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Onsite: Cultural Fusion.

Calling on architecture from the past and blending it with modern technology, Katara's Commercial Plaza is set to turn heads when it is finally revealed.

Glinting in the early morning sun, one of several copper domes indicates that the latest addition to Doha's Cultural Village is well on its way to completion, as the Commercial Plaza development takes shape.

The mixed-use development is a collection of eight buildings, each with its own specific purpose, from an international hotel brand to an assortment of retailers and eateries. While all this may sound familiar when describing a mall, there are a number of clearly defining differences.

Dominating the layout is an expansive promenade that stretches 250 metres down the spine of the complex which in turn, is bordered on either side by immense, pillared and arched buildings, crowned by gleaming copper domes.

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The overall impression is of grandeur and interestingly, in such a new country, a feeling of permanence and of time is achieved.

Amr Abdul Fattah Shihab, GM Imperial Trading & Contracting Co. WLL. (ITCC), the main contractor on the project, is expansive in his enthusiasm about the complex: "This plaza is not only a mall, it's more than that. What makes it different is not only its setting in the Katara Cultural Village, but it blends different cultures from the world over, from Asia to America.This complex is a modern mall but with an ancient spirit; the spirit of Arabia, while the design reflects the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome."

Qatar Design Consortium (QDC) who designed the ambitios project, brought in India-based company, Strategies for Advanced Building Solutions (SABS) Architects & Engineers Pvt Ltd to undertake the BIM requirements on which the project relied heavily. SABS allied with Autodesk in 2008, when they started working on the Children's Mall section of the project. SABS' part involved concept design of the recreational centre, spread across 3,600m[sup.2].

The whole development is designed to be constructed as a green building and aims to attain GSAS 4-star rating.

There were a number of challenges in the construction of the complex, including the unusual Children's Mall, with its two gift-wrapped buildings. While the concept was from a company named Linear Concept, one of the challenges of the design was the angled walls. The wrapped present-shaped structure, replete with bow, was complex as there were no perpendicular external lines, as the gift wrapped present is twisted at three different axis of 45 degree each. So too, the horizontal cylindrical structure supporting the main construction represents a box of cookies, with curved walls. The cylindrical building required a German stainless steel fastening system made specifically for the type of stone used and Shihab adds: "We had to create something three-dimensional; it was like someone asking you to reach an unachievable target. It was unrealistic but we made it realistic, like flying without a plane!" he adds with pride.

With enabling works, including the two underground basements which contain the parking and facilities/services areas completed, as main contractor, ITCC started the second phase, the super-structure and external works in July 2013. Drawing on expertise and materials from around the globe, the Commercial Plaza is indeed a blend of cultures and international skills.

The huge blocks of stone of which the towering edifices are made, at times weighed more than a tonne each, and were sourced from the far reaches of Rajasthan in India, which brought its own set of challenges.

"This is stone, not simply 5cm cladding," Shihab stresses. "These were blocks of stone from the Indian mountains, imported in huge quantities that could not be manufactured in India."

The tonnage of imported stone was impressive: the mint stone for the buildings weighed in at approximately 7,000 tonnes while stone for the central pathway came to about 250 tonnes and stone for the open areas amounted to 2,500 tonnes.

"We had to ship them as bulk to China and to Oman for cutting, with the remainder manufactured in India.

"We sent our Indian technicians to each country to coordinate the stone cutting, staying in-country for a year, while our engineers here in Qatar made sure the stone matched, like a huge puzzle," he explains.

So too, Portuguese stonemasons were brought in to lay the stone from their home country for the vast promenade, hand-chiselled to fit like a huge mosaic, and the Indian stonemasons were brought in to fit and position their Indian-sourced tone.

All the copper used throughout the project, including the street lamps, hanging lights and the cladding of the many domes, came from the United Kingdom and the marble from Italy and Spain.

And the Arabic influence?

Well for one, the domes appear Arabic but there is a mix from the whole area Shihab informs, "From Istanbul, Iran, Arabic area..." he trails off and adds with a grin, "The only thing that is 100% Arabic is the development's location!"

He explains that the entire complex is presently at fit-out stage which will take about a year to complete and adds that ITCC is looking at involvement in this stage, to make it a 'turnkey' project for the company.

Now, waiting to be 'unwrapped' in its launch a year down the line, the Commercial Plaza and Children's Mall is going to be a surprise when it is finally revealed - a true gift for all.

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Publication:Construction Week
Date:Oct 9, 2016
Words:911
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