Connect with us


From coral to concrete: Dubai’s architectural evolution

While Dubai is famous for the elegant, contemporary designs of its towering glass and steel skyscrapers, a closer look will reveal older buildings dotted around the city amidst the high-rises.

Over the last six decades there has been a shift from using coral to construct buildings to steel, but many traditional mud and coral houses are still found on the outskirts of the city.

The architectural evolution of Dubai eludes to the Emirate’s rapid expansion and growth, with each new style of building marking a significant step towards the glitzy metropolitan city pictured in travel brochures.

For all the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

“It's incredible what has been built in such a short period of time,” architect Richard Wagner, who gives tours as part of The Guiding Architects, told Al Arabiya. “We can reflect on them to say there were four major phases. There was the early phase of Dubai, before the founding of the nations in 1971, then after the founding all the way into the ‘90s.

“In the 2000s there was the initiation of development phase number one, a big boom which lasted up until the financial crisis in 2009,” he added. “2014 was the announcement of Expo 2020 and I think that's when the current phase started, which I call it Boom 2.0.”

Around the 1890s, Dubai was still mostly desert, with small settlements along the coastline for fishing and pearl diving and the creek for trade. Now known as the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, the area once known as Al Bastakiya showcases the oldest buildings in Dubai, built from mud plaster and coral.

The area was named after the Persian merchants from Bastak who visited the creek for trade, settled, and built houses in the Bastak style – narrow, high-ceilinged courtyard houses with wind towers – which the UAE later adopted.

“Whatever coral they had, they would cut it into pieces, stack it up and plaster is afterwards,” Wagner said. “There were hardly any windows on the outside. All of the light came in from the courtyard on the inside. The outer part of the building is very narrow because it was limited to the length of the longest wood that you would find locally, typically some kind of a date palm tree or mangrove tree.”

With the discovery of oil and subsequent founding of the UAE in the 1970s, things began to change significantly. In the 1980s, half of Al Bastakiya was demolished for more modern developments.

In 1989, the Dubai Municipality decided that the remaining half would also be demolished, but British architect Rayner Otter’s heritage preservation campaign resulted in the Al Fahidi district transformation instead.

“[Otter] took one of the old houses, renovated it, and showed the Emiratis the scope of what you can do with these beautiful courtyard houses,” Wagner said. “It was really that initiative that helped preserve these houses.

“They recreated an urban street area as it was back in the 1920s until maybe the 1950s,” he added. They're all based on photographic records from the 1920s onwards, which they analyzed and modeled the area after.”

In other parts of Dubai in the ‘90s to the early 2000s, the city was beginning to expand, elevating its skyline with taller buildings. Dubai was put on the tourist map with the construction of Burj Al Arab, and all of sudden appeared alongside the iconic images of the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty.

Government-created development companies built most of the major modern real estate projects of Dubai. Nakheel was given offshore projects, such as creating the Palm Jumeirah and The World Islands. Emaar concentrated on high-rise developments like Dubai Marina, Downtown Dubai and Business Bay.

“Things were looking a little bit old fashioned,” Wagner said. “There was always this clinging on to a heritage-style design. There was even a booklet from the municipality handed out to most of the architects who were doing anything in the city, listing the kind of ornaments, designs, archways and doorways that they should use. Dubai had to break through that to really make it to the top tier of international contemporary design cities.”

One on the most iconic buildings to break from that era was Zaha Hadid’s Opus building in the Burj Khalifa district, a mixed-use 20-story glass cube with a curving cutout in the middle of the building that began construction in 2007.

“[Hadid] never saw it finalized, as she passed away and they were still working on the building at the time,” Wagner said. “It has layered balconies and floating balustrades and a really nice aspect is that it’s an open space with these floating petal-like booths which you can reposition if you have an event. So it gives you a lot of flexibility on the interior.”

With the financial crash of 2009, many projects were delayed or never realized, but it also gave the city a chance to catch up in terms of infrastructure. Though new buildings were going up, tarmacking roads and connecting water and power lines took a little longer.

When Dubai announced the hosting of Expo 2020 in 2014, the economy picked up again and expansion resumed, with contemporary architecture in mind.

Wagner said that new city architects and planners employed by Dubai Municipality “were much more open to contemporary design.”

Despite having built up so much already, Dubai is far from done with impressive architecture. Having already made world history with the Burj Khalifa, a new tower planned for the redevelopment of Dubai Creek will surpass the height of the famous skyscraper.

Put on hold due to COVID-19, the new $1 billion tower will evoke a slender minaret, anchored to the ground by a web of cables. It will stand at between 1,000m and 1,350m high, significantly taller than Burj Khalifa’s 828m and is potentially slated for a 2022 completion.

Read more:

Billionaire bought copy of US Constitution to lend to museum

Maraya Art Center featured in Abu Dhabi Art Fair with a work by Hazem Harb

Modernizing Arabs must not surrender the Arabic language

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Nestle gets a third of sales from foods considered unhealthy, as per firm’s rating

Nestle SA said a third of its sales missed an independent definition of healthy as it applied a nutritional rating test across its port-folio.

The finding shows that Nestle has room to improve as it aims to be the top health and wellness food company. Nestle said Tuesday that according to the Health Star Rating system, 30 percent of the Swiss company’s portfolio is considered healthy and 35 percent unhealthy.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The remainder comes from petfood, infant formula and medical nutrition products, which were not included as they’re designed to meet specific goals like helping kidney function.

With obesity a global health crisis in much of the developing world and on the rise in emerging market, food companies have been
under pressure to make their portfolios healthier and increase transparency. Investors have called on them report in accordance with independent government-approved measures of how nutritious their portfolios are, rather than their own internal met-rics, even though the industry has not settled on a single scale.

Big food companies like Kraft Heinz or Kellogg have so far resist-ed calls to report on independent nutrition metrics.

Nestle decided to use the HSR system, widely used in Australia and New Zealand, which rates products on a sale from half a star to five stars. A score of 3.5 stars or above is considered healthy.

More transparency

ShareAction, an investor campaign group which has been push-ing Nestle for more transparency, welcomed the new reporting, though urged the company to improve its ranking.

“As one of the biggest food and drink companies in the world, Nestle has an outsized influence on what people eat and drink,” said Holly Gabriel, a ShareAction campaigner. “What this disclosure worryingly shows is the company is still far too reliant on the sale of less healthy food and drink products.”

The ratings are based on the product’s energy, saturated fat, total sugars, sodium, protein, dietary fiber and fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content. Products like confectionery or salty sauces score lower on the scale, while low fat, low salt and sugar items includ-ing plain coffee and waters score higher.

The increased transparency helps investors understand how ex-posed companies are to efforts to curb obesity, for example through advertising bans. It also amplifies the pressure on companies to reformulate products to make them healthier.

While Nestle has room to improve, the majority of Nestle’s sales wouldn’t be in the cross-hairs of anti-junk food legislation because they are pet food or products like infant formula, or considered relatively healthy.

Rivals Danone and Unilever already report on their portfolios in accordance to the HSR. Unlike Nestle, Unilever has also set a tar-get that 85 percent of its nutrition and ice cream servings meet its own nutrition criteria by 2028.

Danone said that in 2021 about 90 percent of its products by sales volume got an HSR rating of 3.5 stars or above. Only 17 percent of Unilever’s nutrition and ice cream portfolio reached that stand-ard the same year.

Nestle has been reformulating products like Nesquik to contain less sugar in some markets, but Chief Executive Officer Mark Schneider told analysts earlier this year that reporting on nutrition does not mean the group would turn away from products like Kit-Kats and Smarties.

“We’re not interested in a target on how the healthier parts of the portfolio would outperform the other parts of the portfolio,” he said. “We want to succeed in both.”

Nestle said the study covered 97 percent of its revenue, excluding some products that aren’t foods or beverages as well as some recent acquisitions.

Read more: Nestle to hike food prices further in 2023: CEO

Continue Reading


‘Winnie the Pooh’ film pulled from Hong Kong cinemas, sparks censorship concerns

Public screenings of a slasher film that features Winnie the Pooh were scrapped abruptly in Hong Kong on Tuesday, sparking discussions over increasing censorship in the city.

Film distributor VII Pillars Entertainment announced on Facebook that the release of “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” on Thursday had been canceled with “great regret” in Hong Kong and neighboring Macao.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

In an email reply to The Associated Press, the distributor said it was notified by cinemas that they could not show the film as scheduled, but it didn’t know why. The cinema chains involved did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

For many residents, the Winnie the Pooh character is a playful taunt of China’s President Xi Jinping and Chinese censors in the past had briefly banned social media searches for the bear in the country. In 2018, the film “Christopher Robin,” also featuring Winnie the Pooh, was reportedly denied a release in China.

The film being pulled in Hong Kong has prompted concern on social media over the territory’s shrinking freedoms.

The movie was initially set to be shown in about 30 cinemas in Hong Kong, VII Pillars Entertainment wrote last week.

The Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration said it had approved the film and arrangements by local cinemas to screen approved films “are the commercial decisions of the cinemas concerned.” It refused to comment on such arrangements.

A screening initially scheduled for Tuesday night in one cinema was canceled due to “technical reasons,” the organizer said on Instagram.

Kenny Ng, a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University’s academy of film, refused to speculate on the reason behind the cancellation, but suggested the mechanism of silencing criticism appeared to be resorting to commercial decisions.

Hong Kong is a former British colony that returned to China’s rule in 1997, promising to retain its Western-style freedoms. But China imposed a national security law following massive pro-democracy protests in 2019, silencing or jailing many dissidents.

In 2021, the government tightened guidelines and authorized censors to ban films believed to have breached the sweeping law.

Ng said the city saw more cases of censorship over the last two years, mostly targeting non-commercial movies, such as independent short films.

“When there is a red line, then there are more taboos,” he said.

Read more:

Hong Kong rights activist Albert Ho arrested by national security police

Google suspends Chinese shopping app amid security concerns

Europe’s hopes for busy post-COVID summer dim as Chinese tourists stay away

Continue Reading


Asian art fair in Hong Kong aims to bounce back after COVID-19 years

The organizers of Art Basel Hong Kong, one of Asia’s leading contemporary art fairs, said on Tuesday they are bullish on art market prospects in the region, with China and Hong Kong now having lifted all COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
The annual fair, which also has iterations in Basel, Paris, and Miami Beach, runs from March 23-25 in Hong Kong.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.
The number of galleries has increased to 177 this year from 130 in 2022, with 32 countries and territories across Asia, Europe, the Americas, and Africa participating.
“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the Asian art market has also remained resilient, with Greater China accounting for 20 percent of worldwide sales by value and ranking second as the second largest regional art market in the latest edition of the Art Basel,” Art Basel CEO Noah Horowitz told reporters.
Hong Kong attracted 56 million visitors in pre-pandemic 2019 but shops now sit vacant and Chinese visitors, who once propelled the city’s art market, have yet to return in droves.
Leading international galleries at Art Basel this year include Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth, Lehmann Maupin, Victoria Miro, Pace, Perrotin, White Cube and David Zwirner.
In a mall near the glitzy halls of Hong Kong’s harborfront convention center where Art Basel, the show has installed a 10-meter-tall inflatable sculpture of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun titled ‘Gravity’ by Los Angeles-based artist Awol Erizku.
Hong Kong’s government has welcomed the art fair as it strives to reinvigorate Hong Kong’s economy after a nearly three-year slump from factors including tough COVID-19 lockdowns, a closed border with China, and a security crackdown.
Hundreds of thousands of people have left the territory since June 2020, when a sweeping national security law was passed that has been used to curb freedoms and arrest scores of opposition democrats and shutter liberal media outlets.
Some Western governments have criticized the law as a tool of repression, but China asserts it brought stability after pro-democracy protests in 2019.
Art Basel said it had respected creative expression.
“We don’t have any censorship process in the show. We haven’t really changed the process of the show since 2013,” said Angelle Siyang-Le, the director Art Basel Hong Kong.

Read more: Saudi sculptor steps into limelight as religious curbs ease

Continue Reading