Innovation and sustainability drive an increasingly global design culture in Dubai.
For many years, the UAE has set the global bar for iconic architecture—pushing the boundaries of aesthetics, technology, and delivery. With the articulation of the UAE Vision 2021 by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, that bar of excellence has been set even higher, ensuring that future design and development within the UAE be advanced through a framework of sustainability. And not only environmental sustainability, but also economic and cultural sustainability.
As much as any market in the world, design and development go hand-in-hand in the UAE. With a diverse population that is cosmopolitan, well travelled, and well-informed, the market here is increasingly sophisticated. That sophisticated perspective informs market demand and becomes the primary incentive for responsive design and responsible development.
Tenants, homeowners, and investors are increasingly demanding attention to such design concepts as technologically smart systems, green networks, power efficiency, access to natural light, access to transportation options, and, importantly, cultural and aesthetic sensitivity. They are demanding environments that are designed to ‘perform’ as environmental, economic, and social engines.
This increasingly rich appreciation for properly-conceived and responsible design is fertile ground for the best and the brightest in the design profession. Our own CallisonRTKL office in Dubai is a prime example—with 70 employees representing 38 different countries and speaking 13 different languages. It’s a truly international team helping to design a truly international city for the 21st century and beyond.
With increased rigor in the local design profession and an increasingly global perspective on innovation, discourse on design has become a natural part of popular culture. A case in point is Dubai Design Week, which takes place this year from Oct. 24-29. This event began in 2015 as a way to “support UAE-based multidisciplinary design talent and celebrate the city’s forward-thinking approach to urban enterprise.”
In a 2015 press release, Cyril Zammit, Director of Design at Art Dubai Group noted, “It was clear that Dubai Design Week 2015 tapped into something that both Dubai and the design industry had been waiting for—a global platform for design in the UAE and the Middle East, and an opportunity to share and explore perspectives and ideas with people from a multitude of countries and cultures.”
Dubai Design Week is a culmination of an ever-evolving design culture in a city driven by continued construction intensity. With a population expected to double over the next 14 years and reach five million by 2030, this type of design dialogue is more important than ever and serves to underscore the amazing power that can build in a city that continues to challenge and supersede the limits of design innovation and technology.
One current project that exemplifies the potential for design to elevate Dubai within the ranks of the world’s greatest cities is Dubai Creek Harbour. CallisonRTKL is acting as the overall master planner for the project, which is arguably the largest new urban community development in the world. From the earliest planning concepts, this development has focused on sustainable living. A 600-HA, 11 million-SM development, Dubai Creek Harbor incorporates the latest in smart technology, transportation design, green networks, and diverse, social connectivity. There is no other market in the world that is capable of delivering such a game-changing ‘city within a city’ with the same speed, quality, and innovation as Dubai.
As the UAE continues to grow, it is attracting more and more attention, not only from investors and developers, but also from designers, artists, architects, and innovators. Partially as a result of this increasingly dominant role on the world stage, Dubai will play host to the World Expo 2020, the foremost global festival of human ingenuity, and an honor bestowed on only the most forward-thinking, progressive of cities.
About the Author: Harold Thompson, AIA, CDP, LEED AP, is Executive Director with CallisonRTKL.