Entrepreneurs lead from the front, making the most of every opportunity. With rising sanctions on the construction industry, it is interesting to watch business leaders paving the way for sustainable architecture with THINK NATURE design concepts. Meet Debbie Flevotomou, Founder and CEO of Debbie Flevotomou Architects (DFA), a multi-award-winning architect, celebrated speaker, prolific artist, founder of London Berkeley Developments and London Ballet Theatre. Kruger Crowne represents her as a public speaker.
As a resolute leader who is resilient and passionate about the THINK NATURE initiative, Debbie left no stone unturned, winning 66 national and international awards in the last five years.
At DFA, Debbie incorporates THINK NATURE design concepts into place-making and architecture. DFA designs original and bold buildings which are inspiring and iconic, people and nature-centric, with sustainability in their core, creating landmarks of all schemes.
Sculpting a Strong Foundation
Debbie Flevotomou, a Greek female architect, founded DFA in 2012 with no financial backing, one non-British employee with no industry connections, and zero clients. Two years later, the company employed a team of 20, working on large-scale international projects, the biggest of which was a 5km long mixed-use seafront development in Tripoli, Libya.
Starting from Debbie’s flat in Battersea, the company moved to Westminster and Mayfair, with satellite offices in the US and Greece, totaling six offices worldwide through its partnerships. DFA has been operating internationally with diverse projects in Europe, the US, the Middle East, and North Africa. In cooperation with David Morley Architects and Parker Lloyd Group, the partnership boasts over 80 staff, 93% award-winning projects, and an impressive portfolio of schemes in all sectors.
Walking the Road Not Taken
Starting as a sole practitioner, Debbie quickly broke through into the large commercial segment, and even more impressively, entered the international business stage- a Greek female architect succeeding in the Middle East and North Africa, where, against all odds, she won 5 large-scale projects in Libya, with her boundary-pushing, bold, authentic designs. Inspired by visionaries like Zaha Hadid and Frank O’Gehry, THINK NATURE architecture has earned Debbie the endearing nickname “the blond Zaha.”
Debbie’s passion for nature-centric architecture drove her to leave behind a promising career at Foster+Partners , and start her own practice to change the world stage of architecture.
She is on a mission to inspire a move away from modernism design to iconic, nature and people-centric designs that bring people close to nature and improve their whole wellbeing. This led Debbie to start the THINK NATURE movement, which she talks passionately about when traveling worldwide to speak to audiences about architecture. THINK NATURE design is so distinctive that it is recognized as one of Debbie’s creations and sets the company apart from competition, providing an authentic USP, even against big established names.
Standing on the Test of Time
Debbie mentions, “The biggest challenge in changing the world of architecture is affecting the client’s decision to go for the extraordinary, the authentic, the unique, the novel.” She founded DFA from her flat. The business reached success within a couple of years (a team of 20 worked on five large projects in Libya).
When political unrest started in Libya, with the assassination of the US ambassador in Tripoli, a key client was taken hostage, and all projects stopped. This meant that the team had to be released at very short notice. However, everyone chose to remain on call on a contract basis because of their loyalty to the THINK NATURE vision. Most company owners would have given up at that point, but Debbie remained firm in her vision of success.
Moving ahead with resilience, DFA recovered (with no financial backing), producing healthy profits out of projects in the UK and abroad. However, when the pandemic hit, all projects were abruptly halted. Despite the repeated challenges, the core team continued to work on bids resulting in a healthy cadence of new projects of ever-increasing scale.
An Unrelenting Attitude
Throughout the pandemic when all projects stopped, Debbie took time to focus on personal development through a British Library Business Strategy course. She re-mapped the future trajectory of DFA, letting go of low-yield work and focusing on schemes that would have optimum impact on showcasing and promoting THINK NATURE.
Accepting the hurdles, Debbie not only continued to nurture existing business relationships but also formed alliances and new partnerships with David Morley Architects and Parker Lloyds Group. The new organizational structure has put DFA and the team a key player amongst architectural practices in the UK.
The Competitive Edge!
In addition to her role as the lead architect at DFA, Debbie is also the Artistic Director of London Ballet Theatre, Chair of LBD, and a very active artist. She has been recognized with 66 international awards, and her work has been featured in The Times, BBC, London Evening Standard, London & New York Build. She has lent her expertise to many projects and has judged an art competition on the BBC.
As an inspirational public speaker, she talks passionately about architecture with a difference. She has enthralled audiences from New York to Casablanca, communicating her passion for THINK NATURE design bringing her unique perspective to students and professionals.
Debbie’s latest awards include the Women in Architecture Awards for Best Female Architect of the Year 2021, Business Elite’s 40 Under 40, 2020,Most Influential Woman in Architecture 2019,and Most Innovative Architect of the Year 2018. With 66 international influential conference appearances, Debbie’s unique style of engaging audiences and achieving everyone’s participation has earned her many repeated speaking invitations, from Cancun to Monte Carlo.
Amongst Debbie’s many professional achievements, she was elected as the Chairperson and Counsellor of the Royal Institute of British Architecture. During her RIBA tenure, Debbie promoted architecture and good design to local communities, supported architects in their work, and successfully lobbied local councils on architectural issues (e.g., Battersea Power Station).