How do you imagine a museum or an exhibition space? A whole bunch of artworks, sculptures that are displayed on the walls and exhibited in galleries. A loop of these never-ending spaces, right? But the experience of visiting these spaces becomes interesting when you experience art and nature alternately in a loop, so you never feel detached from the surroundings. It gives your mind a buffer to see, pause and think about the spaces and the artworks. One work of such a character is The Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai.
The Jameel Arts Centre, one of Dubai’s first non-profit contemporary art institutions, is a 10,000-square-meter 3-story exhibition space, artist residence, and creative enterprise incubator overlooking the Dubai Creek. It is designed by Serie Architects led by principal architect Christopher Lee, the Arthur Rotch Design Critic in Architecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design and a design advisor to the Mayor of London.
Serie is an architecture, urban design, and research firm with a global reach. Their work is noted for its spatial intelligence, formal elegance, and involvement with the surrounding environment. They have a reputation for creating unique public buildings, with a particular focus on cultural, civic, and educational structures. They’re recognized for designs that show off their public-sector expertise; they believe in highlighting contextual involvement and integrating advanced intelligence into spatial solutions. A highly polished approach to design with an emphasis on strict geometry, and the inventive use of materials lies at the heart of their work. A rigorous and imaginative approach to building complements this design focus. This combination of skills has helped the firm establish a reputation for innovative, cutting-edge design. In London, Mumbai, and Singapore, Serie operates its offices.
They sought to build the Jameel Arts Centre in such a manner that it has a sense of intimacy while also being able to generate communal and social areas. The entire structure is composed of a collection of galleries and workspaces that surround the courtyard. The spatial structure of the project was influenced by local architectural traditional sha’abi houses developed in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the architect. It is made up of a sequence of chambers arranged around an indoor courtyard that gives light and ventilation. They handled it as if it were a horizontal blank canvas on which the artworks and sculptures were placed. Desert plants from all over the world were brought in and installed in the courtyards. The galleries had to be extremely open and transparent, therefore the boxes were connected by a colonnade that defined the site’s boundary. The complex includes a specialized gallery area of over 1,000 square meters, as well as a 300-square-meter Open Access Research Center, events and screening spaces, a rooftop cafe, and a bookshop. The exterior and interior spaces are well-balanced throughout the design.
The facade is designed to be simple, with aluminium cladding that is slightly reflective, creating a dynamic skin that responds to weather fluctuations. The south facade has hardly any windows to maintain a comfortable temperature from the south side. However, because the north facade features huge windows, it will permit natural light to enter the room without allowing direct heat gain from the south side. In the courtyards, the natural clustering of the different masses provide self-shading. The waterfront promenade is revitalized when such a colonnade becomes an active social place. It is designed to function as a connection between the building and the waterfront, encouraging visitors to walk through the space even when they do not enter the building.
The spaces are designed in a flexible curatorial style to serve the people as the city changes and expands, with a range of galleries and rooms with varied sizes and heights to accommodate diverse sorts of artworks and installations. Temporary exhibitions are displayed on the ground floor, long-term exhibits and huge sculptures are displayed on the first floor, and video works and larger exhibits are displayed on the second floor.
Anouk Vogel, a prominent landscape architect, designed the gardens at the Jameel Arts Centre. The gardens, which are designed as a sequence of seven sustainable open-air courtyards, funnel light into the Centre and create opportunities for thought and pause. Each garden contains a diverse collection of desert plants from all over the world. These one-of-a-kind plants are set against soft pink terrazzo and sculptural components, creating spaces for reflection and environmental education for people of all ages within the galleries and library. Artists created an eighth garden, located between galleries 2 and 3 and accessible to the colonnade on the Creekside, through commissions and shows.
Christopher Lee believes Architecture should play the role of a background as an open structure, where it serves as a backdrop for a life of a building to unfold, so it is the art, the artists, visitors, courtyards, plants that stand out because the building offers that backdrop to move through the building.
Designboom (2018). Jameel arts centre by serie architects opens in Dubai [online]. Available at: https://www.designboom.com/architecture/jameel-arts-centre-dubai-serie-architects-interview-11-12-2018/
Jameel Arts Centre. Architecture and Gardens [online]. Available at: https://jameelartscentre.org/about/architecture-gardens/
Serie Architects. Jameel Arts Centre – Projects – Serie Architects [online]. Available at: https://www.serie.co.uk/projects/5/jameel-arts-centre
Middle East Architect (2018). Jameel Arts Centre | Design by Serie Architects [online]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nOc8j85cBk