Wednesday, 4 July 2007
ALDAR Central Market
I always enjoyed Foster's projects because they always had something special about them... he really knows how to respond to the most demanding surroundings.
The latest Foster+Partners project that really moved me is the redevelopment of the Central Market in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and the largest emirate. The huge wave of foreign investment to the UAE started in Abu Dhabi under Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan rule... but Dubai, under Shaikh Moh'd bin Rashid Al Maktoum, later developed much faster and are now leading the race for the UAE's economic boom.
Until the F1 circuit, not many people have heard about our small island... I remember my first visit to the US when people asked where I come from... I always say I'm from a small island called Bahrain just 30 minutes away from Saudi Arabia... that's after Saudi Arabia have qualified for the World Cup for the first time at '94 in the US. But now its easier to say that I'm just an hour away from Dubai... I can't say UAE because many people think that Dubai is a separate country.
Anyway, not long ago the emirates were actually separate nations with strong rivalries, which still exist but in a positive way though. You see centuries ago, long time before the formation of the UAE... many Arab, English, and Indian ships patrolled the Arabian sea and Straight of Hormuz which runs to the Arabian Gulf (or Persian Gulf as Western and Persian people call it) for trade. So piracy (not those pirates of the Caribbean with skulls and curses... just normal people who want to steal stuff) was a common thing back then and ships were always vulnerable for a sudden attack. Those pirates, which were made up of different tribes, based their headquarters along the southern coast where they placed all their spoils... because different tribes lived in the area there were tribal disputes over territories.
The British (back then it was the equivalent of today's USA), sick of all this harassment, decided to put an end to all of this so they decided to campaign against those tribes... later a peace treaty was signed between tribe shaikhs to stop hostilities, and any disputes between tribes will be settled by the British. In additions shaikhs would only deal with the British and would not deal with other ambitious European government in return for British immunity. So the land was divided into 7 emirates and assigned to different tribes. (In addition to those emirates... Oman and Saudi Arabia, 2 different countries under the British immunity, had territorial disputes with the emirates because they share long border lines with each other, and I believe that to this day the boarders are not very clear) Its worth to note that the British call it a treaty while Arabs call it colonization.
Aaaanyyywaaaay, the British left at 1971 and after gaining their independence, the emirates formed the UAE.
Getting back to my point, Abu Dhabi is really jealous of Dubai right now and wants to regain its number 1 position in the UAE's race. ALDAR is a property development company established primarily to create real estate developments for the nation of Abu Dhabi and bring it back to the head of the league. The central market is one of their projects.
The 5 hectare development site is a mixed use scheme in the heart of the city, it includes apartments, an Arabian souk, retail, restaurants, office space, hotels, car parks along with a fire station, bus and taxi interchange points. The reinterpretation of mashrabiya windows is the main theme of the scheme and is very successful in my opinion. The development will be completed in phases with the new Arabian Souk finished at mid 2008. The whole scheme is due to be completed at 2010.
Note: Its funny that when I spell-checked this post in blogger... all "Abu Dhabi"s were considered miss-spellings... and guess what the spell-checker thought I wanted to write???? Yup, that's right.