One more September, and another successful Middle East Architect Annual Awards honour the best in the region. As the fourth awards gala in Dubai gathered the best in the profession to reflect on our industry’s accomplishments in these interesting times and celebrate the best of our work, it was exciting to see many promising works continue to emerge in the Middle East despite the global slump.
The region continues to struggle as it emerges from hard times but, on the evidence of the many awards in the Middle East, Qatar and Saudi Arabia seem to be the key drivers of project development.
Without the flashy projects of former times, we are now seeing new awards categories and equally impressive projects in areas of sustainability and housing in locations as far afield and diverse as Afghanistan.
The market is now becoming more mature and sophisticated as the profession adjusts to the realities of today and the needs of tomorrow, rather than the fictitious futures that some had pursued in the past. This is perhaps the beginning of the grounding of the regional development market.
With new project categories for the awards this year, and future ones that need to be added, it is now time to recognise and indeed drive responsible developments in the region. Sustainable projects, housing, educational and other infrastructure projects are only a few examples of such categories that must lead the way for better design for the future landscape of the region.
I maintain that these are exciting times to design in the region. With lessons learned during the last slump, clients are increasingly driving architects to develop more sustainable and responsible projects while still seeking a level of sophistication and recognition.
It is not sufficient that a project be a head turner. It must contribute to the urban landscape and have a positive impact on the built environment.
As we all adjust to this new phase of industry maturity across the region, projects need to be recognised on the basis of their sustainability and endurance.
I maintain my position of a year ago, that recognition and rewards of projects and professionals should not merely be for the aesthetic appeal of designs and visual impact.
Contribution to the environment, enrichment of the sense of place, and the built context must rank high on this agenda. This is our collective professional responsibility to the public and our communities.
The awards this year have underscored these new found values of our profession and I look forward to what we can collectively contribute to our regional built landscape in the coming year.
Hisham Youssef AIA, is project director at Gensler and a founding board member of the American Institute of Architects’ Middle East Chapter.