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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: French architects want to play a key part in Saudi Arabia’s “ambitious” building development program, the head of a major trade organization has revealed.
Members of French Architects for Export (AFEX) recently met with representatives of the Saudi French Business Council (CAFS) and other interested parties from the Kingdom, at an event organized by Business France.
Madeleine Houbart, secretary-general of AFEX, said: “We come to Saudi Arabia because we understand the scale and ambition of its projects and we want to be part of it.”
The meeting in Riyadh highlighted projects planned for the city, in line with Vision 2030 targets, and the potential for partnership deals.
We came to Saudi Arabia because we understand the scale and ambition of its projects and we want to be part of it.
Madeleine Houbart, French Architects for Export secretary-general
The 200-member CAFS was established 20 years ago to develop relations between the two countries and their business communities, promote companies, and improve cooperation.
The council’s vice president, Faiz Al-Elweet, said: “CAFS is committed to cover different sectors including healthcare, pharmaceuticals, defense and security, agriculture and food industry, energy, water, and the environment, mobility and logistics, and others.”
French architects offer expertise in the construction and design of technology driven retail 2.0 shopping experiences, residential units and office spaces, entertainment, hospitality, and healthcare with projects around the globe.
Heritage preservation has emerged as one of the main themes from meetings with the Diriyah Gate Development Authority, Ministry of Culture, Red Sea Global, and other Saudi bodies.
Talks have centered around how to reconcile tradition and modernity and maintain Salmani and Najdi architectural styles while giving them a modern twist in relation to urban planning schemes.
Al-Elweet urged event participants to join the CAFS and pointed out opportunities for international firms to locate their regional headquarters to Riyadh, secure government contracts in the country, and be part of Vision 2030 projects.
French government agency Business France promotes the country’s firms abroad, helps them with international expansion, access to markets, and network building, while working to establish their presence in Riyadh.
Among French companies taking part in the latest edition of the architecture event were Rougerie+Tanagram, Richez Associes, PCA Stream, Maison Edouard Francois, Unanime, Setec batiment, Terrell, and AW2.
The French delegation took part in a series of discussions and networking events showcasing French know-how, and urban and architectural projects.
Topics dealt with included sustainability as a practice instead of an add-on, the creation of a space conducive for best practices facilitating an engineering-based society, creating a community of innovation based on research and knowledge sharing, streamlining regulation, ensuring continuous industry education, reinforcing ideation to implementation or commercialization, and community engagement.
As well as building Franco Saudi partnerships in the field, business leaders aim to strengthen vocational training with Saudi architect interns working in French agencies, and ultimately set up an AFEX presence in the Kingdom.
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