Shedding light


It’s easy to get lost in the maze of art galleries in Al Serkal Avenue, Al Quoz, but when one stumbles across The Shelter, it’s not something you forget.

The facility is a gallery/collaborative space which used to exist in a different part of Al Quoz until April 2011. It closed down to move to another location, which was unknown at that time.

It wasn’t until September 2011 that a brand new Shelter opened as part of the Al Serkal Arts Complex. The second location, while retaining the woodsy and warm character of the erstwhile location, had converted itself into a very different interiors style.


On entering the building, people see what looks like a wooden barn or shed centrally placed inside the gallery-like space. The structure is enveloped by lanes for people to walk through, which can also be used as an exhibition arena. A coffee shop on the right adds to the industrial and natural interiors.

The constructed building within the gallery has openings on the ground floor, including a barn-like swinging door and large windows that people can jump through to get to the middle section. In the centre is a work-space, with wooden tables and chairs, with a wall on the far end acting as an outlet for a wide-screen projector.

A crushed papier-mâché chandelier hangs from the ceiling, with a floor-to-ceiling diagonal bookshelf, filled with various books and magazines dealing with all forms of art, lining the side of one of the walls.

A long staircase, situated behind the bookshelf, leads people up to the next level, which houses a working area. A desk lines one side with bright red chairs brought over from the old Shelter sitting next to power plugs for those who want to work. There is a conference room for those who need privacy.

The roof is slanted, mimicking what a real wooden outhouse would look like. This has openings as well, to give people a sense of space and a connection to the rest of the gallery.

The interiors were carried out by freelance interior designer, Takeshi Maruyama, who was hired by the owners of The Shelter to create something that would resonate with its users who were already used to the previous open feel of the gallery.

Maruyama, who has over 15 years experience in interior design and architecture, said the main concept of the building was to develop “a shed inside a shed”. The idea was to fit a new structure inside an existing warehouse, which Maruyama admitted was an interesting challenge.

“The design brief focused on giving life to an interior that is not typical and this was definitely a challenge I had to face,” he said.

“The old Shelter was a multi-functional space and for the new location, I tried to create an area that was flexible and varied, by using the walls and roof of the shed and having openings strategically placed to soften the boundaries. At the end of the design, the shed is enclosed and somehow open at the same time and that’s the beauty of the concept,” added Maruyama.

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