Eye on Dubai


Graeme Fisher, partner at GAJ, discusses the emirate’s achievements and future needs

Dubai has been very good to us at GAJ. We’re been here for 22 years and our headquarters are in the emirate.

It’s difficult to build a city from scratch and that is effectively what they are doing in Dubai. The emirate has a way to go but I think it’s heading in the right direction.


I believe in Dubai. It has problems, but so does every major city. People praise the underground system in London, but it’s one of the reasons I left the place. It’s one of the oldest systems in the world. To actually get on a shiny new train in Dubai is fantastic.

I think the view from Safa Park towards the Sheikh Zayed Road skyline is phenomenal. Emirates Towers is a timeless building and the Burj Khalifa will be awe-inspiring in 30 years time.

Many developers in this region don’t see any value in design that reduces lifecycle costs, especially if they are going to sell everything off-plan.

Good passive design doesn’t have to cost the client anything. It will actually save them a lot of money in terms of lifecycle costs.

We can learn a lot just from just looking at the vernacular architecture and construction. For hundreds of years, they have addressed the heat through thick wall construction, open areas and the creation of courtyards.

We used this approach when we designed the Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa outside Dubai. It’s an example of genuine sustainability and the client didn’t have to spend a penny more on renewable or active measures to achieve that.

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