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Romancing the dragon: from mud to moon boats - The Saudi Pavilion construction project

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The September APMHK event was held at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club on 18 September 2012. The event featured a presentation entitled Romancing the Dragon: from Mud to Moon Boats made by Henry Stevens, Project Director and Head of ISG Realys Consulting (Hong Kong). Henry shared with members and guests his personal experience project managing the construction of a dramatic new building for Saudi Arabia for Expo 2010, in Shanghai, China.

Henry has over 17 years of project management experience in Asia, and has held senior positions, both as client, architect and Project Director in Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Qualified as an architect with Norman Foster, He has directed some of ISG Asias most important projects from design to occupation including The Carmel & Kellett School, the 450,000 sq. ft. Morgan Stanley Headquarters, both in Hong Kong, and the Saudi Expo Pavilion in Shanghai.

Henry explained that the Saudi Arabia Pavilion was designed to be the basis of a cultural exchange between Saudi Arabia and China. It needed to be a showcase for Saudi Arabia to China and the world. The pavilion has been the collaboration between Chinese and Saudi architects and the project team and client teams speaking four different languages, based in four countries. Henry described the experience as rewarding, partly because he was able to keep the core team small and close knit, despite the diversity of cultures and experiences.

The Saudi pavilion consist of a silk road treasure boat situated in a happy desert and with the theme of vitality for life, the pavilion shows the Arabian wisdom in creating wonderful image using 360 degree image projection to illustrate the vibrancy of an environment without rivers and lakes. This highly distinctive landmark was visited by over two million Expo attendees in the six months of the International Expo.

The Saudi Arabia Pavilion was the gold medal winner in Expo 2010 and covered a total area of 6,000 square meters. It features a huge hanging boat shaped like a half moon rising out of the earth with the worlds largest parabolic walk-through 3D IMAX cinema, at 1,600-square-meters boasting a screen larger than any other in the world.

It also features a 90-meter waterfall and uses over three kilometers of structural steel piling and 1,400 tons of steel work.

The first floor of the moon boat is a garden with both Chinese and Saudi Arabia trees growing, symbolizing the friendship between the two nations. The pavilion features a 2,000-square-meter cultural plaza where traditional cultural activities take place. The main entrance and exit of the pavilion form part of the pavilion hall, which features an enormous atrium with walls and fountains with rich Arabic geometrical latticework. There is also a 25,000-square-foot roof-top public garden planted with 150 date palm trees, which are common in the desert country.

Tents are put up under the date trees for visitor to experience the feeling of living in the desert with a hanging garden, symbolizing an oasis.

The project was delivered on time and to budget, but with some minor quality compromises, Henry admitted. To achieve the project goals, Henry explained how he developed trust with the client and Chinese building contractor, and most especially with Minister of Agriculture who acted as project sponsor on behalf of the King. The trust enabled decisions to be made quickly and executed immediately without bureaucracy, which was how, the project could be delivered in time to promote the proud and positive image of Saudi Arabia, which it set out to achieve.


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