Robles (centre) ... “Dubai has created a lasting impression on us.”

THE US-based Creative Kingdom Inc – a thematic architectural design firm, specialising in resort, leisure and entertainment based design – says it has been so impressed with Dubai’s approach to developing its amenities that it has recently established its regional office in the emirate.

“Our intention when we first came to Dubai some 15 months ago, was to create a lasting impression – well, Dubai’s done just that to us. So much so that we have opened our seventh international office, right here in Dubai,” says Eduardo Robles, CEO of Creative Kingdom.
In a short span of time the company has been involved with some of the major projects in the kingdom, including the Madinat Jumeirah, which has become a Middle East calling card for the firm.
Commenting on the project, Robles recollects: “We were thrown the ultimate challenge – to come up with the concept design for an exceptional coastal resort development on a site set between a row of sheikhs’ palaces and the Burj Al Arab, and by the way, ‘you’ve only got 12 days’, said the client. As usual we went above and beyond in exceeding the clients expectations.”
“When the client is HH General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister, the challenge becomes that much more compelling and daunting, especially when two further absolutes are thrown in – the requirement to have the initial phase (a 300-room luxury hotel complex) completed in time for the IMF meeting less than 18 months away and the request to include part of “Old Dubai” in the concept – against the modern iconic backdrop of Burj Al Arab.
“The rest is now history – literally – thanks to our exceptional design team led by Thanu Boonyawatana, the commitment of our dedicated staff to meet the ongoing challenge, and the unparalleled support we received from our direct client, Mirage Mille and its professional team.
Elaborating about the design aspects Boonyawatana says: “It was imperative for us to come up with a concept design that diametrically opposed yet complemented the iconic symbol of the Burj Al Arab’s presence. Hence we introduced into the concept the distinctive symbols of the past way of life in Dubai – tall wind-towers, navigable creeks, traditional market suqs, and sheikh’s palaces – all on a scale not seen before.
“Phase III of the project has been especially exciting for the designers, as the brief allowed for an out-of-the-box approach – one that particularly suited Creative Kingdom’s design style. This phase focuses on the entertainment aspect of the development and incorporates special villas, health spa, the suq, night club, banquet convention centre, and an open-air amphitheatre.”
“The all air-conditioned suq – a labyrinth of high arched alley-ways and shops, which will house every imaginable trading activity represented in the bygone days – will be a memorable experience for any visitor to Dubai,” says Robles.
Adds Bobby Caragay, Creative Kingdom’s partner in charge of operations: “We were allowed to freely explore our architectural expression of the component parts of this entertainment node and believe that the result will be a place where tourists have the opportunity not only to lose themselves in Dubai’s past but to experience Dubai’s greater hospitality. The concept we’ve created will truly become a ‘must-see’ destination – a total experience.
The way this project has evolved over time since it was first approved, one is left with the feeling of ‘what next’ – Creative Kingdom has an enviable track record of having created the concept design of similar, exceptional international projects.
Prior to the formation of Creative Kingdom, Robles and Boonyawatana were the co-designers of the Palace of the Lost City in South Africa, the luxury themed hotel and resort development for Sun International.
The firm’s association with Mirage Mille has its roots in the Palace of the Lost City project where Dene Murphy, presently chairman of Mirage Mille, was development director of Sun International.
“This association has been good for both parties who have teamed up more recently on the redevelopment of Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club,” says Robles.
South Africa has presented Creative Kingdom with several opportunities to fully utilise the firm’s design potential.
“One specific project that comes to mind is the creative design that went into the concept for the Palazzo InterContinental Hotel and themed retail development for Tsogo Sun in Fourways, Johannesburg,” says Robles.
“The external architectural concept developed by Creative Kingdom revolved around the creation of an ancient hilltop village in Tuscany, with a protective wall sheltering it, resulting in a secure leisure venue consisting of a themed retail village complete with cobbled streets and a piazza market square.”
Following the completion of the Madinat Jumeirah project, the firm has been approached by Nakheel to establish and manage its architectural design department in Dubai to work on concept designs for its many projects which are ‘world firsts’ – The Palm Jumeirah, The Palm Jebel Ali, and The World Islands. Of the experience gained, Robles comments: “We are proud to be associated with Nakheel’s visionary executive team and continue to place Nakheel as one of our premier clients internationally.”
Besides these projects, Creative Kingdom currently has architectural design assignments in locations covering South Africa, Dubai, Qatar, Bahrain, Russia, Japan and the US.
Gabriel Rodriguez, vice president, operations, describes the logistical challenges that this widespread workflow poses to the management team, as exciting.
 “We have the ability to offer our clients a fast-track service by making use of time differences between our various offices – we like to refer to it as the “24/7 edge”. This process is facilitated through our investment in modern IT communication systems,” he comments.
Robles adds: “We are looking to further expand our clientele base, both in Dubai and further afield in the Gulf region as a whole. Whilst we are probably best known for our work on hotels and resorts, our experience also spans across themed retail, entertainment and leisure; and theme parks and high-rise sectors. We offer a full range of services including master planning, concept design through schematic to design development stages.”