Going global

Cityscape Dubai is back, but not as we may know it.
Going global
By Orlando Crowcroft
Sun 05 Sep 2010 04:00 AM

Cityscape Dubai is back, but not as we may know it.

It has been quite a year since Cityscape last closed its doors at the Dubai Exhibition Centre back in October 2009.

The event had suffered a 50% drop in turnout and the record-breaking project launches and celebrity guests were only notable for their absence. Cityscape, long considered the barometer of Dubai's real estate industry, got a frosty reception.

But in 2010 Cityscape is back with a new focus and a new name. Re-branded as Cityscape Global, the property road-show will focus on presenting emerging markets to Middle East-based investors, and linking up designers, contractors and architects with developers from China and elsewhere in Asia.

At least, that is the plan. Chris Speller, Cityscape group director, says that the event has already got 38,000 trade visitors confirmed, of which 10,000 will be flying in from overseas, as well as 200 exhibitors. North Africa will be represented by a stand-alone Egypt pavilion, which will host developers and government departments looking to make connections in the Middle East.

Speller believes that Cityscape can harness Dubai's skill and maturity as a centre for the world's construction, architecture and property trade and make connections with developers and investors. Architecture firms will be well represented, with Nikken Sekkei, FX Fowle, RTKL, AEDAS, Atkins, Dewan Architects, GAJ, DSA Architects, Gensler, RW Armstrong, Perkins Eastman and P&T already confirmed exhibitors.

"Cityscape Global is not only about Dubai or the UAE - it now covers emerging markets around the world, which will generate strong interest from investors from all corners of the globe," explains Speller.

"That said, Dubai's role as the undisputed business hub in the Middle East is not forgotten. The location of the emirate and its infrastructure and transport links make it easily accessible from all continents, while it also has a number of world class hotels and conference facilities."
In terms of architecture, Cityscape hopes to help firms headquartered in the Middle East make links with emerging markets such as China, where there is a great deal of work, but not nearly as much expertise. While many major firms have offices in China - AEDAS, Atkins and Gensler among them - there is still plenty of work to go around in growing cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.

At the same time, Cityscape Global is reaching out to architects' love of awards with the 8th edition of the Cityscape awards, which will focus on sustainable development and major projects in  emerging markets. A special award for best young designer in the UAE is also bound to be hotly contested between architecture students in the emirate.

More generally, Speller says that while Cityscape Abu Dhabi and Jeddah, both of which took place this year, are more local - and in Saudi Arabia's case, closed - markets, Dubai's international nature makes it a perfect setting for a more globally-orientated Cityscape event. While Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi are the markets of choice for many at the end of 2010, Dubai is still important.

"With exhibitors from more than 30 countries and attendance from 115 countries in 2009 Dubai is not on the back burner but quite the opposite, it will remain our flagship event," he says.

But while the new focus for Cityscape may be appropriate given the ongoing market downturn in Dubai, does Speller miss the heady days of 2007-08, when Cityscape was known for its wild project launches and celebrity guests?

"Of course 2004 to 2008 was an exciting time for anyone involved in the Dubai real estate market, and that included us. But we learn from the past as we continue to look forwards," he says.

"For local market players and regulators now is the time to address such issues as restoring investor confidence, establishing price levels based on supply and demand, transparent legislation and ongoing construction progress."

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