Salim Hussain, lead architect at ArchCorp
Salim Hussain, lead architect at ArchCorp

The UAE needs home-grown solutions to masterplanning challenges, says ArchCorp's Salim Hussain

At a recent roundtable held by Middle East Architect in partnership with Cosentino Middle East, four architects based in Dubai came together to assess the challenges facing masterplanning in the UAE. 

Those in attendance included Kerem Cengiz, managing director for the MENA region for LWK+Partners; AbdelKader Saadi, design principal at JT+Partners; Salim Hussain, lead architect at ArchCorp; and Sotiris Tsoulos, design director at RMJM Dubai.

During the conversation, the architects noted that the largest challenge facing masterplans in the UAE is the lack of connectivity between areas of development. They stressed the need for better integration between masterplanned projects, and argued that an important way forward is to engage with end-users, and acquiring data on who they are and what they want. 

Hussain also urged the importance of incorporating the next generation of architects in the conversation, and putting their vision forward to create "home-grown solutions". Read more here.

Can you provide some insight on acquiring end-user data for masterplan projects?
I think engaging with end-users happens often in other countries, like in the UK where I’m originally from. And that’s because of a variety of reasons – firstly, projects at a large scale happen at a much slower pace elsewhere, so the opportunity to actually engage with users is more available. There’s more time to do it, but there’s also greater incentive because it’s required.

I think when you have a number of masterplans happening at the same time, it becomes a bit more challenging to get that information. Not necessarily knowing who the end-users are is also a challenge that we face.

You’ve suggested incorporating the next generation of architects in the conversation. Can you expand on that?
I think one of the key things for the design community is to engage with the next generation of architects, designers, thinkers and so on, to ensure that they are a part of this conversation. They understand their city, and what we as a community want to do with that.

That helps it become a grassroots movement rather than people externally imposing their ideas, and ensures that you’re actually creating a home-grown solution to what they perceive the issues with their city are.

Do you see that happening?
It is, to a degree. I’ve visited a number of universities and the students’ projects are centred around parts of the city that are perhaps underused, so they’re trying to engage with that. So yes, it is happening, but I think it needs to be a more conscious discussion.