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Jobs threatened by Abu Dhabi slowdown

Practices in the UK are being hit by a slowdown in the buoyant Abu Dhabi property market

Austin-Smith:Lord, ranked at number 7 in this year’s AJ100 list of Britain’s biggest practices (AJ 20.05.10), has admitted it is discussing redundancies with its workforce after one of its major schemes in Abu Dhabi was sent back to the feasibility stage.

Partner Rob Firth, who recently rejoined the company following five years at Capita Architecture, said a consultation period was now underway at the firm.

‘It is a difficult time for the staff, but hopefully we will make it as painless as possible,’ said Firth. ‘What is important is being open and being flexible in terms of reducing hours and pay to retain our quality people.’

Firth said that, while projects were still progressing in Abu Dhabi, there was caution ‘about how schemes were going ahead’ after the emirate handed more than £6 billion to its neighbour Dubai in December 2009 to help it pay off its debts.

Jack Pringle, partner at Pringle Brandon and former RIBA president, said he also understood there was a ‘cooling’ in Abu Dhabi, while Graham Morrison of Allies and Morrison said it was more of ‘a shift’ than a meltdown.

Morrison added that his firm, which has an office in Abu Dhabi, was receiving a growing number of invitations from nearby Saudi Arabia.

The AJ has already learned of British practices being brought on to the huge King Abdullah Sports City in Saudi Arabian city Jeddah. According to sources, the scheme is being worked on by Arup Associates, and a raft of other firms are said to have been approached, such as Peter Barber Architects, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and AECOM.

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