Capital Designs


As an exciting ‘hub for design’, Abu Dhabi looks forward to a vibrant 2012

Amidst current global economic conditions and political tensions in the Middle East, Abu Dhabi has proved to be a stable environment for conducting business with another year of solid growth, according to a market report by CBRE entitled ‘MarketView – Abu Dhabi, UAE’.

Abu Dhabi’s economy reportedly expanded by 4.5% during 2011, with 5% growth expected during this year as the recovery picks up pace.


Chris Gilbert, managing director, Gemaco Interiors, Abu Dhabi, said the firm collaborates with many design consultants in the emirate. “We are excited by the calibre of design and the specification of quality products in our projects. Several of our clients are embracing modern interiors, innovative materials, sophisticated lighting products and design, and new concepts in space planning. This has resulted in some very inspiring spaces.”

The emirate added nine 200m+ towers to its skyline in 2011, according to a report by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) of the US. The CTBUH stated this is a “remarkable” achievement, especially as the emirate only had two such buildings at the beginning of the year.

A further 13 towers of 200m+ are under construction, indicating the capital will continue to be an important market “for the next several years,” according to the report, ‘A Year in Review: Trends in 2011’.

Supply is forecasted to outstrip demand over the next 12 months, said CBRE, with Abu Dhabi awaiting the completion of Sowwah Square and further delivery of developments in Marina Square, Reem Island.

The latest news to boost Abu Dhabi’s credentials as a hub for design, architecture and business, is the Abu Dhabi Executive Council’s (ADEC) statement on plans to resume work on its branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums after a viability review.

A statement issued on ADEC’s websites claims budgets and opening dates were approved for the museum projects in the cultural district on Saadiyat Island. These include the Sheikh Zayed Museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim Museum, and Emirates Museum. The Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel, will open in 2015, the Norman Foster-styled Zayed National Museum in 2016 and Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim a year later, it said.

Two additional projects were also approved: the redesigning and building of Al Ain National Museum and the design and development of the cultural Hili site. Fourteen other healthcare facilities and a world-class rehabilitation centre will be built as part of the government’s strategy to improve health services.

The executive council has approved projects proposed by Abu Dhabi Education Council to establish 24 schools, and refurbish 10 others.

The increase in projects has been beneficial for designers. Gilbert agreed and said projects like Etihad Towers and Sowwah Square have provided modern and sophisticated spaces to work with.

“The furniture specified mirrors the high standard of design in the buildings. International clients are requesting more flexible work spaces, desk space is minimised, and collaborative areas are provided for team work and office space which creates a ‘smarter’ working environment,” he added.

From a design point-of-view, challenges working in the emirate include managing clients’ expectations and timelines, added Gilbert.

Gemaco Interiors has just finished the library at the Higher College of Technology, Al Ain. “Our client was dedicated to good design. They are consistently requesting high level interiors and are happy to use products which are superior, understanding that investment in quality produces a high quality interior,” he said.

The CBRE report states sound macro-economic fundamentals, a solid fiscal stance and a stable political environment offers an encouraging outlook for Abu Dhabi.

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