The UAE needs to move on from glass and aluminium facades

This month’s issue of Middle East Architect is busier than some of our previous issues. With the summer coming to an end and architects getting back to work, there’s been a sudden burst of energy, and many people are looking to discuss the ideas that have taken up mental space during the slow season. Using brick in UAE construction was one such idea, presented to me by Issam Ezzeddine, design director at NEB.

“This material needs to be injected into the UAE market,” he said. “It’s a low cost material, and it’s undergone the perfect development in many projects in other parts of the world.”

The comment came as part of the larger conversation regarding exterior design in the UAE – the focus of our special report this month. The UAE, and the GCC at large, has long been known for its towering skyscrapers featuring aluminium and glass exteriors. One after another continues to pop up, side by side, taking up residence along Sheikh Zayed Road – the country’s main artery. What would happen if UAE architects and developers began opting for other materials? One that was more cost effective and entirely different to the style that’s developed in Dubai’s mainstream districts, like JLT, the Marina and Business Bay?

We have already seen the rise of alternative materials being used over the past few years, with one example including the Office of the Future by Killa Design. Other buildings are reverting back to stone and concrete, like the Rossano Ferretti Hairspa housed in a repurposed villa in Jumeirah by Anarchitect.
As architects and clients begin to take different approaches to their projects, the application of new materials – or perhaps the introduction of new building techniques with old materials – has fortunately
begun to saturate the market.

The face of the UAE is changing because façade innovation is happening. Local design preferences are shifting, and it’s taking us from the skyscraper age to more humble architecture that consists of low-rise buildings, familiar materials and technology innovation.

What would the UAE look like with more brick buildings? I can’t imagine it, really. It’s a little weird to me, and almost unreal, but I would love to see an experimental application and explore how brick façades affect the end-user’s experience.

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