x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

New media zone to catch the eye

New zone would be a final step in realising Abu Dhabi's goal to make the capital a centre of Arabic content creation

Wayne Borg, the chief operating officer of twofour54 in the company?s booth at Cityscape in ADNEC.
Wayne Borg, the chief operating officer of twofour54 in the company?s booth at Cityscape in ADNEC.

When Abu Dhabi's new media zone becomes reality, visitors will see a striking group of buildings that resemble high-tech televisions set at 45-degree angles to surrounding streets, according to plans unveiled by twofour54 yesterday. Wayne Borg, the chief operating officer of twofour54, said the new zone would be a final step in realising Abu Dhabi's goal to make the capital a centre of Arabic content creation and media for the Middle East. The media zone exists already in a temporary campus of buildings near Khalifa Park.

"While it's all good to attract the industry here, the challenge we've faced is creating an environment that supports creativity," he said at the Cityscape Abu Dhabi property show yesterday. The permanent, 6.5 million square foot media zone is scheduled to be completed in four years, with more than 12,000 people working there. Zone 2, one of the biggest plots, will house Abu Dhabi Media Company's (ADMC) new headquarters, designed by the architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox. ADMC is the owner and publisher of The National.

Mr Borg said the buildings were designed to encourage an atmosphere of collaboration and creativity. twofour54 has hired Diller Scofidio + Renfro of New York to develop ways for people "to experience and interact with its creative environment". A 3D video shown yesterday depicted giant screens on to which films could be projected, and interactive facades creating light displays that respond to dancers inside a studio.

The buildings, which will be no more than 100 metres tall, are angled to protect them from the harshest periods of sunlight. They are built on top of "podiums" featuring large public spaces. A bridge will connect all the buildings, creating a single walkway through the centre of the development. A longer-term strategy was to enhance the perception of media in the UAE and Middle East, Mr Borg said.

"Given that the industry hasn't existed [here] before, it's very important to engage with the community," he said. "There is a lot of transparency to help people understand what the media is about and its role. We want to encourage young people to be part of this, and an important part of doing that is getting parents to understand and endorse the industry." Apart from traditional media industries such as journalism, twofour54 is seeking to make the zone a centre for video production, broadcasting, digital media, gaming, publishing and music.

"Where possible, we wanted to create spaces to give people the ability to communicate," Mr Borg said, "whether that's through screenings or performances." The ADMC headquarters, for instance, will have a multistorey screen on its facade that will feature content from the company but also act as an outdoor screening location at night. The media zone will lead into Mubadala Development's Mina Zayed project, which will feature low-rise waterfront buildings, entertainment venues and a large cylindrical building that will house three of the MGM Mirage hotel brands: MGM Grand; Skylofts; and Bellagio.

"It's about creating creativity through physical spaces," Mr Borg said of the area, "like Soho in London, parts of New York City and Berlin." bhope@thenational.ae