UAE architectural firms still strong in home market


By Nicole Walter, Senior Reporter

Dubai : UAE-based architectural consultancies may have spread their net across the region to win new contracts, but that does not mean they are sitting idle in their home markets.

Dewan is one firm that is currently involved in the construction of The One Tower project in the Tecom zone.

Dewan is also overseeing the construction of the Vision Tower in Business Bay, based on a concept design by TVS International.

A more recent job for the firm is the Al Wasl Square project, currently under construction, and Dar Al Wasl, an 8,000-square metre plot on the other side of Safa Park.

“There is a lot of new work in Abu Dhabi, [while in] Dubai it’s more a case of supervising projects under construction,” said Ammar Al Assam, executive director, Dewan Architects and Engineers. “Some have been revived.”

To get work in the UAE these days it is all about having been around long enough to establish firm relationships.

“We’ve been here since 1984 and have been involved in so many buildings and palaces in the UAE,” Al Assam added.

“Opportunities in the UAE persist, it can alternate between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.”

Long-term benefits

Syed Al Karimi, project manager at Turner International Middle East, echoed similar views. “We’ve been here since 1975 and stuck it out. It is about long-term relationships.”

Turner International was involved in the Burj Khalifa tower and is still completing several projects in Dubai, while in Abu Dhabi, it is associated with Sorouh and Aldar.

Turner’s services, however, are very competitively-priced, said Anthony Charles, Turner International Middle East’s senior design manager. “Fortunately we don’t need to bow down to the price the developer wants and lower our margins just to get business.”

The firm has a lot of work in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. “We’re content to have weathered the storm relatively well and transferred our personnel from Dubai to Saudi Arabia and Qatar,” Charles added.

Saudi Arabia also plays a prominent role for architectural firm Nikken Sekkei, which recently won the design contract for the Saudi Stock Exchange, a 42-storey project with a value of $267 million (Dh980 million).

“We won an international design competition in February for it,” said Fadi Jabri, architect and general manager, Nikken Sekkei, Dubai.

“The client then wanted us to fine-tune the design, now we have the final approval and construction will start next year.

“In general most of our work is now in Saudi Arabia and we’re getting a lot of enquiries from Oman, Iran, Kuwait, Egypt, Libya and Morocco.”

The ‘in’ market

Dewan also has quite a few projects in Saudi Arabia, but Al Assam doesn’t think Libya will be an easy place to move into. “Everyone thinks it’s the new market to be, but it has its limitations,” he said. “It only has five million people.”