When Aukett Fitzroy Robinson set up its Abu Dhabi office, large tracts of the Corniche were still desert and there was not a single apartment available to rent in the city.
That was in the 1970s, when the company was tasked with designing the Abu Dhabi headquarters of the Bank of Credit and Commerce, a project that soon led to other commissions.
"It was the first modern, properly designed building in Abu Dhabi. It was quite pioneering work at the time," says Peter Mlodzianowski, 69, an architect with more than 40 years' experience, who worked at Aukett at the time and for most of his career before becoming a consultant in the United Kingdom.
The blue-glass building, as Mr Mlodzianowski calls it, still stands on the Corniche today and was the tallest structure in the emirate at 12-storeys high when it was first built.
"The Arab Monetary Fund rented the top floor of the blue-glass building," adds Mr Mlodzianowski.
"Jawad Hashim, the head of the Arab Monetary Fund really liked the blue-glass building and said [he wanted me] to build the new headquarters for the Arab Monetary Fund. He invited me to submit designs," he says.
Aukett won the bid on the basis of Mr Mlodzianowski's design and The Arab Monetary Fund headquarters became the firm's second building - and the new tallest structure at 20 storeys - in Abu Dhabi.
The architectural firm also designed the National Day grandstand just off 30th Street below the leaning building, Capital Gate, in Abu Dhabi.
Mr Mlodzianowski drew up the plans on his kitchen table, before the practice left the UAE in the mid-1980s when the price of oil plunged.
But it returned at the start of 2007 and has designed two hotels on Yas Island, among other projects.
"When we came here we knew the market was bubbling and very buoyant and it probably wouldn't last but we still took a view that we would have a permanent base here," says Nicholas Thompson, the chief executive of Aukett Fitzroy Robinson. And, for Aukett, that means a locally staffed one.
The firm, which is the only architectural company listed on the London Stock Exchange, also has branches in Russia, Germany, Czech Republic, Brazil and Colombia, all of which are primarily staffed by local people.
"We have an office in Russia, which has been there since 1989 and there are 35 staff - 34 are Russians," says Mr Thompson.
It is a strategy that helps the firm win more business, he adds. Aukett's Russian practice now works in the region and it can only do that because it is seen as Russian, not a branch of a British company.
"People in the region of Russia, in Siberia, only speak Russian, they don't speak English, so [a Russian workforce] is a huge benefit to us," says Mr Thompson.
"We're [constructing] 3,600 bedroom building for the Winter Olympics on the Black Sea," he adds.
Having local staff not only gives the company an advantage in terms of the language and connections - it shows everyone in that country Aukett is there to stay.
The Abu Dhabi practice does not as yet employ any Emiratis but the plan is to bring in local talent, as with the other overseas branches.
"We have tried all sorts of things and we know which ones don't work," says Mr Thompson.
"If we're going to be long term we have to be an Emirati practice, so long term I would expect the head of the practice to be an Emirati, should such a person wish to join us and be available."