American Architect Designs Iconic Projects

American Architect Designs Iconic Projects

| By Alma Kadragic | May 23, 2009 12:31 PM ET

(ABU DHABI, UAE) -- Catching up with architect Gregory Dungan AIA isn't the easiest thing because he's moving most of the time and spends around 50 percent of each year traveling outside the Orlando area that represents home base for his family and his company, HHCP Design International, with offices in Maitland, Florida, Puerto Rico . . . and Shanghai.

Those two facts tell a lot of the story. Domestic business is down for what Dungan describes as a mid size regional firm employing 80 people and focusing on Florida and the Southeast United States with niche markets in Forensic Expertise and Healthcare throughout the United States. "We're not known nationally," he explained, "but internationally, we compete with the best in the world."

One of HHCP's defining moments as an international design company came in 1997 when Dubai's ruler came up with the idea of the Palm islands, and HHCP was selected to create the master plan for the Palm Jumeirah, the first of what grew into three palm-shaped artificial island complexes.

Palm Jumeirah design and site utilization work won the company awards in 2004, 2005, and 2006 from ARDA, the American Resort Development Association. But today, work in Dubai has slowed down as the emirate faces an almost complete stoppage of funding for real estate projects. Work on the Palm Jumeirah has slowed down too, and everyone seems to be waiting before embarking on new developments.

Dungan who's been in Dubai during the very good times says today, "The key for us is keeping in contact with clients. We're maintaining relationships while waiting for things to turn around." At the same time, he's "re-establishing contact with a lot of old colleagues that were in Dubai and are now in Abu Dhabi and other parts of the world."

The UAE's capital is "slow growth where Dubai in five years has done 30 years of work," Dungan estimates. Abu Dhabi is 90 minutes south of Dubai, along a fast highway. So far it seems to be avoiding much of the economic turmoil that has affected Dubai and is pushing ahead with major initiatives like the cultural destination Saadiyat Island with major museums like the Louvre and Guggenheim and the Yas Island Formula 1 track.   

But the UAE is only part of the international business picture for HHCP. As Managing Partner and Senior Vice President of HHCP, Dungan estimates that the company at present finds 40 percent of its international business in the Middle East and 60 percent in China. A dramatic example of an HHCP project in Shanghai, China, is AutoWorld, billed as the world's first interactive automobile theme park. While President and Partner Larry Zieberth handles China, Dungan is HHCP's man in the Middle East.

Today, Dungan says, much of the Middle East business for HHCP is in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. One of the world's most dramatic projects under consideration is "Vertropolis" outside of Riyadh. The design of three skyscrapers twisting toward the sky and illuminated at night won the firm the 2008 Award of Excellence from the American Institute of Architects.

In Egypt the Madenaty resort and residential community in Cairo is designed as an oasis of luxury for 600,000 residents. In Egypt's second city and main Mediterranean port Alexandria; the firm has created "Alexandria Downtown," an urban center for mixed use development that is planned as a green design with a focus on energy sustainability.

For the near future, Dungan sees exciting possibilities in Syria, Libya, and India. The first two were long isolated under US sanctions; now they are emerging and looking to development projects. Dungan hopes to capitalize on his readiness to grab a suitcase and go. He knows "the importance of hands on" in nurturing international projects and says he is determined to be there when and where the client needs him.

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