Concrete at Alserkal Avenue
Located in Dubai’s Al Qouz industrial area, Alserkal Avenue was founded in 2007 with the aim of promoting cultural initiatives in the region. Since then, it has become Dubai’s most important art hub with twenty-five galleries and art spaces. Concrete, a new venue, addresses the districts growing need for centrally located public spaces to be situated closer to The Yard, the district’s main outdoor public square.
OMA: “What used to be four warehouses were reimagined to become a 1,250m2 space for museum-grade exhibitions and alternative programming. The planning strategy focused on maximising the event area. All the services were consolidated on one end of the building, allowing the entrance and event spaces to be situated closer to The Yard. The re-use of the existing structures in combination with the requirements for flexibility challenged the limits and dimensions of architecture and engineering; the entire structure was produced locally, raising the standard of innovation for the entire ecosystem of manufacturing and production in the UAE.”
The design for the interior introduces a flexible floor plan to accommodate the required program diversity. Four 8.10m pivoting and sliding walls can create multiple space configurations depending on the type of event. To maintain a fluid space, all the major interior equipment has been integrated into the ceiling, leaving the walls and floors free of any components. Two linear skylights have been positioned above the movable walls to allow either thin blades of light or full daylight depending on the configuration.
The original front façade of the warehouse has been replaced with poly-carbonate cladding and full height operable doors. When the doors are open, the exterior and interior space can merge, activating the courtyard. The connection to the exterior is reinforced by the translucent poly-carbonate, which bring the view, daylight and outdoor activities into the new interior space.
The rest of the original façade has been maintained and sprayed in a customised mix of concrete with glass and mirror aggregates. The rough texture of the spayed concrete and reflections from the glass mirror aggregates will make the venue stand out in the context of Alserkal Avenue.
OMA: “The project has made a remarkable and unprecedented impact on the development of the arts and culture scene and audiences in Dubai and the UAE in general. The positive knock-on effect of such a development could be observed further in other sectors of life, e.g. in UAE’s educational sector and the economy through potential increase in tourism.
“Concrete’s scale of flexibility and movement has stretched the limits of architecture and engineering for the industry locally, ultimately raising standards and exceptions. It functions as an example of how industrial structures can be cleverly repurposed for cultural life. From this perspective, Concrete has set a precedent in the region with known examples of other projects referring to Concrete’s experience as an exemplary one.”
Following its completion, Concrete has been nominated for the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. The Aga Khan Award for Architecture is given every three years to projects that set new standards of excellence in architecture, planning practices, historic preservation and landscape architecture.
Commenting on the nomination, Iyad Alsaka, Partner at OMA said: “We are deeply honoured that our design for Concrete, our first realised project in Dubai, has been shortlisted for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. From the start, the idea for Concrete was to create space for international and local exchange. Our initiative to repurpose an industrial structure makes it a precedent in the architectural landscape of Dubai. It is a very important project for our firm and for the region.”
The Blue Camel Group
The Blue Camel Group is an interior design and fit-out specialist, including design development, interior MEP engineering, and turnkey interior contracting. Established in 2004, the company provides a distinctive approach and is able to tailor services to a client’s unique requirements.
Based in Dubai, the Blue Camel Group is made up of Blue Camel Design, Cube Wooden Works, Italy Glass & Aluminum Industries, Bulb Lighting, Five Dots, Taiga | Yew Furniture and Exclusive Build Exhibition Stands.
The company was recently involved with Concrete Alserkal Avenue, turning the concept and design intent of OMA into a reality. This unique project required significant research and design development, engineering and customization, manufacture special mechanical fittings to accommodate for OMA’s design intent. This included fitting out the entire space, engineering and manufacturing of operable and rotational walls, fabrication of polycarbonate swing doors, and the treatment of the external walls with a special concrete and mirror effect.
Patrick Daniel, Managing Partner and Founder, said:
“We are honoured to have been selected by Alserkal to undertake the work and to have been given the opportunity to work with renowned and esteemed architects – OMA Office. We consider Concrete as one of the modern-day foundations for cultural values and this is very much in line with Dubai’s vision.
“Concrete has resonated across the architectural world, across the art culture. For Blue Camel to be a part of Concrete’s design and build team, an Agha Khan Award nominated project, is a huge achievement.”