubt the design and development sector have a critical impact on the planet with respect to urbanized demographic opportunities, climate change, energy and resource consumption. I have always felt the urban mixed-use project typology is the best response to our changing world from an urbanization point of view to address sustainability and SMART growth. In most cases, mixed use projects use less ground area, comparably reduce the overall carbon footprint, and generally make better use of the urban context. These drivers are why I am passionate about using architecture to create community-driven, smart, urban mixed-use environments – this is what architecture is all about for me,” he further added.