UK's Allies and Morrison to expand into Qatar
Celebrated design firm sets up headquarters in Doha
One of Britain’s most celebrated design architecture firms, Allies and Morrison (A&M), is opening a new office in Doha that will become the firm’s Middle East headquarters, said partner Tim Makower in an exclusive interview with Middle East Architect.
Characteristically tight-lipped about the nature of its plans for the Qatari capital, Makower did confirm that associate director Simon Gathercole would head up A&M’s Qatar office - which is set to open in September ‘09 - and that its brand of architecture would fill a niche in the Qatari market.
“We are primarily design architects,” said Makower. “There is almost no one like that based in Doha right now. Of course, there is competition from other countries but I don’t think any of our competitors have branch offices in Doha yet.”
While avant garde design has characterised the strength of the firm since its inception in 1984, Makower contends that the architecture from the Qatar office will be, first and foremost, contextually appropriate.
“We’ve been working to set an architectural language which is uniquely of Qatar and rooted in the tradition, history and culture of this place,” said Makower. “Our initial designs are usually successful because we are fundamentally contextual architects - we produce a different response to each site.”
Equally important to the direction of A&M’s Qatar office is the indirect support it has received from HH Skeikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and HH Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned.
“We feel the vision from His and Her Highness for a sustainable, lasting architecture - architecture that isn’t just glass and metal greenhouses overheating in the desert—is our kind of vision. We also feel that our contextual approach will appeal to a broad variety of clients.”
While the Qatar office marks the beginning of a new era for A&M, its confidential Qatari projects are certainly not its first in the region.
“We’re working with Solidere in Cairo, on a huge masterplan project on which Solidere did the preliminary design with Egyptian developer SODIC,” explained Makower. “The project is called ‘West Town’. Our particular piece of the project is two-fold: first, a mixed-use group of urban blocks, amounting to around 20 buildings, and secondly, the shading structures, five pavilion buildings and a market building in the central boulevard.”
A&M’s other major connection to the region comes in the UAE, where its design for the Al Falah satellite community won the firm a competition, but is moving forward with another architect.
“We submitted a winning design but, sadly, our design is a piece of history now,” said Makower. “What we did with Aldar at the time was very enjoyable and very edifying; we hope to get more involved in Abu Dhabi in the future.”
The firm’s second attempt to work in the UAE came as a piece of the US $95.3 billion (AED350 billion) Jumeirah Gardens project, which fell victim to the global credit crunch.
“Jumeirah Gardens, of course, was put on hold. But, we continue to be fascinated by the whole region,” said Makower. “There’s still a lot of it we don’t know. Those bits we do know are giving us a glimpse into the region and Doha seems like a perfect place to have found a base.”