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City&Country: 3DReid expands presence with global collaborations

3DReid is one of the UK’s largest architectural firms, born of a merger between 3D Architects and REID Architecture. Its completed projects include the commercial flight Farnborough Airport in the UK; the 254,028.28 sq ft Vanwall Business Park in Maidenhead, UK; and 79-84 High Street in Birmingham, a 3-storey retail landmark that has 43,000 sq ft of net lettable area.

Its global ambition is to export its competencies in designing airports, hotels, education facilities and mixed developments, as well as formulating master plans, given the adaptability of these projects to different contexts. Tasked with spearheading the practice’s expansion in Asia is 3DReid Asia-Pacific’s newly appointed regional director Azmall Jamaluddin.

Azmall spent the last 15 years in the UK, since his days as a student of architecture there. He only returned home in March before setting up 3DReid’s local headquarters in June at the Petronas Twin Towers.

“We had been considering Singapore as our regional hub, but because we have two running projects here and needed local knowledge, we decided this was a good place to set up base,” Azmall tells City & Country.

Malaysian projects
Azmall is currently involved in the master plan and design of two projects in Terengganu that are intended to transform and redefine the area between Dungun, Kuala Terengganu and Tasik Kenyir into a commerce and tourism hub under the East Coast Economic Region (ECER) master plan.
The firm, together with local outfit W&W Architects, won the bid for the two projects worth over RM1 billion in early 2009. One of the projects is expected to span 150 acres in Teluk Bidara, about a two-hour drive from Kuala Terengganu.

Teluk Bidara is set to be transformed into a high-end resort area with a cultural centre while part of the neighbouring fishing village will be turned into canal villas. However, the project is still in the early stages as the two firms are in the process of refining their plans to ensure that the project can work from a technical and business standpoint, says Azmall, adding that the Terengganu government is hoping to attract international boutique developers to participate in the development of the area.

3DReid’s second project involves the development of a master plan for the 2.8km coastline in front of Dungun. As beach erosion is a problem, the plan includes breakwaters to protect the beach as well as a beach-nourishment programme to protect the coastline.

The stretch is set to become a “public living room”, where peple can indulge in recreational activities. It will have safe swimming areas, and also on the cards are a seafood drive and waterfront promenade to bring in tourist dollars and ultimately, stimulate economic activity in line with sustainable development.

“I think the key [considerations] to sustainability design are profitable business, benefiting the local community, and environmentally friendly buildings,” he opines.

3DReid is also bidding for two university campus master developments in Iskandar Malaysia, Johor. “We’ve been shortlisted for both projects. I think we have a strong chance of winning,” Azmall says.

In China, the firm is involved in Pier 16, a mixed development along the Huang Pu river, facing the thriving Pudong area in Shanghai, not far from the 88-storey Jin Mao Tower, following a design competition.

Designed to complement the older 2 and 3-storey buildings in the area, the development will comprise five high-rise towers of office, hotels and serviced apartments, ranging from 40 to 60 storeys high, as well as a 2 to 3-storey retail street.

“The objective is to create a new central business district along the Huang Pu river. It is an extension to the existing bund, or riverfront project, which is a famous promenade in China,” he says.

The development also calls for a new ferry terminal, which will eventually become part of the area’s transport hub.

“Our mixed-use development is trying to capture all these new important meeting points and linking them. So one of the challenges here is how do we create something unique that relates to the surrounding areas,” Azmall says.

3DReid is tying up with Irish property developer Ballymore in this project, which is still in the conceptual stage. The Shanghai authorities like the concept of redevelopment, he adds.

Azmall says another project his firm is working on is in the Middle East, the Abu Dhabi Education Council’s new headquarters and its associated master development. It will comprise offices and an auditorium that has been innovatively designed to contend with desert temperatures and to maximise space.

While the project is still on the drawing board, preliminary assessments have shown that the project has met the region’s highest environmental rating, the Estidama Five Pearls, which is equivalent to the UK’s BREAAM Outstanding rating.

Future goals
On plans to extend the firm’s Asia-Pacific footprint, Azmall says: “My long-term goal for 3DReid Asia-Pacific is for it to be the master planner and architect of choice. But before that, my aim is to build a strong base here before venturing into Southeast Asia and then Asia-Pacific.”

Azmall aims to enter Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines within the next 12 months. 3DReid has already formed collaborations with other firms in Australia, India and China. “The aim is to expand our presence in China and India as well,” he adds. Striking up partnerships will be the firm’s modus operandi for expansions as it is more cost-effective.

“We undertake projects through a non-binding joint venture partnership with local architects or other consultants and developers. This will allow us to provide cost-effective services, and also enable us to have the right talent specific to a particular type of project.

“The challenging economic situation that we faced in the UK has forced us to look at creative ways of establishing new business contacts and promoting the company in a very cost-effective way through partnerships with local consultants, developers and government agencies,” Azmall explains.

Moreover, partnerships will allow 3DReid to share its skills with local counterparts while benefiting from their knowledge of local regulations, materials, climate and culture, he adds.

“Globally, we are looking at South America, particularly Brazil. Our market research estimates that Brazil will have high economic growth due to the World Cup and Olympic Games,” says Azmall.

Trends
While he agrees that green designs are here to stay, Azmall notes that an interesting offshoot from the movement, which will become more evident next year, is the incorporation of intermediate or sky garden terraces in Malaysia’s urban high-rises. He says the Building Information Modelling (BIM), a dynamic new designing tool, is also changing how architecture is done.

Azmall cites his firm’s experience with BIM in building the Cooperative Group (COOP) head office in Manchester, where the entire construction process took 100 days because of the streamlined designing and consultative process.

He says the new tool will also enable prefabricated construction to be undertaken, provided that the right materials and talents are available. Azmall feels that prefabricated housing could play a greater role in filling the country’s housing needs.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 836, Dec 13-19, 2010

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