Written on the 25 June 2015 by Jenna Rathbone


SUNLAND Group (ASX:SDG) head Sahba Abedian says it is important the Gold Coast understands the value and contribution of the arts to the city's well-being.

He says a city that infuses itself in art and culture is a city that readily embraces innovation, creativity and new ideas.

Abedian talks to Gold Coast Business News about the influence of arts in shaping environments along with what the city can do to improve conditions for a sustainable development sector, and shares the greatest piece of advice handed down by his father, company founder and chairman Soheil Abedian.

What are three key leadership strengths you bring to your role at Sunland Group and how do they help in the successful running of the business?

One of the great challenges before society, and the development sector, is to create a more coherent approach to our endeavours so that the expression of our work is complemented by human values, thereby creating enduring vibrancy within our communities.

Sunland's focus is to define the built form through art, beauty and community. Throughout our 32-year history, this notion of pioneering, innovation and excellence has infused our contribution to the urban landscape across Australia's eastern seaboard.

What have been some of the biggest highlights of your career?

One of the great advances Sunland has been able to achieve is the creation of a culture of excellence as we pursue new frontiers in the design and delivery of our projects. There is no one highlight, one project or one person - it is something we have achieved through a collective effort, over many years, and continues to inspire us.

You work closely alongside your businessman father - what are some of the greatest learnings he has passed down?

One of the most profound lessons he has taught me is to appreciate the value and quality of accompanying others on their own path. Extending our focus outwards, rather than inwards, is a critical dimension of personal and collective growth.

Describe your biggest regret in business and the lessons you learnt.

When we learn to move beyond the simplistic notions of success and failure, we start to understand that every step, when taken with good intent, is a step in the right direction. Thinking with such dichotomies as success or regret diminishes the strength of our choices to act when needed.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you and Sunland Group have faced over the past five years and how did you overcome these?

The greatest challenge is to redefine and reconceptualise our work so that we continue to strive towards excellence and innovate within our industry, and in turn create a path that can be set for others to build upon.

What are some of the challenges the Gold Coast represents for Sunland Group?

When we look at the Gold Coast, we see great opportunity, not challenges. Understanding the value and contribution of the arts to community wellbeing has long been a driving principle of how we approach integrated design at Sunland. For many years we have called for a greater focus on investing in the arts and culture on the Gold Coast. If we look back on history, the great civilisations whose influence endures to this day are those whose contribution was defined through the arts be it poetry, literature, music or architecture. As an industry, as individuals, and as a community, we must take into consideration the influence of arts in shaping environments to become a healthy and vibrant whole. A city that infuses itself in art and culture is a city that readily embraces innovation, creativity and new ideas.

What can the Gold Coast do to improve conditions for developers in the city?

Building a collective vision that is embraced at all levels towards creating a vibrant future that encompasses not only the material advancement, but also human values and the education, will be the key to transformation. When we move beyond short-term focus towards a more sustainable, long-term vision then all will be the beneficiaries.

Do you have a favourite Sunland project?

Every project contributes to the advancement of the one that follows. They are like chapters in a book. For me, it is impossible to favour one over the other as they are all part of the one narrative.

Author: Jenna Rathbone
About: Jenna Rathbone is a Queensland-based journalist who writes on a range of issues including business and property affairs and social issues.
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