Daring designs at Cityscape 2006

With the value of projects planned or underway in the Gulf now exceeding US $1trillion, the Dubai Convention Centre played host to Cityscape last month, in a climate of unparalleled investment in the real estate sector.

NEWS, Design

With the value of projects planned or underway in the Gulf now exceeding US $1trillion, the Dubai Convention Centre played host to Cityscape last month, in a climate of unparalleled investment in the real estate sector. In fact, with the eyes of the world on Dubai, a staggering $160 billion (AED588 billion) worth of real estate projects were announced in the three weeks leading up to the event.

The international property investment and development event — now in its 5th year — has grown to become officially the largest international business-to-business real estate event in the world, covering 25,000m² of space.

For architects and designers there was a palpable buzz in the air as a plethora of highly ambitious projects were unveiled for the first time, including among others: Aldar Properties’ $40 billion master-planned community on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi which is to include a Ferrari World theme park, and the $19 billion Limitless Downtown Jebel Ali scheme.

A number of highly eye catching and innovative projects were launched. Sama Dubai displayed a model of the innovative, twisting Dubai Towers at The Lagoons. Al Sharq Investment unveiled what will be one of the tallest towers in Dubai. The 100 storey Al Sharq Tower will form a towering presence on Sheikh Zayed Road.

Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the tower has eight cylinders defined by a spiralling filigree structure and buyers will be allowed to customise their own individual floor plans.

A number of other interesting architectural concepts were unveiled, not least the novel concept of an offi ce tower designed for women only. The Eve Tower is part of the massive Hydra Towers cluster of five buildings located in Business Bay.

Healthy living is key to Korean developer Sungwon’s Santeville also in Business Bay. The 24 storey residential tower will incorporate a Sky Fitness Centre, which will have purified air continually piped into it. Environmentally friendly materials will be used to build the tower.

A major highlight of the show was undoubtedly The Cityscape Conference, which attracted 75 internationally acclaimed speakers, who gave presentations as well as dedicated workshops devoted to specific industry issues including sustainability, urbanism and master planning. Speakers included Donald Trump Jr, from The Trump Organisation, which is building the Palm Trump International Hotel and Tower, on the Palm Jumeirah.

Trump praised architects in the region for their visionary approach: “If you can make it work, you can do it. This is a great way for the region to differentiate itself,” he told delegates. “It is a pleasure as a developer to work with architects who can see far out of the box.”

Architects from around the world were honoured at the Architectural Review Awards. Entries were separated into two categories — completed projects and those which are incomplete or still on the drawing board. Categories included commercial/mixed use, community, leisure, residential, transport, environmental awards and an Islamic architecture award.

Three special prizes were awarded, including an ‘Environment prize’ to Mario Cucinella Architects for the Ministry of Tourism in Riyadh. The project combines ideas taken from climactic design and traditional Middle Eastern architecture. A hidden garden, like an oasis provides a protected natural environment and microclimate for office workers.

Wael Samhouri Architects received the ‘Islamic Architecture’ prize for the Al Hasani Madrasa and Mosque in Syria. The elegant building forms an intricate play of openings with a domed cube and slender minaret and is faithful both to modernistic impulses and historic references.

The special ‘Master Planning’ prize was awarded to Weston Williamson Architects for the Dubai Light Rail project, which is set to become an icon of modern Dubai.

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