According to LOM Architecture and Design’s director John Avery, the key to successful masterplan projects is ample green and urban space.
An award-winning architect, Avery has delivered projects across the Middle East, including countries such as the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and others. Joining LOM shortly after his studies, he has led projects across the residential, education and heritage sectors, while also working with clients including the United Arab Hank, HSBC Middle East and the National Bank of Oman.
While LOM has delivered masterplan projects in London and Southern England, it’s also worked on large-scale developments in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
“Ultimately, developers have a commercial imperative, and I think it’s really important to give examples of where what you’re proposing has worked, and often, that’s about prestige,” he said. “Creating public space is kind of generous, which also makes it prestigious.”
Avery added that masterplan developments that have integrated urban spaces are far more successful than those without because they’re attractive to potential tenants and they help create context.
“One of my favourite areas in Dubai in terms of commercial architecture is DIFC,” he said. “I think that’s a great example of masterplanning. It’s low-rise, there are more open areas, and once I looked into the commercial performance, and as a district that has a low level of vacancy and high level of rent, it’s delivered a clear return. And that’s what happens when you invest in public space.”
“And that’s because it’s attractive to tenants, it’s a nice place to be and it’s a recognisable destination,” he added.
Regional developers are currently looking into ways to sew the isolated pods of development together across Dubai. As of late, a number of architects have mentioned the need for more connectivity moving forward. In response, Avery noted that green spaces, including parks and gathering spaces, ought to be the solution — the thread that connects the communities.
“There’s always a challenge in this region regarding the pedestrian realm and linkage, and accommodating cars… you’ve got to be realistic about how people move around,” he said. “One of the things that’s quite interesting is that the City of London traditionally was very determined to operate as an office district. It was very singular in use, and they were very resistant to having residential use there. But that’s really changed now.
“Now, they’re really promoting retail, food and beverage, and residential, and making it a much more mixed-use district. And I think that’s what creates sustainable cities… having that mix of uses and the ability to move around between them.”