With SOM’s elegant Rolex Tower, Henning Larsen’s exciting Saudi designs and Aedas’ sensitive residential scheme for Afghanistan, there was a fantastic array of winning schemes at the Middle East Architect Awards.
Yet we shouldn’t forget that many outstanding projects missed out on the prizes. Several projects have caught the attention of Middle East Architect and will be covered in subsequent issues, if they haven’t already featured.
One of my favourite project designs to be unrecognised was FXFOWLE’s Museum of Built Environment in Saudi Arabia, which was in the running for best Public and Institutional Project.
With its shimmering fish-like skin, the scheme is one of many fantastic projects by the US-based firm which picked up the prize for Boutique Firm of the Year. The project was pipped by Henning Larsens’ Institute of Diplomatic Studies in Riyadh, which is featured as a case study in this very issue.
The commercial building category was particularly strong this year, with many quality nominations not even making the shortlist.
Projects that missed out included DSA’s Al Fattan House – a low scale gem within the concrete jungle of JBR – as well as Goettsch Partners’ Sowwah Square in Abu Dhabi and the jewel-like TRA Headquaters in Dubai by Henningson Durham Richardson (HDR). The winning scheme was another project by Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects – the King Abdullah Financial District in Saudi Arabia.
One firm that may have felt a bit frustrated is GAJ. Although the Dubai-based practice won the Principal of the Year award, it was shortlisted for a further six prizes and was runner-up for two of these. Nevertheless, the firm was very highly praised by the judges.
This year’s sustainability category has some interesting schemes, with the LEED Gold Certified Mirdif City Centre and the DubioTech Research Laboratory both unlucky to miss out. The winning scheme in this category was Aedas’ Aino Mina in Afghanistan, which also won Residential Project of the Year.
International firm dwp must have felt that it was in with a very good chance of winning the award for best residential scheme with its Meysan Residences project in Abu Dhabi. In fact, the project was described by judge Bart Leclercq, of engineering firm WSP, as “one of the most exciting tower designs ever”.
Leclercq’s emphatic praise for a project that was overlooked by others illustrates the fact that architecture, like all creative disciplines, is very subjective. Quality design is obvious in many cases, but we also have to remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.