In April, Middle East Architect held a round table at Cosentino’s showroom in Dubai with four architects based in the UAE. While various topics came up, from the need for more affordable housing (which can be found on the following pages) to the UAE’s development of residential complexes inland, one connecting theme seemed to tie together the various points of discussion: there’s a demographic of tenants that GCC developers are just now starting to pin down.
“The residential market in the GCC has a new target audience,” said Samer Touqan, projects director at Dewan. “And this audience consists of average income people who have been living here for a while and who like it, but don’t want to spend large amounts of money on housing. So the new product targets those who want to stay in Dubai and raise their families here, but their budgets don’t allow them to buy luxury units.
“So we have made this product to actually recycle or recirculate the economics of Dubai itself and make it home for another layer of people.”
According to Ralf Steinhauer, director at RSP, the new targeted audience has impacted client briefs, budgets as well as the design details of projects like materials and finishes.
“We feel that everything is about efficiency – more so than usual,” he said. “Residential design, particularly in the UAE, has really become about compact spaces. Everything is shrinking again and it’s become more focused on cost-conscious building and fit out. While everything is still high-quality, this impacts things like material choice because the budgets that we’re working with have decreased tremendously.”
Touqan added that because developers are now targeting the three-star accommodation market, the market prices of units has driven down their size, which requires more efficiency on part of the architects.
“The five-star accommodation market is totally saturated and built out,” added Phillip Jones, principal and managing director of the Middle East and North Africa at B+H. “And what we’re seeing with developers like Azizi, Damac and Emaar is that they are casting their net out a little bit further these days.”
The architects noted that new architectural typologies for residential design across the GCC would likely be explored in the near future. Such typologies would respond to the need for more variety in the affordable housing market, which might soon change the face of the region.