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Enabling work has started on Foster and Partners' new $1.4 billion (£0.7 billion) Central Market scheme in Abu Dhabi.

Described as a 'city in microcosm', the 5.7ha mixed-use office, residential and retail development will transform the historic market in the capital of the United Arab Emirates. At the heart of the proposal, which features a cluster of three towers, will be a new 'souk' - a reinterpretation of the traditional Arabian marketplace. This maze of streets, courtyards and balconies will boast exible sliding roofs and walls, creating a home for both luxury shops and smaller craft-based stalls. A spokesman for Fosters said the design avoids 'the generic feel of the universal shopping mall' by fusing the 'local vernacular with global aspirations'. Backed by Middle East property developer ALDAR, the - rst phase of the scheme is expected to complete in mid-2008.

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