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Saturday26 July 2014

Abu Dhabi spending spree set to benefit UK architects

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Executive council confirms schemes for housing, hospitals, airports, metro and schools

Abu Dhabi’s executive council has approved a spending bonanza that could be worth millions of pounds to British architects.

The news comes after months of speculation that the emirate was scaling back its development ambitions in response to the global financial crisis and the Arab Spring. But now it has confirmed more than 20,000 new homes, a £4.4 billion airport terminal, a metro system, two industrial zones, 14 new hospitals and 24 new schools.

Three museums, by Jean Nouvel, Foster & Partners and Frank Gehry, were thrown into doubt by last year’s comprehensive review of development projects. But this week’s announcement contained a new timeline for their completion.

The Louvre, Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim, part of the £17 billion cultural and tourism project on Saadiyat Island, were all meant to be completed by 2014. They are now due to open in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively.

A spokesman for Foster’s welcomed the news. And Phil Holden, managing director of Pascall & Watson, which is working for Jean Nouvel on the Louvre and completed a new campus at Zayed University in 2011, said: “For a long time the executive council has been silent regarding all projects so we see this as a very positive move”.

Two other museums by Zaha Hadid and Tadao Ando were not included in the announcement. But there was good news for landscape architect Gustafson Porter whose plan for a visitor centre at the Hili archaeological site has been reignited. The desert project will now include a new national museum.

For a long time the executive council has been silent. We see this a very positive move.

Phil Holden

Other green-lit schemes include North Wathba, a 13,150-home residential project; a further 7,608 luxury villas; the Midfield terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport; and six special-needs rehabilitation centres.

The news is not thought to have any implications for Austin-Smith Lord, which was taken to the brink of administration last year following long delays in payments by Abu Dhabi state clients.

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Readers' comments (7)

  • In the light of the recent ASL issue, what guarantees are there that their experience won't be repeated?

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  • None. British architects seem to be at their mercy. I am a student and I am worried about my future.

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  • my advice to any architect about to graduate, would be to insure yourself as much as possible.

    learn a trade, enroll on a plumbing course, ask papa to buy you a franchise in domino's or do an mba and change career, before it's too late.

    architecture is breaking up into an increasingly specialised service where the big boys will get bigger and bigger and the boutique firms will continue to get shortlisted for all the juicy commissions and anyone left inbetween better watch out!

    good luck guys and gals!

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  • rick has a good point, stay one step ahead of the pack

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  • Buyer beware!!

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  • 'same old same old' the rich will get richer, pity the standard of the design will not improve 'same old same old' tat for as much fee as possible, hang on to your terminals boys and girls when the next down turn comes out the door we go

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  • I suspect ASL management were firmly to blame for their own demise by failing to negotiating their contract terms and not maintaining positive cash flow.

    Before restarting the various museum / mixed use projects, the Clients will need to settle their outstanding debts and invoices. This will no doubt involve all consultants being persuaded to take a substantial haircut on the promise of further jobs.

    Interestingly the UAE is not short of money having recently announced a 100% pay rise for public sector workers and writing off AED 2bn worth of personal debt for UAE nationals.

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