Abu Dhabi // Building Design Partnership (BDP), one of Britain's largest architecture and engineering firms, has acquired an Abu Dhabi company in a bid to expand its reach into the Gulf. SYNA, which has been based in the Emirates since 1990 and has designed such buildings as the JW Marriott in Dubai and the Sheraton Beach Hotel in Abu Dhabi, signed an agreement yesterday to be fully incorporated into BDP.
David Cash, the international development director of BDP, said the company would initially focus on the huge amount of infrastructure and public-sector work in Abu Dhabi. "At the moment, that's where we see the opportunities," Mr Cash said. "We're in talks with groups in Abu Dhabi about schools, medical facilities and metro stations." The office staff of 15 will be expanded to 50 architects and engineers within three years, he said. The goal was to have a large presence from the start, rather than setting up a small office and sending most of the work back to a main office.
With property prices falling in the Emirates by 50 per cent in some places and projects grinding to a halt in the global financial crisis, Mr Cash said the company had debated whether to open an office. But the Government's commitment to infrastructure convinced BDP it would be worthwhile opening in Abu Dhabi and using the office as a base to win work in Qatar and Kuwait. BDP is already designing 10 universities in Libya.
"It's all about building new communities in Abu Dhabi," Mr Cash said. "That's what we're about." One of the new approaches the company will take is to increase consultation with community members before finishing a design for a project. In Abu Dhabi, there are no legal requirements to consult with members of the public before going ahead with a development in their neighbourhood. "Even though it may not be a statutory requirement in the UAE, it is a beneficial process," Mr Cash said. "If we're designing a new shopping centre, for instance, we will have a public meeting. We will have a place where people can come talk to us."
Nadine Nackasha, who previously managed SYNA and is now a director of BDP, said the new office was in talks with government developers and companies about possible projects in the capital. "We have the resources to do everything from design and engineering to sustainability," Ms Nackasha said. "We've been here for 20 years, building up a reputation. This office is already part of the community."