“Architecture’s spatial organization should always be capable of creating different uses, depending on need, and to evolve with the city that hosts it. All buildings should be flexible so that they do not become outdated.”
This is the view of Christopher Lee, head of Serie Architects, and it encapsulates the design approach underlying the brand new Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai, which the London firm designed and completed. Its opening is scheduled for 11 November. The architectural project revolves around a single element, namely space: versatile and adaptable space suited to various types of artistic expression and above all to the people who inhabit it and to the experiences that originate from it.
It is the first major independent contemporary art centre dedicated to the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) regions and features a multi-functional concept chosen by the architects. The 1000 sq m building includes various exhibition galleries, a research centre open to the public, areas for themed events, a roof terrace to host film screenings and events, an outdoor area for sculpture, a café, a restaurant and a store.
Everything has been designed as a series of boxes with different volumetric proportions, connected by a single-storey colonnade. This stratagem allows the exhibition’s curators a great range of possibilities, enabling them to alternate between intimate environments for small-scale work to larger areas for accommodating large sculptures. Every portion has been specially designed to welcome, envelop and entertain visitors.
To this end, the various colonnades become an interface between the building and the waterfront walkway, which is perfect for a stroll, even if you do not enter the museum. The project, design approach and choice of materials also took into consideration the surrounding environment. The façade, for example, made of aluminum panels and concrete columns, interprets the region’s rich architectural tradition with modern simplicity and elegance.
“Dubai has been dubbed the ‘city of icons’,” continues Lee, “with ‘frenetic’ buildings in search of fame. The Jameel Arts Centre, by contrast, is calm and subtle, focusing on the experience offered by the spaces and reflecting the history and culture of the region.” This philosophy continues with the art centre’s garden, which is no less important than the building, but is totally complementary.
Designed by architect Anouk Vogel as an open-air gallery dedicated to the work of nature, it is divided into seven distinct courtyards, each of which houses different collections of sculpture-plants native to the desert.
The new home of contemporary art in Dubai will celebrate its opening for a whole week – from 11 to 1 November – with multiple exhibitions and special events.