Nowadays the skyline of the Middle East’s largest city is as instantly recognisable as any global metropolis.
The glaringly obvious fact, when you look a little closer, is that Dubai’s buildings - unlike the historic buildings of older cities - clearly cannot be prefaced by earliest or ancient.
However, the voracious appetite for iconic architecture was such that - what the city lacks in antiquity - it certainly makes up for in most-luxurious, tallest and breathtakingly space-age.
Indeed the Middle East is now the hub of superlative modern design, attracting global talent and ‘starchitect’ designers to the region.
Image by Thomas Kurmeie
The regions design has evolved over time. In the past the focus was on speed and delivery. There was a huge appetite for projects that could make the city shine in the global spotlight; and they wanted them built fast!
Now a much more sophisticated approach has emerged. Clients and developers have become savier - recognising that quality design equals value development.
There is a huge appetite for originality. Fresh, creative concepts and solid, quality architecture and design.
Competitiveness in the design industry has surged, which also plays its part in raising the design bar to new heights.
Designers are responding to clients demands by creating diverse projects with much more to offer in terms of placemaking, town planning and activation.
Image of Saraya Towers in Abu Dhabi designed by dwp
As designers, through technology and social media, the world is within our reach. We are progressively challenged to provide original and better quality design. Now, more than ever, we see ‘hybrid’ projects developed in the region that create community and a sense of place.
For example, at grassroots level, this mature focus turns design inward; towards urban renewal. Older areas, such as the Creek, are being restored; and urban spaces are becoming more pedestrianised.
Marsa Al Seef, for example, a long ribbon development across from the Creek took a slither of land and successfully enlivened an old part Dubai.
New architecture is integrated into the older style architecture, which in turn, at the far end of the Creek, becomes completely original architecture.
Concept masterplan by dwp for a mixed-use residential, hospitality, leisure and commercial development in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
I would love to see even more of this across the city. Dubai in particular has a wonderful urban footprint and there is a great opportunity for urban infill and integration in the future.
It is great to witness, first hand, how design in this region is evolving. Once upon a time, design in the region was very much led by the West.
Today however, rather than following trends from other parts of the world, I believe the Middle East is increasingly becoming a trend leader. Dubai especially, has come of age.
Image of the Marsa Al Seef development