WATG's Seattle office recently had an old project come back to life with a new client and modified program. To kick things off, the project team flew to Oman for a charrette before filling an egregious hole in some of the team members' travel history: Dubai.
While we were all familiar with the record breaking feats of engineering and design built in the last 10+ years, some of which WATG has been a part of, seeing them in a photo does not compare to seeing them in person. Additionally, our experience has been that in the Middle East comparisons are often drawn to what has been built in Dubai; and, therefore, we should take the time to acquaint ourselves with some of the highlights (or low-lights, depending on your point of view).
Here are a few of our (including Cynthia Jacobs, Michael Brown, and Shannon Suess) observations and notes from Oman and the UAE:
1. In checking out the Omani competition before the charrette we toured Muscat Hills, Jebel Sifah, WATG-designed Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, as well as The Wave Muscat. Each development includes components and features that our team wanted to investigate during the initial stages of design because they're also part of our project.
2. Our colleague Colin Wild took us on a tour of the WATG-designed Royal Opera House currently under construction in Muscat. Yes, we walked inside the organ-what a magnificent project!
3. Our final meeting in Oman was canceled, which gave us the chance to visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque's immaculately maintained grounds and prayer hall with its enormous hand-woven carpet and immense chandelier.
4. We'll go ahead and admit it-we weren't expecting to like The Burj Kalifa (big, unnecessary, ostentatious, empty)...but after a few days in Dubai, we were smitten. It's a stunning building with elegant proportions and a cladding that reflects the light and color around it. Fun fact: the tower is visible from 60 miles away.
5. The Madinat Jumeirah served as a great size and scale reference for part of our current project.
6. We took one for the team while investigating Dubai's water park offerings as a point of reference for our project by spending an afternoon at the WATG-designed Atlantis, The Palm's water park – Aquaventure. Someone had to do it!
7. We arrived in the UAE just as the new Ferrari World opened in Abu Dhabi, a must-see for anyone interested in world-class entertainment venues. It's a great family destination with plenty of growth opportunity (which is a nice way of saying it's a bit devoid of entertainment at the moment). We also questioned its long term viability (if you aren't into cars it gets old fast). However, no expense was spared-from the marble counter tops in the restrooms to the high quality cutlery at the Italian (of course) cafeteria. We'd like to say more but are still catching our breath and gathering our wits about us after that rollercoaster ride!
8. After our afternoon of driving Ferrari simulators around the Yas Marina Circuit we checked out the real thing adjacent to the Yas Hotel. Our favorite aspects of the hotel were the clean lines and smooth curves mimicking the layout of an F1 circuit: the walls, the roof, and the inlaid steel channels careening around corners and down hallways on the floor, reminiscent of the toy race tracks we had as kids.
9. Big...and bigger: we paid a visit to both Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall. Ski Dubai is everything we thought it would be (complete with mountain lodge and fake fireplace) while Dubai Mall is just staggering – the fountain, the aquarium, the ice rink, and ohhh, that bookstore!
Enroute through Amsterdam
"Life -- it is not just a series of calculations and a sum total of statistics, it's about experience, it's about participation, it is something more complex and more interesting than what is obvious." - Daniel Libeskind, Architect
Training for a marathon might seem like a series of structured sessions, a calculated balance of carbohydrates and weekly mileage requirements, but the truth is my experience was nothing like that. My training was squeezed in around project deadlines; I ate anything and everything around me; and I rarely met the recommended training mileage.
While my training for the Honolulu Marathon may have lacked structure, it was full of spirit. I joined an amazing group of people that brought me in like family. Their stories and laughter kept me going on those long runs in the sweltering heat. Without them and my fellow WATG teammates, my experience would not have been as meaningful. So, while it's easy to get caught up in everyday details and tasks, whether it be running a marathon or designing destinations, the most important part is to enjoy the experience.
L-R: WATG’s Honolulu Marathon finishers Rachun Danapong, Dori Gusman, Lisa Doyle, Craig Takahata
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