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News releases 2014

The Middle East is at a “tipping point” in its level of maturity and understanding of smart urban development, according to Atkins' design director, Matthew Tribe.

Addressing an audience of industry leaders at the Arab Future Cities summit in Doha, Qatar, this morning, Matthew told delegates that there is now ample evidence of international best practice being applied across the region and this is creating a blueprint for ongoing success.

“There are pockets of excellence in the region, notably in Dubai, where an integrated and holistic approach is embedded in the DNA of the authorities, the leading developers and their consultants,” he said. “This is driving some exceptional urban design which would stand shoulder to shoulder with anything across the world.

“We’re now seeing a strong appetite for world class urban development in both Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and it is approaching the right level of maturity for us to reach a crucial tipping point. As clients really start to appreciate the art of the possible, it will lead to raised expectations for consistently high levels of urban planning and design.”

Matthew told delegates that the key to developing truly smart urban environments in the Middle East is collaboration, holistic thinking and careful planning towards a shared goal. He explained that the questions which need to be asked at the outset of any urban development project are always the same, but the answers are always unique.

“Successful urban development should add value at every level – socially, economically, environmentally and contextually,” said Matthew. “These needs are not mutually exclusive – they work hand-in-hand to create places which really work.

“I’ve been advising clients in the Middle East for the past 10 years, but the understanding of what it takes to deliver great urban design is at an unprecedented level which is making for an incredibly exciting marketplace.”

Matthew said that the respective long terms visions of the countries of the GCC can provide the building blocks for smart urban environments.

“Doha, in particular, has a fantastic opportunity as it prepares for the 2022 World Cup to create a legacy which lives up to the Qatar National Vision,” he added. “By staying true to this vision, Doha can become a beacon for smart urban design.”


For more information:

Ben Thompson
Head of communications, Middle East
+971 44059193 

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Notes to editors:

Atkins ( is one of the world's leading design, engineering and project management consultancies*, employing some 17,400 people across the UK, North America, Middle East, Asia Pacific and Europe. Our people’s breadth and depth of expertise and drive to ask why has allowed us to plan, design and enable some of the world’s most complex and time critical projects.

*14th largest global design firm (Engineering News-Record 2013) and the third largest multidisciplinary consultancy in Europe (Svensk Teknik och Design 2013).

Recent projects

Atkins is working across urban regeneration, masterplanning, national energy programmes, major transport schemes, water and environment projects - applying smart design solutions on projects including:

  • Doha Central Planning Office - helping to co-ordinate Qatar’s National 2030 Vision for world class transport infrastructure, which will bring major benefits to the economy;
  • The London 2012 Games infrastructure transformation - as technical advisor to London’s boroughs as the Olympic Park moves into its legacy configuration as a follow-on role to our work as the Games’ official engineering and design provider;
  • UAE’s peaceful nuclear new build programme - providing technical assurance to lenders backing the United Arab Emirates’ most ambitious energy infrastructure projects;
  • North Sea and Gulf of Mexico oil and gas platforms - extending the operational life of critical oil and gas platforms to allow cost-efficient and safe recovery of fuel sources from mature fields;
  • SSE offshore wind alliance - provision of expert engineering and design support for the UK’s biggest offshore wind alliance with Scottish and Southern Energy;
  • Crossrail - designing the Central London twin tunnels and station architecture for Europe’s biggest civil engineering scheme which will see tunnels passing beneath 470 listed buildings and critical infrastructure;
  • Etihad Railway - providing multidisciplinary design expertise on the 1,200 km Etihad Rail network which will revolutionise passenger and freight transport in the UAE;
  • Denmark ERTMS - providing multidisiplinary signalling expertise on the first countrywide installation of an ERTMS train control and management system in Denmark;
  • Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge - lead consultant on this integral part of the new Hong Kong link road scheme which will significantly boost land connectivity in the region;
  • Lowestoft Sixth Form College - design of the ultralow energy consumption Lowestoft College in the UK which aims to reduce operational energy use by more than 60% compared to previous designs;
  • UK National Composites Centre - providing technical expertise to bring the latest lightweight carbon fibre materials to all engineering sectors, helping to develop innovative applications and reduce costs and carbon;
  • US Environmental Protection Agency - providing technical assessment and analysis of national water-related resources and ecological systems in North America;
  • Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) superfast broadband – providing technical, commercial and procurement support to help deliver superfast broadband to one of Europe’s most remote regions.