dwp poised for expansion into the Kingdom, reports NIKKI BUSUTTIL
Having successfully established itself in the Middle East region within the last decade, international architecture and interior design firm dwp (design worldwide partnership), with offices in Bahrain and Dubai, is excited to be soon setting up shop in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
But what has prompted its plans, amid a general world economic climate of caution and hesitancy? The design and architecture industry is always greatly and adversely affected, when times are tough and development slows, but this organisation, by all accounts, sees silver linings and bright future.
“We thrive in any given environment, particularly in challenging locations,” explains Linda Van Der Walt, dwp regional business development director for the Middle East. “We like to maintain a good understanding of each locale and its cultural sensitivities, where we operate. We foster lasting relations with our clients and suitably preempt their needs,” she adds.
Saudi Arabia remains among the top 20 most competitive economies in the world and is racing ahead with expansions. The Kingdom is fast developing its infrastructure to international standards, which include ports, roads, healthcare, education, housing and hotels, as part of its overall political, economic and social reforms.
Updating, modernising and growing are just a few of the buzzwords set to bolster the Saudi Arabian standing in the world even further and allow for viability and sustainability, long into the future. This also encompasses increasing foreign investment, by attracting multi-national companies, with the development of financial and corporate office ‘parks’, incentives and iconic office tower developments.
One such development that has garnered much attention is the Kingdom Tower skyscraper, under construction in Jeddah. Much higher than the Burj Khalifa, 12 billion cubic feet of interior space, over $1.2 billion in preliminary costs and is foreseen to accommodate around 80,000 full-time users, not to mention the expected annual visitors to such an architectural feat. International design consultants are lining up to get a slice of Saudi action and are clamouring to establish their presence here.
“Saudi Arabia is a key economic driver in the region and has provided stability during a period of turmoil in the Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region. I believe that it will continue to do so and that there may be additional easing of monetary policy to fuel the economy further, provided inflation is kept at a sustainable level,” remarks Brenton Mauriello, dwp group CEO.
Success story: dwp executing a
wide array of projects
Traditionally by no means an easy place for foreign companies to work in, being successful in Saudi Arabia takes extraordinary levels of personal commitment and dedicated building of relationships. He surmises: “It is through relationships and cultural understanding that dwp has been successful in building a sustainable business and its own commitment to the Kingdom.”
With offices in 10 different countries worldwide, two of which are already in the Middle East, cross-border collaboration, a large talent pool from which to draw from, dwp is also practically equipped to service the requirements of this demanding market and are seemingly a step ahead. Its portfolio of work covers hospitality, workplace, residential, retail, banking and finance, education, healthcare and community design solutions, in architecture, masterplanning and interiors, which are all in great demand in Saudi Arabia.
Its integrated design services are also growing from strength to strength, and dwp has recently added innovative food and beverage concepts and solutions, as well as high-tech audio-visual and lighting solutions to its integrated one-stop service offering, as another way of differentiating themselves from the competition.
After long being entrenched in tradition, the overall design trend for the Saudi market appears to be emerging slowly from a very traditional design sense to a transitional one. “There is a longing for something modern, but the design always still reverts back to more traditional preferences, as they are warmer than the austere feel of modern design. Our initial success was in the workplace sector because the VIP areas, such as the chairman’s office, the majlis and the boardrooms requiring residential and hospitality elements, and we borrow designers from those studios to contribute,” says Neil Mark Glassberg, managing director of dwp Bahrain. dwp has managed to dazzle such notable organisations as Aramco, Sumou Corporation, and even the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment.
He concurs with his colleagues: “To enter the Saudi market it takes time and patience because you need to develop trust with your clients and this can only be done after many face-to-face meetings. Their expectations are high, but once you gain their trust, you can develop a lifetime loyal partner.” Despite having participated in such events as Gulf Bid and Cityscape in Riyadh and Jeddah, word-of-mouth has played a vital role for dwp, as it often does in the region, in securing new contracts.
Recently, dwp has found continued success in the education sector, booming due to the sizeable young proportion of the Saudi population, and will be delivering its first few projects for the King Saud University in Riyadh, the Umm Al Qura University in Mecca, as well as the King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. These universities are receiving vast government grants, as part of the educational reforms charter, which are fueling their rapid expansion.
Other significant ongoing projects range from private office towers, resort masterplanning, the new Gulf International Bank headquarters, the Al Khobar Gardens residential development by Jenan, and its first design and build projects for the Al Hammam headquarters, Sigma Paint stores and a clubhouse for an Al Rushaid compound.
“Personally, I have been travelling to Saudi Arabia from Bahrain every week for the past year. After many Turkish coffees and eating Bedouin meals crosslegged, I can now say that I am just starting to learn the cultural intricacies, which helps promote strong interpersonal relationships,” admits Glassberg, whose office will support the new dwp Jeddah operations, opening by the end of the year.