HOW I SAVED MILLIONS with one clear design decision

Photo I took from the 22 floor - looking at Al Raha and Yas island, Sept 2008

photo by Denis Guichard Aug 2008

photo by Denis Guichard Aug 2008

In 2008, in a site office in Abu Dhabi’s Al Raha district, I was sitting in a high level meeting with the CEO, COO and main stakeholders of Aldar Properties. Our architects were pitching us an idea they had for a plot of land next to one of our flagship properties, the iconic‘HQ’ building they had designed.

I had just been hired by the CEO to be, as he put it, his ‘design eyes and ears’. He wanted security. He wanted design expertise that he knew he lacked. He knew I was a great interior designer and knew that if I had been trusted by the UAE Royal families then he could trust me too. 

He asked me to sit next to him in meetings like this, when major design decisions hinged on his approval to proceed. In this meeting our architects were proposing to build a smaller version of their disc shaped ‘HQ’ building. This important project was on site, several months into programme but about a year before even ‘topping out’. No-one could say what it would actually look and feel like in the actual built reality and human experience of it. There was much discussion and many opinions thrown about. My CEO was stern. He quietened everybody and turned to me, “Áine, what do you think? What is the best design decision here?”

It was incredibly easy for me. I said; “To build a replica, even a smaller one, will devalue the first. It would be like building a one-third smaller Eiffel tower next to the original. This is an iconic building, with an architecturally unique form. It needs to be be viewed and appreciated for its specialness. Because was not part of the masterplan it will read as an afterthought and irreparably damage the status of the concept of the current building. If you build this replica right next to the HQ building it will be a mistake.”

This was the last word on the subject. My CEO and COO were in agreement. This proposal was rejected right then and there. Enormous amounts of money and time was saved. Later, as the worldwide financial crisis began to be felt in the UAE this decision further proved to be a wise one. Also, as we progressed on site, issues with insufficiency of services and parking for the main building emerged. The plot of land next to HQ was now invaluable. Its proximity meant we could fully support our tenants, occupants and make our building a commercial success.