Architect argues that it can learn from mistakes of forerunners in UAE market

Malcom McGowan, the managing partner of Sheppard Robson, has acknowledged that the architect is “coming late to the party” in the Middle East with its decision, announced last week, to open its first international office there.

However, in a interview with Building he said this would allow the firm to learn from the mistakes of other British firms who have been working with Middle Eastern clients with payment problems.

He emphasised that the firm was being cautious in its first foray outside the UK and said that it was “not going to set up offices all over the place”.

“We narrowed it down to Qatar and Abu Dhabi, but went for Abu Dhabi because it’s got a lot of oil and a comprehensive masterplan,” he said.

McGowan said there were no specific targets for staff or turnover but the firm was “not looking to create a large office”.

He denied that the move was a response to a tough market in the UK and said that the workload of the London office was growing and Manchester was stable, however Glasgow is suffering from “difficult trading”.

He added that many buildings constructed during the boom in the UAE have proved visually impressive yet “hopeless” at functioning in practice.

“A lot of the buildings out there are iconic, but they are hopeless at actually working,” he said.

He said this was down to the speed of the construction boom in the UAE and relatively inexperienced clients, but that the market was now “maturing”.

McGowan said that the practice would work across all major sectors.