Muhannad Sh. Assam, managing director for Abu Dhabi-based BEAD Architects & Engineers, discusses the many opportunities in the Middle East.
What are the most interesting projects you are working on in the Middle East?
BEAD is working on three very interesting projects at this time. The first one is a five-star hotel located in central Doha, the second is a VVIP palace complex in Saudi Arabia and the third project is the master planning and urban design of a big hospitality/cultural district in Baghdad.
Which of the many projects underway in Abu Dhabi are you most looking forward to seeing complete?
The Kaleidoscope Towers within the Danet Abu Dhabi development is the project I definitely wish to see completed most. This is a big foot project which we have successfully inspired the visual tool in order to break the mass of the building into three telescopic towers, with a tilt towards the corner of the site facing an important road intersection. I am sure this project, once finished, will be a landmark within the urban setting of East Abu Dhabi.
What do you enjoy about working in the UAE?
The most enjoyable aspect of working in the UAE is the fact that we practice in a free and professional environment which enables unlimited information sharing and wide exposure to the global world of art and design. This environment therefore, facilitates our creation of innovated and contemporary design solutions which not only receive the appreciation of clients, but actually get executed.
What are the biggest challenges for architects in the Middle East?
I guess the biggest challenges for architects in the Middle East nowadays are of two different natures. The first is a moral obligation to respect the architecture as a profession, design with a conscience, and realise projects which satisfy basic living requirements. The other is commercial and related to the economic crises; a lack of sustainable flow of assignments has consequently forced architects to commercialise the profession.
What are your favourite buildings in the UAE and why?
I admire almost all the projects BEAD created and a few others developed in the UAE. My favorites are two projects – the first one is a contemporary styled Beach House I designed on the shores of Abu Dhabi for one of our valued VIP clients. This project received international recognition and is actually displayed, among other winning beach front developments, on a street exhibition in Panama. The other project is Bab Al Shams Resort in Dubai which I believe the designer [GAJ] has demonstrated great responsibility and respect for the local architecture and environment.
Do you think that Abu Dhabi 2030 is a good urban planning model for development in the Gulf?
It surely is, given the similarities among the cultural, demographic and socio- economic characteristics of communities in the Arabian Gulf region and the fact that the 2030 plan was developed with total care and understanding of the future development and growth needs.
What do think are the hot markets in the Middle East?
I think two markets are proving to be the most demanding in terms of design and construction: Qatar and Saudi Arabia. However we should not forget Iraq as this country needs to start from almost scratch to recover its infrastructure and housing development needs. I think that architectural innovation in countries like the UAE, Qatar, KSA, and Lebanon is well ahead of other Middle Eastern countries.