What to see in Dubai if you love design and architecture



Some have called it the great event of the post-pandemic global restart. It is certainly a catalyst for attention and aims to beat the attendance record of the Milanese edition of 2015. Expo 2020 (the year in which it should have taken place) started with 2.5 million visitors in the first month of opening and it is clear that the numbers will grow progressively until the close of March 31, 2022.

Under the title Connecting minds, generating the future, the event involves 192 countries, as many national and three thematic pavilions (Opportunity, Sustainability and Mobility) in an explosion of styles, experiments and daring attempts to give a sense and an idea of ​​the world to come.

«Our project interprets both the theme of Expo Dubai and that of Italian participation, that is Beauty brings people together. The choice of the roof of the building – three overturned hulls – evokes the historic connections by sea between the Italian and Arabian peninsula “, he said Italo Rota which, together with Carlo Ratti e Davide Rampello (for the contents) signs the complex project of the Italian Pavilion.

But it is by crossing the dynamic façade in nautical ropes made by recycling 2 million plastic bottles that you can guess a path devoted to the enhancement of made in Italy in a futuristic version: from the floor in compressed orange peels to the indoor production of spirulina, superfood of the future capable of absorbing CO₂ returning oxygen.

The long lines to visit it are a good sign of the attention captured. But there are numerous pavilions that have focused on paths along which technology is the absolute protagonist. The largest is that of Saudi Arabia on a project by studio BMA, the most lyrical the English one signed by Es Devlin, which with a conical wooden architecture wants to recall a musical instrument complete with a LED facade on which poems generated by artificial intelligence appear.

Santiago Calatrava he worked on two of the most photogenic pavilions: United Arab Emirates, the host country, and Qatar, the neighboring Emirate. The first, an architecture equipped with 28 mechanical wings, recalls the flight of the hawk, the second is a tribute to tradition through its historical symbols.



Pearls first, then trade and finally oil. Dubai was born, raised and exploded like this. But oil is running out and therefore in order not to disappear from the maps and under a blanket of sand tourism is the economic engine on which the contemporary wealth of the Emirate is based.

With more than one hundred thousand hotel rooms, from the cheapest toonly seven stars in the world, the Burj Al Arab, Dubai welcomes with very different styles. Not only gold, marble and stucco but also elegant structures signed by architects and designers of all the world.

Giorgio Armani is one of the forerunners of Emirati investments. The discreet luxury ofArmani Hotel Dubai occupies eleven floors of the tallest tower in the world, the Burj Khalifa.

It is found instead on the artificial island Jumeirah Bay the Bulgari Resort Dubai born from a project by Antonio Citterio and Patricia Viel. Here the Italian spirit becomes a brand and also conquers the palates thanks to the cuisine of Il Ristorante managed by starred Niko Romito.

Photo Luca Rotondo for Living

Photo Luca Rotondo for Living

Among the most recent inaugurations that of ME Hotel in The Opus tower designed in 2007 by the studio of Zaha Hadid, which for the occasion also designed the furnishings from the seats to the beds to the washbasins, all characterized by the unmistakable organic sign.

Also imminent inauguration 25hours Hotel which, with its design-oriented approach and light-hearted style, has already left its mark in many European cities (the most recent opening is in Florence) and is preparing to conquer the UAE market as well. After all, there is no lack of space and neither is the request.



“This city has an excellent ability to take risks” he claims Carlo Rizzo, independent curator, originally from Puglia, Milanese by adoption, then Londoner and finally expat in Dubai. After collaborating with the British Museum it is now special advisor per la Dubai Collection all’Etihad Museum inaugurated a few weeks ago.

«Dubai has always been a port, also for ideas and exchanges. This is why the government has decided to invest heavily in the cultural sector “, continues Rizzo. This stimulus has a double soul, institutional and private.

Thus was born the experience of Alserkal Avenue, industrial area transformed into an artistic hub with galleries, coworking spaces, showrooms, artist residences and a foundation of the same name that supports the new generation.

Photo Luca Rotondo for Living

Photo Luca Rotondo for Living

«We opened the gallery in March 2021 with a focus on climate change. The environment and sustainability are at the center of our artistic research “, says Mara Firetti, Italian gallerist born in Nigeria and arrived in Dubai in 2001.

In the group show currently on display, the works of established and emerging artists from all over the world are exhibited. A strong and original cross-section of world creative production is also encountered in the halls of the Jameel Arts Center, an independent institution that proposes numerous contemporary art exhibitionsas well as a busy educational and research program.

Also in this case the collection spans across continents, but the epicenter is the rapidly expanding Middle Eastern one. «I propose myself as a catalyst, a sort of bridge between business and art», says Mustafa Khamash, Emirati architect, owner of the Kart Group, a luxury atelier in the city.

Khamash he is convinced that the project must go beyond aesthetics: «Design unites and strengthens bonds. It is a practical and philosophical discipline. This is why I push the big brands to focus on public art, to feed the environment that surrounds them, even in Dubai “. Risks calculated to last over time, to leave a lasting mark and fill even the desert with content.



Stealing space from the desert and the sea. It doesn’t matter if the desert occasionally sends a sandstorm to remember its presence. The mantra of Dubai is to build, to challenge the laws of physics (sometimes even of logic), to go higher, to go further, to create new symbols that make an iconic landscape often blurred by the density of the air.

If he grattacielo Burj Khalifa with his 830 meters is the highest in the world, the construction site to overcome it has already started. The same can be said for The Palm, extension of the city made with sand dredged from the sea to host new buildings, VIP villas, long beaches that are apparently uncrowded, gigantic hotels.

The project which you are betting on now is the archipelago that represents the world: dozens of islets, each with the name of a different country, available to wealthy investors. But the real estate explosion also fades into contexts that are not merely commercial.

It is in 2018 the construction of The Frame, the gilded frame that is a gate built to ideally connect the old and new city and is about to be inaugurated on Museum of the Future, an imposing ring-shaped building covered with steel plates decorated with Arabic verses, taken from the most important quotations by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Emir of Dubai.

The structure, powered by solar energy, aims to host the most futuristic projects from all over the world: a showcase of what tomorrow could be, with or without sand. And it seems built like an anti wind and sand chest Concrete, the first project of OMA in the United Arab Emirates which is located in the Alserkal Avenue area, the art district.

In its modular spaces, fashion shows and shows, conferences and luxury fairs alternate. And if a storm comes, just close the huge portals of translucent polycarbonate.


Source: Living by living.corriere.it.

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