Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Scale model makers are building business in Dubai at this year’s Cityscape

Companies that make scale models for megaprojects have experienced a surge in business this year, after a slump dating back to the financial crisis.
Scale model maker 3dr stole the show at Cityscape with its model of the Mall of the World, as well as this 143 square metre model of La Mer — the biggest at the show.  Antonie Robertson / The National
Scale model maker 3dr stole the show at Cityscape with its model of the Mall of the World, as well as this 143 square metre model of La Mer — the biggest at the show. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // For the people who make scale models of the city’s property developments, Cityscape has been a somewhat subdued affair for the past few years.

The lack of major new property developments since the financial crisis of 2008 has meant that the firms who build replicas of new developments for display have been at a loss for new work.

However, that has changed this year, with the announcement of dozens of new megaprojects, such as the Dh25 billion Mall of the World, in Dubai.

Dani Bterrani, director of 3dr Models, who provided 84 models for this year’s event, said business has risen by about 70 per cent from the previous year.

“We are receiving new orders even now and I can tell you that what you saw at Cityscape is only five per cent of what is planned for the future of Dubai,” he said.

Mr Bterrani said the company’s fortunes were tied closely to that of the real estate industry as a whole.

“We are intimately connected to the market,” he said. “A boost in real-estate projects, means that we also have more orders. Our models are there basically to illustrate the developers’ vision.”

He said his company’s position meant it could sometimes see how the market was turning far before it happens.

“We tend to see the tomorrow of Dubai,” he added. “Models are the first thing that is made, and we see the new projects before anyone else sees it.

“I can tell you now that the future is bright in Dubai.”

Mr Bterrani said the only time business was at this level before was in 2008, before the crisis.

Back then though, the ideas were wildly impractical; from underwater hotels, to rotating towers. At one stage there were even plans to build a resort 300 metres in the sky that resembled a cloud, suspended by beams that, in turn, were made to resemble falling rain.

As soon as a new project was announced, a scale model was commissioned. However, that all changed with the crisis.

Mr Bterrani’s company, which has its head office in Hong Kong but has offices in Dubai, went from having about 30 per cent of its business come from Dubai in 2008, to about five per cent.

At the peak in 2008, there were as many as 60 companies making similar models but now only a fraction remain, said Mujib Pali, account manager at Euphoria Model Makers.

“During the recession we didn’t have any business from Dubai at all,” he said. “The only way we survived was by getting business from outside the country, like Africa and Saudi Arabia.

“We had to let go of many staff during that time in order to keep costs down. But now we’re having to hire more than five people by next month to handle the demand.

“People want a huge model made in 10 or 15 days and, at the moment, we just don’t have the manpower.

“Obviously though, it’s not something to complain about as the business is much better than it was.”

Euphoria had three major models in Cityscape this year, including the masterplan development for Dubai Sports City.

3dr stole the show though, with the model for the Mall of the World, as well as a 143 square metre model of La Mer — the biggest in the show.

In addition, the company had to use a crane to install a 4.5-metre model of the Skai Tower, a new development by Skai Holdings.

That, along with about 75 per cent of the company’s other orders for Cityscape, were requested in the four weeks before the show, which Mr Bterrani describes somewhat mildly as a “challenge”.


Updated: October 2, 2014 04:00 AM