Dubai’s architectural landscape struggles with an identity crisis says David Lessard of Perkins + Will

A struggle with architectural identity was one of the subjects discussed during the 2017 designMENA Summit advisory panel, which brought together a group of local architects and designers who discussed relevant issues in the regional market.

David Lessard, director of hospitality at Perkins + Will said Dubai faces a lack of aesthetic identity which affects the work of regional architects and designers.

“There’s definitely no holistic vision of thinking about urban design or aesthetic design fabric of Dubai, because it’s so cosmopolitan and diverse,” he said.

“Dubai struggles with that and clients always come with different references. Tourism is such a big part of the economy I think they tried to cast such a big net to appeal to all those sensibilities.”

However, Sumaya Dabbagh, principal at Dabbagh Architects argued that what appears like a lack of identity is, in fact, a fast paced evolution of the country.

Sumaya Dabbagh, principal at Dabbagh Architects.

“If you talk to someone in their 50s and above it’s completely different than what it is to the newer generations. There is, I believe, something very unique here about the identity but it’s evolving and we need to keep up with it. It’s no longer about the wind towers going everywhere. No one wants that now,” she explained.

“The new generation is really open to reinterpretations of heritage, they’re not looking for the pastiche. Heritage is ephemeral, it’s oral traditions or poetry, so it’s not that tangible to express. But it’s something that can be done through certain experiences but it’s a role for us all to investigate below the surface.

“There’s a demand from the local community for something that’s more relevant,” she added.

 

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