Hyphen discusses development across borders at WA100 Live

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We were delighted to take part in this year’s World Architecture 100 Live webinar, with our director in Latin America, Matías Menichetti, discussing development across borders with fellow industry experts.

Following our inclusion in Building Design’s prestigious WA100 list of the world’s largest architectural practices, and its top 10 firms in Latin America, Matías was part of an expert panel with Chris Seymour (Mott MacDonald), Jonnie Allen (Cundall) and Chair Jordan Marshall. The topic for discussion was ‘Developing across borders: Delivering the built environment in a globalised world.’

Matías began with an introduction to Hyphen, discussing our global reach and local expertise, as well as insight into the Latin American region and its varying local conditions.

Key principles for cross-border projects

Identifying three key principles to understand and follow when delivering projects across borders, Matías said it is important to:

  1. Preserve the culture and reputation of your firm by collaborating with like-minded partners.
  2. Identify and embrace regional differences and similarities.
  3. Assess international financial governance and tax structures (Agree where you’ll get paid).

Matías explains, “It is critical to understand local codes for each country you work in”, with key similarities and differences across borders. “For example, codes in Uruguay and Brazil are similar, while Chile is very different. It’s a matter of balancing political and environmental drivers with co-compliance.”

Middle-sized cities and the pandemic

The discussion section of the webinar led to some interesting talking points, starting with the impact of the pandemic on international architectural and engineering practices. Matías explains that it has had an interesting impact on middle-sized cities:

”In Latin America, professionals used to move to the big metropolises to find work. Through the pandemic, more traditional companies realised that remote working and collaborating through a screen is efficient and added a value to middle-sized cities. People realised they could live in these places and have a better work-life balance.”


Another talking point was the importance of collaboration with local allies when working on projects in locations where you do not have a direct presence. Matías says, “For us it’s a matter of finding the right alliances and local partners. In some countries we have several partners, for different sectors. It’s a matter of understanding what you need, looking for cultural similarities and learning from the process at the end.”

Working with local communities

Early conversations with local authorities and communities were also identified as essential in project delivery across borders. Addressing this, Matías offers his insight into why this is especially key for data centres:

“Latin America is an immature market for data centres. There is an educational bridge, where most local authorities don’t understand what a data centre is and how it works. The local communities don’t necessarily understand it either.

“Sit down with the local authorities, explain the process, and how it will benefit and impact the community. It’s relevant with the permitting process too. Addressing communities and authorities early, is key.”

Research, research, research

Matías continues, “Early investment in terms of researching the market is important. We have worked with clients who have wanted to implement a design into multiple markets simultaneously. Studying local codes, drivers, materials, political issues etc will only make the process more efficient and avoid mistakes and high risk.”

Client specific expertise

Matías concluded the webinar with his final take home message – to become a client specific expert:

“It is irrelevant whether you have an office in that place, if you bring quality, consistency and efficiency, while understanding local drivers and compliance. Build global awareness and become client specific experts and find local allies and partners to fulfil your needs.”

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