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Rui Cunha

Rui Cunha is a Senior Associate at RMJM Dubai. He was born in Lisbon and studied Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture of the Technical University of Lisbon. After working for 14 years in Portugal, Rui has more recently been based in Saudi Arabi and Dubai where’s worked on RMJM’s biggest projects in the region and established himself as a key member of the team. We spoke to him about what constitutes good design, his influences and what the RMJM Network means to him.
What made you want to work in architecture?
Maybe because I have always felt a unique satisfaction and fulfilment when planning and working out spaces that could be lived in or inhabited. The (guilty?) pleasure of adapting and changing my surrounding by shaping masses/volumes and modelling surfaces with rules, limited, and arbitrariness has always driven my creativity. That’s what I learned architects do for a living and that some can even have fun and pleasure doing it.
If you didn’t work in architecture, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be a countryside veterinarian…which I’m still planning to do, after I retire.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
Dreaming that I can change the face of the Earth or make someone’s life better every time I have a new project on my hands.
What influences your work most?
Museums, airports, stores, hotels, hospitals and apartments all act as reference points that I often consider when traveling. Then there are things like history, landscapes, textures, materials…influences are everywhere.
You’ve got friends visiting Dubai. Where are you taking them?
Bur Dubai, the old district and the most authentic place to understand the local culture. After that, the Downtown/Business Bay and Marina to show the high-rise districts that will be the future of this city.
What is most important in design right now?
Perennially. Right now design is evolving towards the fast and easy, especially in Dubai, and really only made to last for a couple of decade. This is what we must avoid.
Who is someone you admire?
Eduardo Souto Moura, the Portuguese architect and Ptitzker Architecture Prize winner. Also, Jim Jarmusch.
What experiences are on your bucket list?
Discovering South America, Goa and Scandinavia.
Which book has had the greatest impact on you?
South: The Endurance Expedition, by veteran explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.
What’s the most awe-inspiring space you’ve been in?
The Coliseum in Rome, the Ronchamp Chapel and the Tate Modern are the greatest spaces I have experienced.
What does the RMJM Network mean to you?
A growing worldwide group, formed by many architecture offices spread among five continents, aiming to develop the most effective, sustainable and amazing projects.
Define good design…
Good design is timeless design.

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