Filipe Balestra

‘We’ve completed some very inspiring projects since we launched Urban Nouveau, from the incremental housing strategy that changed the lives of urban poor in India to planning new residential neighbourhoods in Stockholm, but there are two points in my career that really helped define my approach.

The first was winning the Business Leadership Excellence Award given by the Asian Confederation of Businesses, the World Federation of Marketing Professionals and World CSR Day in 2015. This showed me that it was possible become a business leader, fully managing and implementing our projects, rather than simply focusing on designing buildings. The second turning point was working as an advisor to the governments of Malaysia and Japan. I realised then that we could achieve something bigger than architecture alone; that we could help to engineer cities and create a world that is more liveable, community focused and sustainable.

We consider ourselves cultural activists so we channel a percentage of our profits towards social projects and poverty alleviation around the world. There is this idea that activists are angry anarchists – that is just a stereotype. I define activism as daring to create a better world and in this sense, I believe every business should have some degree of activism at its heart.’