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27 September 2017

Three Design Trends Shaping the Future of Architecture in the UAE and Middle East

Daniel Hajjar, managing principal of HOK’s EMEA practice and the former vice chair of the Emirates Green Building Council, describes design themes he’s witnessing in Dubai and beyond.

Adapted from an article in Property Weekly.

The LEED Gold ADNOC headquarters in Abu Dhabi (left) and CMA Tower in Riyadh, also expected to achieve LEED Gold certification.

1. More focus on sustainability

“We’ve witnessed an increased awareness of sustainable design being incorporated into projects from the outset of the design process. This makes economic and environmental sense in a region where the climate is challenging,” says Hajjar. “The notion of sustainable design has also been translated into urban design, which has begun to set the tone for any individual development site.

“Architecture in the region is responding to a more sophisticated palette of client requirements; buildings are increasingly expected to lead, as opposed to follow, precedent examples from other parts of the world.”

Abu Dhabi’s Yas Arena will include an outdoor concourse designed to create year-round activity and connect to the surrounding district.

2. Creating community and sense of place

“Developers are looking for clever responses that create a sense of community, and this is perhaps the most critical aspect to any new development and determines the ultimate success of value creation,” says Hajjar, who notes that end-user choice, not only in terms of available product, but also new locations, is also impacting the market.

“Investors have changed in profile to become end users, moving into the units they originally purchased,” he says. “Sense of place is critical to the success of a development. In addition to this, the complement of community facilities, walkability and amenity space not only increases returns but provides a stronger resale value for units in these particular locales.”

Riyadh’s iconic King Khalid Airport, designed more than 30 years ago.

3. Timeless architecture for generations to come

A focus on exemplary design in the region “results in a more innovative solutions as well as a more layered urban fabric” with differentiation key to quality delivery.

“If you look across our portfolio of work from the King Khalid Airport in Riyadh to the recently completed ADNOC headquarters, our work is reflective of the region without being a pastiche,” says Hajjar. “We have drawn on many influences from the region to create a more ‘classic’ and timeless architecture for generation to come. It is not about being different for difference’s sake; it is about creating places, buildings and interiors for generations to come. This is what we admire from other global cities, so why would it not apply here?”