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The client that influenced the course and success of Modelart the most.

Updated: Dec 10, 2019

Modelart is now in its thirty-second year since inception. We are in a phase of renewed focus on plotting the direction for the next decade onwards. Statistically, for a business to turn thirty is an impressive milestone. And whilst the accolades are deservedly directed at the Modelart team who continue to explore ways of incrementally improving our product and service, this is only part of the story. Modelart’s longevity is equally attributed to an inspirational and loyal client base. To name all would be difficult and frankly unfair. No two are the same. Larger firms are able to pledge a higher level of support, with work often landing in compact waves interspersed with quiet periods. Smaller firms whose infrequent model commissions are often motivated by a conscious loyalty to Modelart and always greatly appreciated.


Of all of the people in Modelart’s thirty plus years, the one person who had the most influence on our business is Dene Murphy, founder and CEO of Mirage Leisure & Development. MLD https://mirageglobal.com


I was first introduced to Dene in the mid 1990’s when he commissioned Modelart to model the Sugar Beach Resort Hotel in Mauritius on behalf of Sun International. This was just the beginning of many projects that include some of the most prestigious property developments in the world. Much of Modelarts success as a business can be attributed to MLD projects or as a consequence of relationships that were established from those projects. Modelart now has an extensive list of iconic international work in its portfolio. We are eternally grateful to MLD for the quality and volume of projects awarded to Modelart, and we are undoubtedly the envy of our competitors.


Sugar Beach Resort Hotel model. Mauritius.

A notable milestone in our collaborations happened several years and numerous projects after delivering Sugar Beach, when Modelart was selected to produce a model for Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai. It is an authentically themed beachfront Hotel Resort overlooking the Burj Al Arab; comprising, two substantial ultra luxury hotels, a souque and many stand-alone villas linked by canals where guests are transported by Abra or water-taxi. A scale of at least 1: 250 was required to be able to give credibility to the intricate Arabic architectural detail. Typical of these projects, the model production process was frenetic, with all the focus on product quality and meeting the presentation deadline to MLD’s client; His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in Dubai.


The model of Madinat Jumeirah Dubai

The model measuring well over three meters in length and marginally shy of two meters in width was airfreighted and delivered to the recently completed Burj Al Arab Hotel, where I was met by Dick van Straaten and David Haysom of MLD. On first sight of the open crate on the floor of the receiving bay, it became apparent to all that we had a major problem with getting the model up to the 27th floor boardroom as per HH Sheikh Mohammed’s instruction. A quick deliberation on how to get an abnormally large object into an even smaller lift space than the models outer dimensions, left us with no option but to systematically dismantle the paneling in the elevator to enlarge its volume. After several attempts to manipulate the model into the tight space, with each iteration denuding the passenger compartment of increasing amounts of its protective shield, we finally managed to manoeuver it, end-up into the dark void above our heads. At least a third of it vanished invisibly into the blackness, adjacent where we imagined the hoisting cables connecting the lift structure to the winding gear to be. Naturally we needed to accompany the model on the way up to steady and reduce risk of anything going wrong! Fortunately for us, and the model, we were able to reduce the lifts speed from the standard 30km/h to walking pace. But, this did not eliminate that eerie imagining of the model striking an overhead structure mid shaft, causing the elevator floor to be thrust out from beneath our feet. The upward journey of just a few minutes was in complete silence and seemed endless. The overwhelming sense of relief when the doors opened, and that we were on the correct floor is indelibly etched in my memory.


Realistic image of what was built - Madinat Jumeirah Dubai

It took all of the next day to set up the model and to assist the other consultants from different parts around the globe to set up their work in anticipation of Dene and the team’s presentation to H.H. Sheikh Mohammed the following morning. The final presentation now set up in this most spectacular venue overlooking the site where the project was to be built, was something to behold. After all the months of preparation, it was as though the stars had aligned for Dene as evidenced by his plucky mood when he approached me and asked if I would like to attend the presentation with the possibility of meeting HH in person. Absolutely, I retorted.


The presentation to H.H. was scheduled for mid-morning with each of the consultants arriving early in eager anticipation. The planned start time came and went. One hour became two and then three. Clearly there must have been a misunderstanding! Several phone call attempts by Dene yielded no answers and the meeting was abandoned. It was rescheduled for a fortnight later by which time I was back in Johannesburg. I subsequently heard that His Highness had spotted a racehorse en route to the meeting and chose to make a detour to purchase the animal. This sounds plausible, but I cannot verify if this did actually happen.


All’s well that ends well. Dene was successful in MLD’s bid to develop Madinat Jumeira. The built structure is very close in resemblance to what was presented via the model. It remains an icon in Dubai and one of many spectacular landmarks that Dene and the MLD team have developed in the Middle East and around the world.


Denes ability to visualize complex projects, understand scale and how to make them viable, convince clients to build them, structure a highly competent management team, identify and employ the best consultants, manage the construction, finishes and furnishing to the finest detail, source appropriate hotel operators and then hand over the keys to the client, makes Dene one very unique individual.

It has been an honor for Modelart to be nominated to work alongside Dene and the MLD team for well over two decades on these visionary projects. A special mention must go to MLD Executive Director. Dick van Straaten, who was the primary driver of the Madinat Jumeirah project and all subsequent projects where Modelart was selected to be part of their team. The success of the Madinat Jumeirah model would be the catalyst for collaboration on many subsequent world-beating leisure-resort projects that required models. Mirage Leisure and Development can be very proud of the many landscapes that they have touched and transformed for the better.

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Founded 1988. “the original Modelart”

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Compiled by Team Modelart