By Shane McGinley
As we come to the end of 2019, one of the big themes in this week's magazine issue is to always go with your gut instinct, as most of the time, there's a reason why it feels like the best option
I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve sat in this year when someone has told me that we need to come up with the next big viral video.
Sure, I think, when would you like it? I’ll just open my viral video drawer and get one for you.
There is no exact science to what the public will embrace. If I knew how I’d be a very rich man. Sometimes all the elements come together, but sometimes they don’t (or sometimes not how you thought they would, just ask the team behind the recent Peloton Christmas ad).
Talking to the designers and engineers who worked on the Burj Al Arab back when it was being conceived in the early 90s, I imagine they faced similar levels of anxiety when they were given a brief to design and construct an iconic building which would make Dubai stand out on the global stage.
Everyone can agree that, as the hotel celebrates the 20th anniversary since its official launch, they certainly achieved their goal, and more.
But, listening to the main players talk about the experience of bringing the project together, the common theme that seems to run through their recollections is that one of the most important things was to have a clear idea of what they wanted and to trust their gut instincts.
This week’s cover shows the original sketch lead architect Tom Wright scribbled on a napkin at the very early stages of the creative process. He says he knew very quickly what the hotel should look like.
“We came up with, in the end it was 11 [designs]… one of which was the sail building, which I preferred,” he recalls. With 10 other designs also on the table, Wright’s task was to convince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who was overseeing the project, to agree with him.
“I hadn’t actually met Sheikh Mohammed at all. We’d just spoken to his staff and two weeks later he comes in,” Wright remembers. “He looks through all the drawings we presented, comes up to the little model and said ‘I like this one, let’s build it’ and walked out.”
Luckily, everyone was on the same page as Wright says that if they hadn’t been aligned things may not have gone so smoothly.
“If we did build one of the other schemes, it could easily not have worked, it would have been just another big building,” he explains.
When Jumeirah Group CEO Jose Silva joined in March 2018, he says he was constantly asked what he was going to change about the hotel as it approached the end of its second decade.
“This is always the question when you get to those icons. ‘Don’t change it’, that’s the first thing everyone tells me,” he says. “This could have been built today. I think it is just as relevant today.”
Again, this goes back to the original team on the project. Because they had such a clear vision and idea of what they wanted the project was on a sure footing from the beginning and has managed to stand the test of time.
Another theme that struck me reading this week’s issue was that you also can’t stand still and you always need to be looking forward.
This is true of a lot of our ‘Stars of 2019’. Emirati astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri was only a few weeks back from his trip to the International Space Station when he was already looking to his next goal – the Hope Mission – which is aimed at reaching Mars on the UAE’s 50th anniversary, making it the ninth country to touch down on the planet. After that, he is working on a longer-term, a 100-year project which plans to put humans on Mars by the year 2117.
Another standout star of 2019, Careem co-founder Mudassir Sheikha, also shared this forward orientated ideal when he said that the $3.1bn deal with rival Uber was not the end of his journey but only the beginning. “We don’t think our job is done, we’re just getting started,” he said, and I remember speaking to his team earlier in the year and how they wanted Careem to be more than just a ride-hailing app but to be the region’s first real super app.
So, if you take two things from this issue, it’s to always go with your gut instincts and don’t stand still, always be ready for the next challenge, unless, of course, you’re the Burj Al Arab and you can defy everyone and become both an icon and a hugely profitable commercial venture.
Finally, if you are reading this in December I hope you have an enjoyable holiday and if it is January I wish you a successful and prosperous new year, 2020 is certainly going to be big for Dubai.