Creating Dubai’s design identity

designMENA Summit 2014

This year’s DesignMENA Summit explored how the city of Dubai could forge an individual identity in its architecture.

A panel discussion featured academic and architect Shams Naga, interior designer Pallavi Dean and architects Issam Ezzedine and Nigel Craddock

Ezzeddine, principal design architect of the National Engineering Bureau, said: “There are fantastic cities in Dubai and most of the GCC countries, but they really lack the town squares, plaza…look at Europe, what is the best thing? When you go you sit in a plaza, we have to learn this from Europe. People go to dine and interact eye to eye.


“Parks and gardens are different from town squares because people will go and isolate themselves. The town square needs to be interactive. In fact, people come to know each other when they interact, now you know your neighbour for five years but you don’t talk to him.

“You need to build new policies and strategies The government should create a new guideline and build a strategy for building new cities and all these factors that developers and planners should abide to.”

Dean said environmental factor were important in this issue “Maybe the town plaza and square work in Europe because of the weather,” she said. “Here you have the executive towers, where people may not interact on a ground level but on different levels. So maybe we need to think outside the box.

Craddock, regional director of Stride Treglown alos felt climate was an issue. He said: “I think the weather here is actually conductive to being outside. Yes for four months it’s very hot, but the rest of the months it’s very fine to be outside.”

“For me Dubai has an identity already it’s right there. There’s a clear identity that has happened at a pace that has come from having a design leader with strong leadership.

“That’s happened in Dubai and I think now it’s about bringing in communities and finding ways to work with the government to figure out the development of those communities.”

Dean agreed: “Much like Nigel, I think we have a strong identity and its grown over the years…but let’s compare Dubai to international cities. New York has its neighbourhoods and Dubai has that too – [different] identities from Al Quoz to DIFC, so through the quirkiness and the personalities of these little areas, that’s what defining Dubai’s identity.”

Naga, who founded his own practice, added: “Today when you drive along Sheikh Zayed Road, when you see villas, a lot has changed. Villas are much more modern and contemporary – and I think that can be contributed to Dubai becoming more mature. We are looking at designs a lot more and we’ve learned from mistakes.”

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