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Tue 8 Sep 2009 04:00 AM

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Who’s it gonna be?

The Middle East Architect Awards are again upon us and my question remains: Who’s it gonna be? Don’t look at me, I’ve got no idea. I’ve got little more information than my readers.

The Middle East Architect Awards are again upon us and my question remains: Who’s it gonna be? Don’t look at me, I’ve got no idea. I’ve got little more information than my readers. The fact is, the jury and the jury alone have the answers to which people and firms have offered the year’s best examples of architectural design and engineering prowess. Ok fine. If it happens to be September 30th and you happen to be reading this for the first time at the awards ceremony, I admit, I probably know by now. But, ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.

Now that the Awards are looming and there’s evidence of the building industry booming (in places), I’ve got to admit, I’m beginning to feel a bit...hmm...optimistic. We announced this year’s event on the back of the highly successful ‘first annual’ MEA Awards back in October 2008. Needless to say, a lot has happened since then. Most of it was bad.

But the ironic part about all of this is that the 2009 MEA Awards promises to be an even better, more representative nomination/selection process than the original. While I do not know who the winners are right now, I have seen every nomination that’s come in and, honestly, I am shocked.

While last year’s nominations were largely concept-based, the 2009 version—with the exception of one category—will be awarding finished projects. While most of the 2008 nominations came from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, this year’s nominations span from Morocco across to Gujarat and from Lebanon down to Yemen. And, while last year’s nominations were all manner of size, shape and variety, this year we switched to a digital format that asked nominees to answer specific questions, thus requiring much more critical thought about the project they were submitting.

All of this has combined to create a richer, more comprehensive MEA Awards and I’m shocked because it all happened in the middle of what experts have now called the 21st Century’s Great Depression.

Most people will tell you that they never got into the building business to win awards. Most will tell you that award ceremonies are publicity stunts. Well, truth be told, I didn’t get into the journalism business to give away awards and make no mistake, the MEA Awards are about publicity.

They’re about publicising those people and practices that have strived to design and build the very best they could with what they had. Everyone has seen cutbacks this year. Whether those limited resources were of the financial, human or material variety, few will probably ever forget 2009. Be that as it may, some amazing projects were designed and finished in 2009 and that’s what the MEA Awards are about.

I hope the jury I’ve selected are hard at work remembering those projects. I hope my jury is celebrating the successes of those that persevered rather than the failures of those victimised by the financial crisis. I hope the Middle East Architect jurors have chosen to look past the politics and pettiness that can plague this industry and instead focused on the brilliance of the people and projects.

As people and professionals, I have the utmost faith in them and I, for one, am excited to find out who and what they’ve chosen.

lth. These same factors are what will allow it to recover much more quickly than places with larger populations and larger state-reliance on consumer wealth.

Fourth, record-breaking exhibitions. The 2009 versions of Saudi Build, Cityscape, Index and Big 5 all fall post-Ramadan and all are projecting larger-than-ever attendance. This tells me that the industry is healthy, but cautious. It tells me that people are waiting for the right projects; the projects that are designed and built with thought, care and common sense.

Reports of strengthening markets in North America and Asia are building confidence and, in this region, everyone who is anyone is projecting that post-Ramadan push. If the credit crisis illustrates confidence lost, perhaps post-Ramadan we’ll see the power of confidence gained.

Jeff Roberts is the group editor of ITP Business’ design tiles.

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