About

Since 1961, SSH has been committed to delivering architectural and engineering consultancy services throughout the MEA region, employing over 1,000 people within offices located in Abu Dhabi, Algeria, Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait, London, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa.

Our team of international and regional talent is focused on returning a high level of quality and value to our clients, forging strong, long-term relationships with both them and our industry partners, employees and investors.

SSH is small enough to be a trusted partner that can provide high levels of local understanding and commitment to the markets, intimacy, innovation and agility to quickly respond to market and client changing conditions, yet big enough to be trusted to deliver large, complex and sometimes challenging programme of works, with a proven track record of delivery to key regional clients.

 
 
What drives us

Our People: We employ and empower people in a creative environment to ensure we meet our customers’ design and development challenges, while promoting a performance- and nurturing-based culture. Together, we plan and manage our resources to create a sense of community across the business.

Leadership: We offer regional leadership in delivering high standards of quality and value to our customers. Through leadership, we continue to raise our international and regional profile by means of innovation and the proficient delivery of landmark projects from design through to construction.

Commitment: We are committed to strengthening relationships built on trust and integrity, ensuring long-term stakeholder value is added through the realisation of our vision. SSH demonstrates tenacity to set and follow through on targets until the task is completed to the highest standards.

Collaboration: Externally, through collaboration with our partners, we deliver creative and efficient designs with exceptional engineering services built on a bedrock of trust. Internally, SSH holds diversity at our core, with driven employees who support one other to deliver exceptional outcomes for all stakeholders.

Innovation: By combining innovation, sustainability and creativity, SSH strives to act as an industry leader to make a difference in the future of design and project delivery for the environment in which we exist.
  

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Our Approach

SSH operates within strict legal and ethical guidelines in all our activities. We provide a challenging and rewarding environment for all employees and maintain a sharp focus on professional excellence, health and safety, as well as environmental awareness. It is our mission to work together to shape future environments through innovation, creativity and collaboration.

From planning to developing, we strive to maintain and extend our creative, design, technical, process and commercial expertise over our competitors. Our collaborative approach is reflected throughout our organisation and ensures that our customers and partners regard us as the firm to rely on for design and project delivery throughout the region.

 

What drives us

Our People: We employ and empower people in a creative environment to ensure we meet our customers’ design and development challenges, while promoting a performance- and nurturing culture. Together, we plan and manage our resources to create a sense of community across the business.

Leadership: We offer regional leadership in delivering high standards of quality and value to our customers. Through leadership we continue to raise our international and regional profile by means of innovation and the proficient delivery of landmark projects from design to construction.

Commitment: We are committed to strengthening relationships built on trust and integrity, ensuring long-term shareholder value through the realisation of our vision. SSH demonstrates tenacity to set and follow through on targets until the task is completed to the highest standards.

Collaboration: Through collaboration with the world’s leading designers and interdisciplinary teams, we deliver creative design and exceptional engineering services. SSH are relentlessly compelled by diversity and employees support one other to deliver exceptional outcomes for all stakeholders.

Innovation: By combining innovation, sustainability and creativity, SSH strives to act as industry leaders to make a difference in the future of design and project delivery.

 

Our Quality, Health and Safety, and Environmental Culture

Our quality philosophy is derived from a simple goal: ‘To recognise the needs of our customers and to fulfil them’. We adopt global best practice standards in the delivery of our services and maintain an environment of self-evaluation and continuous improvement.

We consider it our duty to design lasting architectural solutions that mitigate their lifecycle impact on environmental resources, as well as protect and enhance the wellbeing of the communities they serve. We actively encourage key project stakeholders to continually improve their own quality, health, safety and environmental performance standards and to share best practice as a means of improving and driving our industry forward, thereby helping them to protect lives, property and reputation. Every employee at SSH forms part of the organisation’s safety team, creating a total safety culture.

Our attention remains on quality execution to deliver the absolute best to our clients and each other by constantly reviewing our metrics.

SSH certifications:

  • ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System
  • ISO 45001:2018 Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) Management System
  • ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management System
  • ISO/IEC 27001:2013 Information Security Management System

Our sustainable development objective, through both design and practice, is to be global citizens in the local markets we serve.

1961

The Birth of an Exciting Possibility

SSH began as the glint of possibilities in the eye of a young architect five decades ago.

After graduating from the American University in Beirut, Sabah Abi-Hanna, on the advice of a professor, turned down an offer to work with the renowned Harry Seidler and took a job with the ministry of public works in Kuwait, a place he’d barely heard of before a summer internship the previous year. Kuwait had begun commercial shipments of oil in 1946 and by the 1950s a tidal wave of development had caused the historic port town to burst out through the old city wall into the desert.

A year into the job Sabah was dismissed when he returned two weeks late from his first ever trip overseas, taking in the architecture of Sydney, Manila and Tokyo.

He could have asked for his job back, but he decided to set up on his own. It was 1961, the year of Kuwait’s independence. He was 22. He was busy from the start. Early commissions included palaces for the royal family, branch offices for the National Bank of Kuwait, and the Sheikha Badriya mosque.

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1971

A New Partnership: Sabah Abi Hanna & Salem Al Marzouk

In 1971 Sabah met the US-educated civil engineer Salem al-Marzouk. A highway engineer in the Ministry of Public Works, Salem had just been elected as a member of Kuwait’s new National Assembly, where he was a reforming firebrand.

He campaigned against bureaucracy and corruption and was the first to introduce a bill for women’s voting rights (which wouldn’t be granted for another 35 years).

Within 48 hours of meeting they had hammered out a deal for joining forces. “It was as if God had sent him to me,” recalls Sabah.

The pair began targeting major public infrastructure schemes and master planning.

Only once did Salem use his political influence for business. In 1973 he lobbied the government to require foreign firms to work with local ones to build local capacity. He succeeded, to the benefit of all Kuwaiti firms.

He left politics in 1976 to avoid conflicts of interest.

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1976

Planning and Building: The New Kuwait

In 1976 the government awarded the master planning of the new Messilah District to a joint venture between SSH and the UK-based Shankland Cox Partnership (SCP). SCP’s man on the ground was the Australian architect and planner, Charles Bosel. He had directed development projects all over the world and Kuwait’s rapid urbanisation fascinated him.

SSH won more major planning studies, including for the planned new city of Subiya, the new business district at Fintas plan and, in 1977, the first major review of Kuwait’s national master plan.

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1980

A Third Partner and a Golden Era

Charles accepted a management consultancy role with SSH in 1977 and became a partner in 1980.

Kuwait forged ahead with its development in the 1980s, and SSH forged ahead with it. The firm was now designing and supervising some of the country’s largest infrastructure projects.

It was selected as part of a joint venture to design and build a huge conference and residential complex, the Bayan Palace, for the Fifth Islamic Summit Conference, which Kuwait was to host in 1987. The team had just over two years to deliver this high-spec facility for 108 visiting heads of state, and it was a success.

It seemed nothing could stand in SSH’s way.

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1990

The Invasion

The invasion in August 1990 took everyone by surprise. “Our project has been taken over by the Iraqi army,” a bewildered project manager told Sabah on the telephone on the morning of 2 August.

Sabah and Charles made harrowing overland escapes. In a rented apartment in Cyprus, with a just fax and a phone, Charles did his best to run an SSH office in exile.

When they returned, they had to rebuild the company from scratch. Its offices were ransacked, its computers and equipment were gone, its staff were scattered around the globe, and all projects were on hold.

Slowly they regrouped. A few key staff were tracked down and persuaded to return to a place the TV news showed was on fire. They located all of the nearly 200 employees and disbursed any pay owed, a duty many firms excused themselves from after the invasion.

The early 1990s were wilderness years. With staff numbers down to as low as 20, the company subsisted on remediation work for war-damaged buildings. The 1980s mood of progress and confidence was gone: in its place an atmosphere of suspicion and short-termism.

One bright moment came when Ali al-Abdullah, who had set up a task force in Washington D.C. to plan the reconstruction of Kuwait post-liberation, joined the firm in 1993.

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1997

Design and Supervision of Marina World Waterfront

When the appetite to invest returned, SSH was ready. It had never stopped attracting world-class talent. It had restructured, moving from the classic studio model, with the various service offerings led by a charismatic partner, to a balanced matrix that allowed the freer deployment of expertise in the firm. In 1997 SSH won the contract to master plan, design and supervise the ambitious Marina World Waterfront development in Salmiya. Today it is a hugely popular destination for Kuwaitis and visitors.

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2001

Time for New Blood

When the appetite to invest returned, SSH was ready. It had never stopped attracting world-class talent. It had restructured, moving from the classic studio model, with the various service offerings led by a charismatic partner, to a balanced matrix that allowed the freer deployment of expertise in the firm. In 1997 SSH won the contract to master plan, design and supervise the ambitious Marina World Waterfront development in Salmiya. Today it is a hugely popular destination for Kuwaitis and visitors.

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2012

The Next 50 Years

In 2012, a new board of international directors with extensive regional experience was appointed to take SSH to the next level while retaining the company’s core values. We are proud of our regional roots and ownership that are both embedded within the DNA of SSH. We believe these are key strengths that enable us to achieve our vision as we offer a unique blend of being a truly regional company with international standards for architectural and engineering design as well as supervision services, delivering projects from inception to completion.

This allows us to offer clients first-rate design and services delivered with a full understanding of the local environment, service expectations, and culture. It gives our partners confidence that they will link into local knowledge and logistical support with the confidence of joining a capable partner. Finally, it provides us with the ability to create opportunities for our employees to work on exciting projects alongside the highest calibre of colleagues – thereby challenging and developing their capabilities.

Over the last eight years, SSH added to our number of offices and now operate in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria and London. As at 2019, we are ranked 81 in the world by ENR.

SSH faces the next five decades with the same sense of exciting possibilities that were experienced in the past.

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People

Behind the world-class projects SSH delivers, are professional and diverse teams that comprise some of the finest architects, engineers and construction experts. Spread across offices in 10 different countries, these innovative teams brings a wealth of knowledge, creativity and technical industry expertise to their specific discipline or division.

Together, we plan, collaborate and manage our resources to create a sense of community across the business, contributing to the overall success of SSH.

Media

SSH welcomes you to browse through our Media centre for published press releases, project awards and accolades, and view our image library to find out more about our involvement in international industry events.

For all media enquiries, please contact us at SSH.marketing@sshic.com

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