Over the past 20 years, we have seen great advances in regional design and architecture. This has been driven in large part by the strategic use of iconic structures as a key element of international branding. Projects such as Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, Riyadh’s Kingdom Tower and Mecca’s Clock Tower are all emblematic of the cities where they are sited.

The real estate sector too has seen designs become more daring as developers compete to attract high-end investors and residents. Meanwhile, local practices are competing on equal terms with overseas big-name firms. There has also been an increase in the number of students from the region studying architecture, both at home and abroad. The result is a fast-growing local talent pool.

While there is no unified regional style or school, the beauty and benefits of traditional designs are being rediscovered. Ancient technologies such as wind towers are on the drawing board again, integrated into modern cooling systems for state-of-the-art skyscrapers and malls.

Just a few years ago, large-scale commercial and residential buildings across the region were typically repetitive, utilitarian blocks, produced on unimaginative corporate drawing boards. Today, they are innovative, iconic and unique.

World Architecture Festival

This region has become a showcase for fantastic architecture, and MEED’s Middle East Architecture supplement highlights just a small portion of designs. The 10 projects profiled here were all shortlisted at last year’s World Architecture Festival in Singapore. More regional highlights will be on display in Dubai on 10-11 February, when MEED hosts the inaugural World Architecture Series: Dubai.

Enjoy the supplement, and I look forward to seeing you at the festival.

Richard Thompson