OBMI Design Director Islam El Mashtooly is an architect, urbanist, and educator who believes in a human-centered design philosophy. He is committed to architecture that supports and strengthens communities, emphasizing harmony within context while taking into account the MENA region’s climate, culture, and traditions. His work embodies a sense of the architecture vocabulary that fuses urbanism and design. He delves deeply into the pressing issues confronting our communities, investigating how architecture and urbanism can foster a wider sense of hope. This philosophy is evident in his early projects, such as “Shelter on the Edge: From Camps to Cities,” which addresses refugee issues and reimagines marginalized landscapes as habitable spaces. Additionally, Islam has transformed damaged buildings into community design centers in Baghdad, showcasing his commitment to revitalizing urban environments. His work embodies a contemporary regionalism that reflects a profound understanding of regional identity. In 2015, Islam was awarded the Middle East Young Architect of the Year and the Outstanding Individual in the Middle East Consultant Awards. Twelve months on, his project Uptown Makkah won the Residential Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin. The year was rounded off for Mashtooly with an AIA ME Honorable Award for his Egyptian Science City project.


Islam’s contribution to urban design has been acknowledged regionally and internationally throughout his career. In 2018, Islam curated the Egyptian National Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale. His curatorial statement was the role of “FREE SPACE” within the dense morphological and social fabric of the city. His vision as a curator was: that the challenge for sustainable livability of contemporary metropolises is first played through the analysis and then through the design of the “free space” as an “ultrapublic” dimension. 

Free space is the place where individual functions that are expressed collectively become public. Free space is, thus, the summation of multiple contributions, which, expressed in the space/time dimension, represent a fundamental part of the urban locus. In the contemporary city of the thousand prohibitions and private spaces, strenuously defended and impenetrable, “free space” is a rare and precious resource and frequently coincides with unplanned space. It is, in fact, potentially, the place of the unexpected and the original creativity. However, it cannot be a fully anarchic space, thus, lawlessness or “with no governance”. Chaos left to itself is not a carrier of quality. By borrowing metabolic concepts, “free space “must be equipped with infrastructures capable of governing its existence and addressing its implementation and development. In this sense, the definition and design of a “free space” would seem contradictory because it would frustrate the celebration of a space without constraints and directives, but it is not so. The infrastructure (flexible, adaptive, and changing) frees and enhances the potentiality of the “free space”, thus allowing its maximum functional and symbolic fruity. then he continued by repurposing one of Cairo’s exciting water towers as a therapeutic Urban System for climate change reversal. The building is expanded by establishing a bamboo plantation on-site and creating a Bamboo Cross Laminated Timber Production facility that grows modular components to build a supportive scaffold around the tower.

THE PROBIOTIC TOWER; design by Islam ElMashtooly

In doing so we create the space for a range of uses to serve the neighborhood. This includes Reed beds for treating wastewater from the neighborhood and sequestering further carbon in its biomass. That biomass is then harvested as further building materials and biomass that can then be processed as biodiesel. The Probiotic Tower won Future Project of the Year at the 2023 World Architecture Festival hosted in Singapore. In the Fall Semester of 2023, Islam was invited to be a guest lecturer at the University of Miami, speaking on “Context as a Catalyst” to the university’s School of Architecture students. 

He actively participates in events and competitions that promote both architecture & design regionally and globally. His contribution in this arena has earned good publicity which has helped promote a positive image of the design sector in the UAE and him personally. 

In his current role at OBMI, Islam puts this philosophy into action as he and his team design storied destinations all over the globe. He is ambitious to dive into innovative concepts that push the boundaries of design with ideas organically evolving from the natural world.

Islam El Mashtooly, enthusiastically shares: “OBMI is a global master planning, architecture, and design firm based in Miami, Florida, with offices in 10 countries. Our team comprises talented designers who are focused on translating our clients’ dreams into three-dimensional forms that are authentic, unique, and incomparably marketable. We approach each project with authenticity, considering what is unique to destinations, communities, and environments and translating it to extraordinary design that captures and celebrates a sense of place. We are proud to collaborate with visionary developers and hospitality brands such as Diriyah Gate Development Authority, Boutique Group, St. Regis Hotels and Resorts, Fairmont Hotels, Banyan Tree, and Montage Residences; to name a few.”