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Diario sur newspaper interviews miguel rueda




An American Dream Steeped In Luxury

Architect and designer Miguel Rueda is from Malaga, but he made a name for himself in the USA. With homes in La Zagaleta, Miami and Los Angeles, he spends most of his time on planes travelling to the pharaonic mansions he designs for the extremely wealthy, who belong to a world beyond Beverly Hills, where he once fell and picked himself up again

His is not the struggle to win contracts or commissions, European-style. Nor is he influenced by recognition from fellow architects on this side of the Atlantic, where his profession is less appreciated. No: his competitive and adventurous spirit has channelled itself successfully into megaprojects which are only within the reach of an elite group of professionals in the world of extreme luxury.

“At my age, I shouldn’t be where I am now. The difference is that because of circumstances in life I have done projects that others are unlikely to have the chance to do, ever,” says this charismatic man, who is equally as competitive in running and weightlifting as he is in his professional career.

Malaga, and then even Madrid, became too small one day for the young film buff who decided to work on his own version of the American dream. He moved to California in 1993 as an academic immigrant, to get away from “the labels they always put on you in Spain”. He set to work among the very rich, with credentials in architectural design from Passadena Art Centre and Film, Theater, and Economics from Occidental College of Los Angeles.

He had gone to Madrid to study Communications; something else which helped him in the USA, directing around 50 television commercials. He still loves the film world, but where he has really made a name for himself is in designing mega-houses for the mega-rich. His success didn’t come easily, but he used the setbacks as a way of recreating himself and moving on.

Product of failure

“I am a product of the failure of the real estate sector in 2008, when I ended up with a lot of dreams and in financial ruin. In Los Angeles I had already done several projects, and at that time I was involved in a few big developments in Beverly Hills and Bel Air. They are being sold for 30 million dollars now. It was a turning point in my life, but at that exact moment I just felt I died. You see, I had never suffered a major defeat like that before,” he says, but it taught him a lesson.

“I look at things properly, now. I do much more research on every project, anywhere I go. I am more cautious, more responsible and, as Coppola says, an artist is paid to know what’s wrong, not what’s right. I spent a while modifying other people’s designs and I could have carried on doing that. In a normal world that should have been my fate after my huge financial setback, but the world of luxury isn’t normal. It never has been, and it never will be,” he says, referring to his great leap forward to success.

It came a few years after his misfortune, when he redesigned a penthouse for a friend and one of the people who really liked the result was Akon, a rapper and Midas of the music business who had discovered Lady Gaga. Akon designated Rueda as his chief designer, and as he owns 10 mansions all over the world this was a huge step forward in his career.

“I have only worked on a few of them,” he says of this patronage which has opened the doors for him all the way to the Middle East, where Rueda is currently designing a 40,000-square-metre megaproject for another client. “Akon, and a well known US Banker are the key people in my professional success. Without them, my life wouldn’t be like this,” he says. Thanks to these connections, his work nowadays is for the very rich and powerful. “I put myself inside my clients’ heads. I know what they don’t have and what they long for. They trust me,” he explains.

For the past five years, his busy agenda has been filled with luxury design and architecture, travelling between Los Angeles, La Zagaleta, Saudi Arabia, Dakar, Cape Town and Milan, where he opened another base two months ago. Don’t, however, try looking this “global designer” up on Google, because he prides himself on his work being as private as his design is exclusive.

Miguel Rueda only shows his work to selected clients, and for some time now he hasn’t had to go looking for those. “I don’t need to, because most people already know of me. They know where to find me,” he says about his digital anonymity.

The commissions which arrive at his studio – Ekkon Design Group – are from the small and super-connected world of wealth. “The key to my success is that I accept every challenge and so far – touch wood – I have understood what the client wants, even if they don’t know that themselves. I never make two projects alike. Never. Each house is different. I don’t like it when people say no to me, whether it’s my team or my clients, because there is always the possibility of a solution,” says this chief architect who started working for celebrities in Beverly Hills and now lives in a world of spaces whose measurements reach tens of thousands of square metres, luxury on an oceanic scale.

His clients ask him for fountains which can spout fire, “cosy” lounges that are 500 metres in size, baths which are practically Olympic-sized and delightful swimming pools, but Rueda also now works away from terra firma with circular dining rooms for 100-metre yachts, commissions to personalize the occasional private plane, as well as designing furniture.

He is kept especially busy with all the challenges involved in the residential “technofantasies” of oil magnates, Grammy winners’ dreams of film-like decor, with recording studio included, or the pharaonic tastes of potentates from Senegal, South Africa, Russia, and the Middle East.

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