desi mideast asia latin africana
Page Title Graphic

« Previous 1 2 1 2 Next »

Javier Robles, Founder & Director

Architectural Guru, Javier Alan Robles

After completing his undergraduate studies in Brazil, Javier Alan Robles received his first architectural public commission with a project in Peru. At age 25, he was already Founder and Director of Utopus, an interior, landscape, urban, and product design firm. Now at age 36, and with a graduate degree from Columbia University in hand, Javier directs two offices jumping between New York and London to meet with clients, discuss project ideas, and guide his team along a significantly lucrative path. His projects remain spread across four continents, and working with an array of design ventures, Javier says Utopus doesn’t cling to one particular niche market; it works with a full plate to keep diverse projects coming as evident in a clientele including L’Oreal Professionnel and New York University. For more information on Javier and Utopus, read more in this week’s Young & Professional Profile.


UTOPUS UK Ltd (UK & Europe)


UK- November 2004 & US January 2006



Name, Title

Javier Alan Robles
Founder & Director




New York City, NY

Current residence

New York City, NY, USA & London, UK


Columbia University, Masters in Advance Architertural Design; 1997- New York, NY; USA;

Universidade de Sao Paulo; Architect & Urban Planner, 1993- Sao Paulo; Brazil;

Claretiano High School; High School Degree; 1986 – Trujillo; Peru

Work Experience

Utopus, NY & London, Founder and Principal, 2004 to present;

Parsons School of Design, NY, Faculty Member, 1998 to present;

WASA Architects, NY, Director of Design, 1998-2002;

Utopus, Peru, Founder, 1994-1998;

Instituto Nacional de Cultura, INC, Peru, Project Architect, 1994-1996.



About the company

Utopus is a multidisciplinary studio for architecture, interiors and design. Originally founded in Peru in 1994, Utopus was launched in the United Kingdom in 2003 with offices in the United States established in 2005.

Key to its practice is a collaboration among team members with diverse professional experience in architecture, product design, urban design, landscape architecture, strategic planning, and interior design.

The Utopus portfolio includes projects for archaeological facilities, cultural centers, residences, corporate offices, clinics, spas, landscapes, interior furniture and street furniture as well as feasibility studies, urban design, landscape architecture, historic restorations, and designs for exhibitions, temporary installations and the stage.

Utopus has projects, completed or in development, in eight countries on four continents. The Utopus team draws from its international network to meet its clients’ objectives, delivering projects that respond to overlapping global and local identities.

Utopus operates in different economic, material, technological and cultural environments to develop designs – from the built environment to the objects within it – that provide a meaningful response to the project’s goals and possibilities.

Utopus explores each project for its unique potential and to identify the principal qualities that shape its organizational concepts. Client participation is integral to the design process, which is interactive and iterative by nature. Utopus favors multifaceted and overlapping strategies to bring forth designs that are both conceptually coherent and ultimately feasible.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

My daily responsibilities hover in different areas and aspects of the business. Although I am responsible for most of the design and management of Utopus projects, marketing and promotion as well as business strategies and finances also factor into my routine.

Since we are a small office with young designers, we all tend to operate in a “multi-tasking system”: Jumping from project to project, meeting to meeting, etc. I do enjoy going back and forth in different areas, projects and fields.

Being the “captain” at Utopus is also very challenging. The competition is very stiff in this business and it takes a lot of energy to keep the boat afloat and moving forward!

Moreover, I think I am more creative and get more inspired when I deal with new or unexpected circumstances. Challenges are usually what drives my work.

Most notable milestones

My first public commission at age 25 was to design the Chan Chan visitor center in Trujillo, Peru. This project was a milestone that transcended the physical context of a built project. The location where it was built (the ruins of an ancient city and its civilization: the Mochicas, gave me a rich background of references and inspiration; the landscape, its history and the socio-economical context were many cultures collide, allowed me to establish new readings and interpretations at urban, tectonic and design levels.

Moreover this project represented the physical materialization of my academic work developed through my formative years back at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Returning to Peru after 7 years abroad gave me a great sense of responsibility towards my country and its legacy. I studied some of the ancient civilizations such as the Mochicas and Chimus and the translation of its architecture, landscape, and technology through history: its adaptation into a Hispanic colony, and the contemporary decadence of today makes it a hybrid city. These references helped me to mold my architecture and design intentions. Finally, having the opportunity to work and build in such a complex historic scenario gave me a great sense of vision for pursuing work within the cultural realm and to look out for more work in foreign territories.

What’s the niche?

Multidisciplinary: Utopus works in different disciplines and fields bringing a wide range of services and expertise to each project.

Methodology: design is treated as a research process; we see design as a tool for investigation and research in its many levels, from the context where a project is developed to the vision of future uses and events that may take place. By analyzing different conditions, (i.e. site, program, budget, context, etc), we engage in an exercise of multiple readings and interpretations. This process allows us to elaborate a design that is coherent, feasible and fresh.

Foreign Eye: or a fresh view into an existing situation, circumstance, or context. This is one of the most important values that we bring to the project.

Client Participation: This is integral to the design process, which is interactive and iterative by nature. Utopus favors multifaceted and overlapping strategies to bring forth designs that are both conceptually coherent and ultimately feasible.

What’s the biggest challenge?

To continue working and practicing in different continents. Being a small architecture and design firm in NYC and seeking work abroad is a constant struggle. So the biggest challenge is to not only to continue to grow as a design firm but to also keep doing interesting projects and to eventually get a big break at the public level.

What’s in store for the future?

new website
new projects under construction in NYC
new projects under development in Europe
developing an art-design-tectonic nomad exhibition for Brazil

Who would you like to be contacted by?

Cultural institutions from all over the world
Emerging business
Investors, real estate moguls, restaurateurs, bar & club owners, fashion designers, party organizers, etc.

« Previous 1 2 1 2 Next »

Best way to keep a competitive edge

Think fresh. Keeping up with new trends, technologies, lifestyles, etc. But also remaining true to your basic principles that rule your work. Work ethics and a smile!

Chan Chan

Guiding principle in life


Yardstick of success

Client satisfaction.

Goal yet to be achieved

To design projects that are larger in scope and potentially involve the public realm.

Best practical advice

Embrace uncertainty.

Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture

Don’t give up. If you believe, then it will happen.


My architecture professors back in Brazil: Roti Nielba Turin and George Caron. Both helped me to explore my skills in design.

What motivated you to get started?

Moving to different places, cities, and countries. My work and experience is based on my different experiences to live and adapt to new cultures and languages in South America, North America and Europe. I learned to embrace my condition as a foreigner, which has helped to develop my own identity as a person and designer.

Like best about what you do?

Transform a given condition. From conception to development, there is an extremely powerful process that is interactive by nature. Design is an incredible tool for defining humanity (our time and visions) and that is fascinating to see a project evolve in its many phases and very rewarding to finally see it either developed or built. I also like measuring my initial intentions to peoples’ reactions or interactions. The power of transformation keeps fueling everything I do.

Like least about what you do?

The fee negotiation is one of the worst parts of the business. Nowadays design is undervalued in many senses. Generally, there is a misperception or devaluation of the work and effort behind a good design: all the long hours spent finding the right idea, material or technology. The dedication and enthusiasm that a good designer or a team goes through is priceless!

At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A commercial pilot

What was your first job?

A Spanish teacher at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.


Biggest pastime outside of work


People most interested in meeting

architecture: herzong & de meuron
film: peter greenway movies
music: tracey thorm
literature: jose saramago
design: tokujin yoshioka
arts: richard serra

All of them inspire my work.

Leader in business most interested in meeting and why?

Steve Jobs, for his vision and innovation in business, technology and entertainment. He has created not only a profitable global brand but has helped define a lifestyle for our generation.

Three interesting facts about yourself

– good listener
– workaholic
– coffee addict

Three characteristics that describe you

– perseverance
– ambitious
– discipline

Three greatest passions

Traveling: being foreign in new cultures. Experiencing new languages, food, music, smells, etc.

Painting: the smell and the slowness of layering an oil painting is very sensual and relaxing.

Cities: unveiling streets, buildings, signs, landmarks and many forms of urban life is fascinating to me. I tend to establish relationships with cities that almost become love affairs!

Favorite book

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.

Favorite cause

Cultural awareness

« Previous 1 2 1 2 Next »


Interview by Marcela Gutierrez
Introduction by Sara Ortega
Edited by Sumaya Kazi

Also this week

John ChowKaran Goel, Avichal GargAhmed Ahmed

Don’t forget!

Rearview | Non-Profit Spotlight | News2Know

Toolbar Help
Press | Advertisers | Partners | Opportunities | Privacy Policy | Editorial Policy | Unsubscribe | Sitemap
The DesiConnect
The MidEastConnect
The AsiaConnect
The LatinConnect
The AfricanaConnect