People Profile: Jorge Alonso Rodríguez speaks to us about working for Chapman Taylor in London, Madrid and Latin America

Jorge Alonso Rodríguez joined Chapman Taylor in 1995 and has worked in both our London and Madrid studios as a Concept Designer, Design Developer and Client Liaison Manager. He is currently responsible for the Madrid studio’s business development activities, particularly in Spain and Latin America. He talks to us here about his career, why he feels at home in Latin America and his enjoyment of his design and business development role.

Tell us a little about your background.

I was born on the north coast of Spain – in Gijón, Asturias – so my origins are a little Celtic! Asturias is not a very visited area because it can be very windy and rainy, a little like Scotland, Wales and Ireland! I spent my childhood in León, which is more flat and dry so I guess that having grown up in both places, I feel like I grew up with two different sides of the Spanish experience. The mix of peoples there (and in Spain generally) – Roman, Celtic, Arabic and Iberian – gives us a very multicultural origin, and has influenced my love of travelling and experiencing different cultures.

I left home at 17 to study in at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, where I studied Architecture and Masterplanning. During my studies, in 1995, I joined Chapman Taylor for one summer, and I fell in love with London and Chapman Taylor itself. The multicultural world I experienced there changed my life forever. I particularly loved being part of a team made up of many different cultures and backgrounds. Every summer during my studies thereafter, I went back to work at Chapman Taylor in London. After doing a year of military service in Spain at the end of my studies, I joined Chapman Taylor permanently in 1998, staying in London until 2002.

What were the earlier projects you worked on for Chapman Taylor?

My very first project was at Wolfsburg in northern Germany with (now Director) Jens Siegfried and the German projects team (then based in London). At that point, as my English was not well-developed, I was often unsure whether English or German was being spoken! One of my key contributions was to give colour to the drawings, which I was asked to do because I come from a sunny country and liked to add vibrant colours to my work.

Another early project was Parque Principado in Oviedo, Asturias – only 10 minutes away from my home town! I remember saying to my parents, “You are not going to believe it – I came to London to work and ended up working where I come from!”. El Muelle in Las Palmas was another important project from that time in which I was involved as a designer helping Chris Lanksbury and the feasibility time in London – it was recognised as one of the best retail projects in the world in 2004. That project gave me a lot of confidence.

Kukulcán Plaza in Cancún

You left the London studio in 2002. Where did you go next?

I worked for some months on luxury residential projects at another practice. My girlfriend Makoda (now my wife, who also later worked at Chapman Taylor’s Madrid studio) and I both decided that we wanted to travel for a year, so in 2003 we backpacked around Latin America. The mix of my Spanish background with my London and Latin American experiences is an important part of who I am in terms of my outlook. The time I spent in Latin America gave me a real passion for that part of the world and my knowledge of the places and people has massively helped me in one of my current roles, which is business development and design in the region.

In January 2004, we both started working at Chapman Taylor in Madrid, and that was the beginning of our life together in Spain. From 2005, I started to get to know the client development side of the business much more, and discovered that I had a talent for connecting with and taking care of clients. I exhibited a passion when presenting projects which seemed to impress clients, and I tend to like and get on with people generally. It was at that point that I started to take responsibility for client liaison.

We left again in 2007 to live in Malaga, in southern Spain, followed by Brazil, Egypt and Mexico, where I performed the role of Architectural and Design Director for development companies before finally returning to Chapman Taylor in Madrid in 2012, where I remain to this day.

San Antonio Golf Club and Villas at Anapoima

Tell us about your current role.

I work less on the concept design side now, and largely work largely on business development in Spain and Latin America. There is a very good relationship between Chapman Taylor and our Latin American clients due to my experience in, and passion for, the region.

I have played an instrumental role in kick-starting our role in a number of projects in Spain and Latin America – for example, Kukulcán Plaza in Cancún, which involves the refurbishment of a prominent shopping centre in the heart of Mexico’s premier tourist destination. The renovation will include Espacio Latino (‘Latin Space’) – a space for Latin American retail brands and artists, as well as a gourmet zone offering the best food from across the region.

A key project, in terms of my design and business development input, was Two 2 Towers in Santa Marta, Colombia – an innovative resort project consisting of two magnificent hospitality and residential towers, designed to resemble a sailboat, based on a podium overlooking the Caribbean. The client was very happy with the design and it has led to further resort projects in Colombia, such as the avant-garde PortaVela beach resort, also in Santa Marta, and the San Antonio Golf Club and Villas at Anapoima.

Other Colombian projects include the CAN mixed-use urban regeneration project in Bogota, a competition entry for which we have designed a major government building, and Parque Oeste in Cali, where we have designed a mixed-use district close the university in the city centre. In Peru, we are refurbishing and extending the Camino Real shopping centre in one of Lima’s prime commercial and residential zones, San Isidro. With most of these projects, my role is to get the project up and running on the business side and then let Chapman Taylor’s design teams create the design.

Two 2 Towers in Santa Marta, Colombia

What about your role in Spain?

I assist (Directors) Mikel Barriola, Carlos Díez and Jan Dijkema in keeping a close working relationship with our Spanish clients as well as forging new relationships with potential clients. For example, I am working on a number of hotel briefs at the moment, as well as on potential office developments. Another part of my role is to network at events like MIPIM and MAPIC, which also gives me a chance to meet up with wonderful old colleagues from my time in London, many of whom have themselves moved to other studios in the Chapman Taylor Group.

CAN mixed-use urban regeneration project in Bogota

How do you see the future for the Madrid studio?

I see the future as being very bright, not least because we can honestly say that we are excellent architects who always deliver high-quality schemes on schedule. It is important that we convey to clients that we work across numerous sectors, not just retail, and that message is getting across.

Our values, as a company, are very important to us – creativity, collaborative working, client focus and credible design – and clients appreciate that. We particularly understand how to design creative and commercially realistic developments which are future-proofed and meet the client’s brief.

We have a great team in Madrid, including architects, masterplanners and interior designers. The core of the Madrid team has been together for more than 15 years, and we understand each other very well, helping us to work efficiently and seamlessly. The combination of being a locally based design studio and being a large international network gives us the best of both worlds – local knowledge backed by international experience and group resources. This gives us great confidence for the coming years.

Jorge Alonso Rodríguez (M Arch COOA)

Business Development, Madrid

Jorge joined Chapman Taylor in 1995 and has worked in design, development and client liaison roles on many mixed-use, retail, leisure, office, hospitality and residential schemes in Europe, South America, the Middle East and Africa.

Jorge is a concept designer working with the Spanish feasibility team and is also responsible for business development activities in Spain and Latin American countries.

He is a regular speaker at various international real estate conferences.

Areas of expertise:

Masterplanning / Retail / Leisure / Hospitality / Workplace / Refurbishment and Interiors

Jorge se unió a Chapman Taylor en 1995 y ha trabajado tanto en diseño, como en el desarrollo de un gran número de proyectos de uso mixto, centros comerciales, de ocio, oficinas, hoteles y viviendas en Europa, América del Sur, Medio Oriente y África.

Jorge es un diseñador de conceptos trabajando junto al equipo de investigación creativa, siendo también el responsable de las actividades de desarrollo comercial en España y América Latina. Participa como orador habitual en conferencias internacionales de temática inmobiliaria.

Áreas de especialización:

Planes Directores / Comercial / Ocio / Residencial / Oficinas/ Rehabilitación e interiores


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