Jonathan Ashmore, Founder – Anarchitect

You have been quickly rising to prominence in the Middle East – what has the journey been from prestigious London education to designing hotels and private residences worldwide?

I set up ANARCHITECT in Dubai five years ago, following a career at both boutiqueand design-led corporate architectural practices in London and my studies atthe renowned Bartlett School of Architecture. Both London’s architecturaleducation and work are very open-minded and progressive, providing a perfectlaunchpad for an international career. My education has really opened my eyesto architecture as a social responsibility and helped me to carve out myinterest and use it as a tool for creating the architecture of the place.

A move to Dubai has then opened worldwide opportunities for us as a boutique practice, with the city being a melting pot of ideas, conversations and business exchanges. It’s also where I’ve put my education further into practice by starting each project with an in-depth research, analysis of its vernacular, climate, people and lifestyles to find the very best approach to the project and task at hand. It’s because of our approach that we can simultaneously work on a boutique lodge and spa in the arid desert climate in the Middle East and a boutique hotel set amidst southern Sri Lanka’s tropical coconut groves. Both projects require the same intellectual approach and understanding of the unique location, climate and the end use of the buildings.

How do you approach each project?

We believe in our instincts informed by our education and practice as a solid foundation for informing choices as an architect to creatively interpret design while considering the given locality and context. While we avoid a style, there is definitely a ‘sense’ of ANARCHITECT that Clients get. We’re rooted in the process and approach of translating architectural discourse across both architecture, interiors and design irrespective of scale which remains consistent in our work.

What’s your definition of contextual modernism?

For us, Contextualism relates to the architecture of place that responds directly to the conditions and constraints of the site as a driving factor for the design solution. Modernism is an approach that challenges the current status quo and considers a wider understanding of design and how the function informs the architectural form to realize a progressive design that engages a clean and contemporary approach to aesthetics and planning.

ANARCHITECT’s Contextual Modern approach creates architecture and interior spaces that are directly informed by both the physical and cultural context of the site by engaging passive and responsive design approach informed by the existing vernacular to embed within its context. Our architecture is progressive so it further challenges pure contextualism through a modern design which considers our practices global perspective and regional sensitivities. We challenge the vernacular with a contemporary approach to create new modern dimensions within the architecture by further exploring the use of natural light, framed views out, integrates both internal and external spaces and all executed with superlative craft, detail and materiality.

Why does context play such a big part in your design approach?

AtANARCHITECT it’s very important for us that we create buildings, spaces andexperiences which have a narrative, are socially engaging and have a sense ofplace – belonging to the location in which they’re created and to the peoplewho use them. Some would consider it’s more challenging to work that waybecause to understand the context, climate and culture of the place; toestablish a new vernacular, requires more time and research, yet it’s the mostrewarding for us. Whether we’re working with historical 1960’s buildings set inthe desert landscape of the United Arab Emirates, reimagining them into aboutique lodge and spa, or building a hotel on the footprint of an old tsunamihouse, in southern Sri Lanka, it’s these contextual ‘constraints’, thatactually informs the creative process and guides our architectural language.

The rest of this interview will be published in full in print, in a later issue of I-MAGAZINE.


ANARCHITECT is a multiple award-winning architecture, interior architecture and design practice based in Dubai that specializes in delivering bespoke projects for private and corporate clients globally. Our diverse portfolio of built work spans residential, leisure, hospitality, workplace and culture throughout the Middle-East, Europe and Asia.

Founded in 2013 by British architect Jonathan Ashmore, the practice manifests architecture across diverse scales of design with superlative craft, detail and materiality. Architectural discourse is applied in equal measure to each of the disciplines – architecture, interior and design to create highly resolved buildings, spaces and objects beautifully balanced in form, function and detail.

Our unique architectural approach to design traces context, narrative, social engagement and human behavior to create spaces and experiences individual to each project, location and client.

ANARCHITECT recently became one of the first Internationally RIBA Chartered practices outside of the UK while still remaining a boutique design driven office, further recognizing our consistent high quality of design and professionalism.