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Emerging London practice wins contest for Dubai public realm

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An emerging London-based practice has won an international competition for a new public realm intervention in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

OF. Studio was chosen from more than 100 entries for the project to design a waterside feature for the 5.6 million m² Dubai Creek Harbour development, which has been masterplanned by CallisonRTKL and will feature a skyscraper centrepiece by Santiago Calatrava.

According to Companies House, the studio’s only director is Italian-born Sebastian Andia who studied at Argentina’s Universidad de Mendoza and the Architectural Association before joining ZHA in 2012 where he has led major projects in China, Dubai and North Africa. 

OF. Studio’s winning LAND-MARK proposal will deliver a ‘fully functional, interactive space for individuals and groups to enjoy shaded comfort and iconic views of the Dubai skyline.’ Second place was awarded to Fabrica Architects of Turkey and third place to Ragaie Architects of Egypt.

Dubai is the largest and most populous city in the UAE and in April will be the first entity within the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia region to host a world expo.

Dubai Creek Harbour is a major new mixed-use scheme 33km north-east of the Expo 2020 Dubai site. The 550ha development is backed by UAE developer Emaar and will transform a previously undeveloped inland waterfront site a short distance from the Burj Khalifa skyscraper and Dubai International Airport. It is expected to have 48,500 residential units and a population of 175,000 when completed.

Once complete, it will feature a mix of residential, retail, hotel, office, cultural and community uses centred around a competition-winning supertall tower, designed by Calatrava, and parkland.

A competition to design a 750m² mosque for the site has shortlisted Weston Williamson and Partners, local firm JT+Partners, Singapore’s Formwerkz Architects, Mohammed Makki, and Snøhetta of Oslo. But while the shortlist was announced in 2018, a winner has yet to be announced.

UK artist and stage designer Es Devlin is creating the UK’s showcase pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, which opens in October. Foster + Partners and Grimshaw are also delivering centrepiece pavilions, focusing on mobility and sustainability respectively. 

Architect’s view

Winner: LAND-MARK by OF. Studio

Winner: LAND-MARK by OF. Studio

Winner: LAND-MARK by OF. Studio

The intervention was conceived to be a public, social environment on the coast for pedestrians to enjoy Dubai Creek Harbour. The geometry of LAND-MARK presents a gentle composition of paths and walls that invite users to wander along its extensions, reflecting the horizontal properties of the desert. Its calm yet complex geometry appears to be the result of erosion as if carved out of water to create open, shaded environments. The use of innovative technologies makes this urban oasis an iconic reference for the innovative city of Dubai.

LAND-MARK, is visible from both immediate context and also from seafront and aerial viewpoints. Its heterogeneous yet fluid geometry promote the evolving character of Dubai along with LAND-MARK’S vanguard use of space in relationship to the rest of the skyline.

The designers of LAND-MARK set out to ensure accessibility from several entry points leading into the interior spaces and circuits of the plaza. Visitors are invited to experience LAND-MARK by gradually introducing the installation with thin streams of running water that accompany the walkways leading everyone toward the main pond. While the southern access is connected to the water, the west façade is composed of a series of piers, which also encourage access from the creek itself.

Winner: LAND-MARK by OF. Studio

Winner: LAND-MARK by OF. Studio

Winner: LAND-MARK by OF. Studio

The height of the walls decreases as pedestrians get closer to the exterior boundaries, offering a more human scale from the exterior perspective. Despite its introverted approach of the intervention, LAND-MARK opens toward designated retail areas within Dubai Creek Harbour. As such, views of the shopping areas can be enjoyed from the central pods where the sound of moving water can also be heard from this perspective. The balance within LAND-MARK means visitors can be comfortably still among the interior spaces despite the contrast of movement and pedestrian flow that these central spaces promote.

LAND-MARK highlights the innovative technological supremacy of Dubai by incorporating novel construction techniques in a social, urban context. The plaza aspires to be an iconic intervention within Dubai Creek Harbour, weaving together social, natural and technological wonders that encompass the identity of the city.

Dubai’s natural climate limits outdoor activities given the high temperatures, long hours of sun exposure and even strong winds. To encourage a life out of doors, architectural conditions were set out to create contained spaces for pedestrians to enjoy the outdoors. The height and proximity between walls provide shaded areas throughout the extension of the plaza. Moreover, the curvature of the walls breaks up and channels wind drafts thereby protecting certain areas from strong gusts of wind. Similarly, perforated walls allow the breeze to travel through the installation and cool the spaces. Running water in tanks and water paths also reduces temperatures in the areas generating microclimates throughout the internal spaces.

There is no correct way to interact with the architecture. The shaded and sun-exposed areas change throughout the day and time of year creating unique beauty from moment-to-moment. For this reason, visitors can find a spot in LAND-MARK and make use of the area however and whenever they desire. Designers intend the three continuous fixtures of circulating water to be used as urban beaches where seating is located along the extension of the plaza.

Moreover, the high terrace provides a viewpoint that can be enjoyed during sunrise, sunset and at night. Both social public areas and more private zones are located throughout the installation for individuals and groups of people alike to make use of.

Dubai Creek Harbour

Dubai Creek Harbour

Dubai Creek Harbour

The concept of the landscape blends with the concept of the LAND-MARK. The paths take travellers on a journey through the horizontal, urban desert. As visitors wander through the paths, green pockets of vegetation create spaces for strollers to spend time in the shade. LAND-MARK’s composition is a sequence of soft and hard landscapes that harmonise into one organic gesture.

The vegetation of the landscape highlights the introverted approach of the project by progressively incorporating three scales of local vegetation. LAND-MARK is located just outside the conceptual boundary of the city. It promotes a change of character of the Dubai Creek Harbour area from distant views. A gradient of lower-scale vegetation is to be smoothly integrated from pedestrian access on the south-north façade.

Finally, the concept around materiality integrates the installation as one whole monolithic element. The idea is to use one single material (concrete) to unify all the elements of LAND-MARK and create a solid, rough finish. This concrete will be composed of the local sands of the desert generating the soft natural colour of LAND-MARK. Concrete’s range of colour, texture and finish cater to the different needs of the plaza; walls, floors and the landscape may look continuous, but textures throughout vary, offering high transit surfaces, hard landscapes or underwater surfaces.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Congratulations that should keep them too busy to despoil anything in Europe anytime soon

    Fully functional spaces? How radical!

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