Middle East Architect magazine turns 10: A look back at a decade of development

Building cities and bringing on sustainability.

When Middle East Architect’s first edition rolled off the presses in 2006 not one of the current top 10 tallest buildings in Dubai, Qatar or Abu Dhabi was open for business.

There were two of Saudi Arabia’s current leading high-rises in existence, the Kingdom Centre and the Al Faisalyah Cente, both in Riyadh.

And the Burj Al Arab had been a feature of Dubai’s skyline for seven years, so something of the city’s vision for the coming years was there for all to see.

In 2006 it was easy to predict a great future for the design and build business. After all it was an oft-quoted statistic at the time that one in five of the world’s total number of cranes was in Dubai. But still – the expansion of the region as a whole has been unprecedented and even the global economic crisis which started in 2008 couldn’t halt the advance.

For architect Nigel Craddock of RNL the growth was something he watched unfold on a daily basis.

“I arrived in 2006 and spent three years doing a daily drive from The Greens end of Dubai to Deira and saw the Burj Khalifa coming up floor by floor over that period,” he said.

The Burj Khalifa takes shape.

“The Greens was pretty much still considered a periphery neighborhood.  Anyone who was around at that time will remember how charged the atmosphere was. I was in absolute awe of what I could see happening.

“It felt like I was living a real life SimCity game, and I became addicted to the sound of construction. it was an extraordinary feeling.

“The Burj Khalifa was symbolic for me because I saw its construction – I knew every level represented a new benchmark in where the region saw itself.”

Alongside the physical growth of the city awareness of eco-friendly design is another area which has moved forward with regulations in place such as LEED and Estidama.

Saeed Al Abbar, chair of the Emirates Green Building Council, said: “awareness of sustainability issues has definitely increased significantly over the past few years.

“Over 800 buildings have complied with the regulations so far at the design stage, which is a tremendous achievement.

“The real challenge is in ensuring that the code requirements are fully incorporated in the completed constructions through rigorous quality control measures.”

KEO sustainability expert Holley Chant agreed: “A decade ago the notion of sustainability barely existed. It has evolved incredibly. To me it is the most important change over the last 10 years and it is something which I am very passionate about.”

Iran-based architect Kourosh Hajizadeh said the region is one that has taken environmentally-friendly design forward – especially with the establishment of Masdar City in Abu Dhabi.

He said: “As we all may know, fossil resources will no longer exist and the use of renewable resources is highlighted by people from different realms, architects mostly, more than ever nowadays.

“Therefore, I believe Masdar could be the most significant project of the previous decade, based on being built and used with renewable resources.

“The project could be recognised as a pioneer for the whole world, not only because of its building’s attractive appearances, but also because of how much such projects can matter for the future life of mankind.”