German architects design in the sand

With a subdued construction market at home that has only started to turn the corner in recent months, German architectural practices are seeking new markets to sustain their order books, and increasing numbers of them are targeting the Middle East, where German-designed buildings are in high demand among the region’s developers.

  • E-Mail
By  Sean Cronin Published  March 25, 2006

|~|114design200.gif|~|The US $81.7 million cricket stadium in Dubai Sports City is being designed by German firm, Gerkan, Marg und Partner. Alpine Bau is the main contractor. |~|Vorsprung durch Technik is the famous mantra of German manufacturing. But it is German design that is starting to make big waves in the Middle East’s construction sector. German architects are currently picking up more commissions in Dubai than any of their European or US counterparts. Kling Consult is a relatively new arrival in Dubai, having opened an office in February 2004 — but in the space of just two years, the company’s Middle East operation has grown to account for almost one third of the firm’s revenues. Managing director Gerhard Reichert points to the sluggish activity in the German construction industry as being one of the main drivers for the increased activity of firms from the country in the Middle East. He says: “The economic situation in Germany is still not improving and this is one of the reasons. We decided to come here three years ago and opened an office in February 2004 and there have been many German firms coming over in recent months.” Kling Consult is already one of the most prolific foreign architects in the Dubai market, having picked up several recent commissions. One Business Bay, developed by Omniyat Properties, is one of the company’s latest awards. It has also drawn up designs for the Stargate Edutainment Park in Dubai and the Mirdif Gate project. While the lack of opportunities at home is one reason for German architects to target the Gulf, the increased international visibility of places like Dubai is another. “In Germany, you can see Dubai everywhere. You read about it in the papers, you see it on the television,” adds Reichert. Last year the firm also signed an agreement with Falcon City of Wonders to carry out the concept design for 345 villas that form part of the first phase of the Dubailand project. Besides 345 uniquely designed villas, the first phase will contain the corporate offices of Falcon City of Wonders as well as an educational museum to demonstrate the history of world civilisations and the development of the UAE. The most recent major design award to have gone to a German firm is the new US $81.7 million (AED300 million) cricket stadium being developed at Dubai Sports City. The stadium is being designed by Gerkan, Marg und Partner, a firm which also provided designs for the Berlin Olympic Stadium, the Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt and the Rheinenergie stadium in Cologne. The 25,000-seater stadium will be one of the most advanced of its kind in the world and will be expandable to 30,000. The development will feature a unique roof structure based on the traditional Arabic tent framework. The main contractor on the project is also a German company; Alpine Bau Deutschland has teamed up with local outfit Belbadi Engineering. Hamburg-based BRT is also working on the Sports City development. Last October, a consortium of German companies unveiled plans for the $70 million ‘Cube’ development. Berlin-based BMG Group is the main contractor on the project, which is being led by Trend Capital. The project takes its name from the design of the structure, which affords maximum exposure to light. The Cube will be close to three stadia and will have views of the waterways. Munich-based SIAT is one of the rapidly growing German architectural contingent targeting high profile projects in the GCC. Managing director Frank Zabel also says that the subdued domestic construction market in Germany is one factor explaining the expansion of German architects in the Middle East. He says: “The Gulf states have enormous growth potential — the construction industry is booming. “In view of the week economic situation in the German building industry, this area offers us the opportunity to develop new markets. “Successful positioning in the Middle East market and the subsequent positive development of projects are both dependent upon on-the-spot presence and cooperation with local partners.” Last year his firm was commissioned by QIPCO (Qatar Investments & Projects Development Holding Company) to design a prominent 200m-high office tower — the ‘QIPCO Office Tower’. Its unique appearance has already earned it a couple of nicknames, including ‘The Tornado’ and ‘The Vase’. The tower, with its 80,000m² will mainly be used for office space spread over 50 effective floors and will also provide room for restaurants, a recreation and fitness area, a café and small shops. The SIAT team is confident that the tower will be an architectural highlight in Doha — not just the height and style of construction will be an eye-catcher, but the outer steel supporting framework will be accentuated by a special lighting design by the light artist Thomas Emde. Individual lighting fittings on the junction points of the steel girders can be selectively controlled to accentuate the structure of the supporting framework and to highlight the hyperboloid form of the building. SIAT are also the concept engineers for a Dubailand hotel development called Dubai 1000 Hotel Fonds. It will be one of the largest hotels in the region, housing 1,050 four star business-type hotel rooms. With an increasing number of German firms staking their claim on building designs across the region, architectural innovation is becoming increasinly associated with the country. Dubai is an architect’s playground with designs that would never make it off the drawing board in Europe, often becoming living breathing projects here. As such it will continue to lure ambitious architects from around the world and it seems clear that many of them will be German.||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code