Dubai 2018 – Forget twisting tower, flamboyant special effects and marble-hype interiors. UK-based studio Serie Architects harnessed from the most humble architectural traditions and the resilient natural landscape of the UAE to inject the new Jameel Arts Centre with a new attitude.
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Set on a sliver of land that reaches out into Dubai Creek, the hub features several galleries a restaurant, a roof garden and a book and design shop which are all hosted in a cluster of white boxes cladded with aluminium panels and bound together by a one-storey concrete colonnade and a system on open air spaces. Seven courtyards inspired by distinct desert environments and a sculpture park serves as bridge the complex with the surrounding Jaddaf Corniche.
Inspiration for the building’s massing and spatiality draws from two regional architectural traditions on both intimate and community-wide scales: the early Emirati Sha’abi houses that featured a series of rooms circling a courtyard, and the Madinat style of city planning characterised by an accumulation of houses with courtyards.
Through a repeated juxtaposition of geometric forms and gardens, Serie Architects fragmented and tessellated the courtyard, continually layering a relationship between inside and outside, art and nature.
“The architecture that emerged is one that is able to accommodate a wide range of uses and continues to evolve with the city it serves.” Explains the studio’s principal Christopher Lee. “It acts as a background structure for the life of the centre to unfold, without disappearing from view. Positioning galleries around courtyard gardens and framed views of the waterfront also serves to create moments of rest and connection, while providing potential spaces for commissioned installations.”
The building’s surfaces incorporate an interplay between raw concrete and semi-reflective aluminium cladding, creating a subtle shimmer in response to the surrounding water and atmospheric changes, while its clustered form creates self-shading courtyards and allows for cross ventilation.
Jameel Arts Centre is at once connected to and separated from the Dubai skyline. The colonnades create a porous interface between intimate gallery spaces and the social life of the public waterfront promenade, inviting visitors to navigate through and along the space, indoor and outdoor.
Landscape architect Anouk Vogel has created seven garden reflecting specific local and global desert biomes, with 33 species represented, including endangered plants facing loss of habitat that have been individually saved from sites marked for destruction. Subtle mineral hues and unusual paving provide each garden with a unique character.
On the roof terrace is the winning Art Jameel Commissions: Sculpture installation by Kuwaiti artists Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub, entitled Contrary Life: A Botanical Light Garden Devoted to Trees. The colonnade is an active social space, framing gardens and enlivening the waterfront promenade.
Here UAE based architecture studio ibda design, the park created a Dubai first open-air art park which bridges between the public corniche circling Jaddaf Waterfront and Jameel Arts Centre. Its undulating forms curve around large-scale installations echoes the flow of the waterfront around the building itself.
Photos by Mohamed Somji, Rory Gardiner and Simon Whittle – Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre.