Leaders Oman: GAJ talks contextual architecture

One of the most appealing aspects of the Middle East’s construction sector is the juxtaposition of historic and modern architecture

SPECIAL REPORTS, Projects, Architect, Architecture, Construction, Leaders in Construction Oman, Middle east, Oman

One of the most appealing aspects of the Middle East’s construction sector is the juxtaposition of historic and modern architecture.

Oman, however, has taken a slightly different approach to design and construction. For example, at 100m in height, the country’s tallest man-made structure is the air traffic control (ATC) tower that stands at Muscat International Airport. Buildings in the Sultanate stand in stark contrast to the super-tall ambitions of its neighbours. They are, quite literally, more down to earth.

But this preference for modesty and tradition should not be confused with a backwards-looking approach to architecture. As Simon Chambers, partner at Godwin Austen Johnson (GAJ) Architects explained, the old and the new are not mutually exclusive, so long as one takes a contextual approach to design.

“What we try to do [at GAJ] is not just copy and make things look old,” he told delegates. “We understand how things are done and why they are done, and we try to [add] a contemporary twist.”

During the course of his presentation at Leaders in Construction Summit Oman, Chambers detailed an array of GAJ’s buildings from across the GCC, all of which were designed with context in mind. The firm is continuing this strategy with its current crop of high-profile Middle Eastern projects, which include Kingdom City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt; and Saraya Bandar Jissah in Oman’s capital city, Muscat.

“Many cities in the Middle East have long and sustained pasts, which strongly imprint a sense of identity on the culture of the place,” Chambers concluded. “In order to maintain the character of that place, and thus preserve its identity, it is critical to first understand [its] specific historical, social, and physical conditions.”

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