In­ter­view

Stephen Ather­ton, de­sign direc­tor, Sobha Group talks about the am­bi­tious Sobha Hart­land project

Design Middle East - - Contents -

Stephen Ather­ton, de­sign direc­tor of Sobha Group, talks the Hart­land project

What was the de­sign vi­sion you had in mind for Sobha Hart­land?

The de­sign vi­sion was very clear which came from our chair­man, PNC Menon. He wanted a city with a city—ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment, su­pe­rior life­style and leisure-driven, con­tem­po­rary homes for the mod­ern fam­i­lies. The fo­cus is on the healthy liv­ing with lots of out­door spa­ces and large land­scape ar­eas. We are cen­trally lo­cated and even the prox­im­ity to the air­port is good.

What were the chal­lenges you came across?

When you’re con­struct­ing some­thing on a very scale ba­sis, there are daily chal­lenges that one comes across. We are build­ing a city so there was a lot of in­te­gra­tion and ob­tain­ing per­mis­sions with the lo­cal author­ity was re­quired es­pe­cially

with Roads and Traf­fic Author­ity (RTA). There were en­gi­neer­ing chal­lenges re­lated to wa­ter and site con­di­tions as well. Then one can­not go ahead with­out as­cer­tain­ing the mar­ket chal­lenges. Real es­tate is not what it was five or 10 years ago.

What are the stand­out de­sign fea­tures of this project?

In Hart­land, in the villa com­mu­nity, in­stead of the usual stan­dard ap­proach, we chal­lenged the Dubai Mu­nic­i­pal­ity with our ap­proach for L-shaped and U-shaped vil­las that ac­tu­ally push the vil­las close to each other in or­der to cre­ate an open court­yard. Use of dou­ble-height vol­umes and bring­ing in lots of nat­u­ral light into space was an im­por­tant point of the de­sign.

What is the big­gest USP of this project?

Open green space ded­i­cated to park ar­eas and land­scap­ing, the devel­op­ment is ideal for fam­i­lies and com­mu­nity liv­ing and this is our USP. Very few de­vel­op­ers would take the com­mer­cial de­ci­sion to take 18.5ha of their 74.3ha de­vel­opable land and throw it back into pub­lic space.

How tech­nol­ogy plays a role in the suc­cess of this project?

From our studio apart­ments to our six-bed­room man­sions, we have used great home au­to­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies. Like in the five-bed­room villa, we have fully-au­to­mated sys­tems like the light­ing, cur­tains, and air con­di­tion­ing is all con­trolled and even each in­di­vid­ual light in this villa is sin­gu­larly ad­dress­able. So, this is this level of con­trol we are giv­ing to our cus­tomers. We use one of the best home au­to­ma­tion plat­forms that are cur­rently avail­able in the mar­ket. All the apart­ments come with light­ing and air-con­di­tion­ing con­trol and peo­ple can up­grade their pack­age ac­cord­ing to their re­quire­ments.

What is your busi­ness strat­egy for this price-ori­ented mar­ket?

We have to look at the mar­ket, but we set our­selves above the mar­ket. It is not about mak­ing a quick buck, it’s about our brand and what­ever we do we have a level of qual­ity and we can­not go be­neath that. In terms of our price, we do bench­mark stud­ies; we see what is hap­pen­ing in the mar­ket. But we don’t tend to make that fo­cus of our busi­ness. The mantra is that the cheap­est is never the best. Shad­ing struc­tures and de­vices such as screens, over­hangs and lou­vres have been in­te­grated har­mo­niously into build­ing fa­cades and used the best prod­ucts. We have great con­sul­tants, en­gi­neers work­ing for us and they won’t com­pro­mise with the qual­ity at all. We also have an in­de­pen­dent qual­ity and tech­nol­ogy team who check each and ev­ery­thing from the foun­da­tion, the steel­work, to ac­tual han­dover, so that’s the level of qual­ity we of­fer.

What are your ex­pec­ta­tions from this project?

We are rel­a­tively a new­comer here. Once this project is com­plete, it will set a new bench­mark for the qual­ity, de­sign, and con­cept. It’s not just about mak­ing money; it’s about build­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

Stephen Ather­ton

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