Dubai Metro is a rapid transit rail system and the first urban train network in the Arabian Gulf. The Municipality of Dubai identified the necessity for a rail system to relieve growing vehicle traffic congestion and support the infrastructure for urban expansion based on studies that began in 1997. In 2005, the firm Aedas was commissioned as the project’s principal architectural firm with an international team of designers and consultants based in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, and the UK. Upon its inauguration on September 9, 2009, Dubai Metro became the longest driverless train system in the world, estimated to carry an average of 1.2 million passengers per day and 355 million passengers annually.

Dubai Metro by Aedas - Sheet1
Station with pedestrian bridge_©Corrado Bonora

Style And Concept | Dubai Metro

Dubai Metro by Aedas - Sheet2
Pearl diving, part of Dubai’s heritage_© Alex Wolfe / Culture Trip

The history and heritage of Dubai as a former village relying on pearl diving as its primary source of income served as the direct reference in the stations’ form design. Other inspirational elements during concept development had been falcons’ wings and sails of dhows before settling on the idea of pearl and shell. The pearl shells’ rough exterior and smooth interior initiated the study of potential forms, resulting in distinctive curved roofs with elevated shells. The stations are elliptical, with the idea of wrapping the station around the tracks as the primary architectural approach. “…the symbolism of inclined facades, ultramodern, remain true to the heritage of the UAE… metro stations have a unique design, combining modernity and tradition.” Mr. Agoston, the group director of design, stated.

The design concepts adhere to Dubai Municipality’s request for a ‘unique, innovative, and iconic design.’


Dubai Metro has two lines; 52km from the Red line and 24 km from the Green line that extend across 47 stations, some of which are underground, some at street level, and the rest as elevated viaducts. The Red line runs from Dubai International Airport to Dubai Marina and further. The older Bur Dubai District along Dubai Creek is served by the shorter Green line, mostly underground. There are steel-truss pedestrian bridges made up of modular elements that offer all-day, air-conditioned access to the metro stations.

Dubai Metro by Aedas - Sheet3
Dubai Metro map showing the Red and Green lines as of 2022_©

Route 2020, a 15 km extension of the Red Line to the Expo 2020 site, was announced in April 2015 and opened in 2021. Seven stations were added to the network, including Jumeirah Golf Estates, the world’s largest underground metro station.


Aedas contracted out the stations’ interiors and trains to KCA International, a London-based firm. With relation to their historical context, the stations are distinctively designed using one of four design motifs: earth, air, fire, and water. The color palette of the Earth stations has warm brown tones; the Water stations are blue and white; the Fire stations are orange and red; and the Air stations have green tones. Additionally, the spaces are equipped with modern, state-of-the-art lighting, including accent and ambient lighting. 

Dubai Metro by Aedas - Sheet4
Station interior_©

“When we were doing historical sites, such as Union Square, Burjuman, or Al Ghubaiba, we also looked back at historical references to the place. For example, Burjuman means desert pearl, so we used that as the basis.” John Carolan of KCA International comments, “One of the other things that we did was include historical imagery. This was all placed on vitreous enamel panels.”

Stations | Dubai Metro

One underground transfer station type and three at-grade raised underground stations make up the Dubai Metro:

Type 1 is a regular at-grade concourse station;

Type 2 is a standard elevated concourse station;

Type 3 is an elevated special track station with an additional track to accommodate a non-operational train.

Underground transfer stations accommodate both the Red and Green lines.

Dubai Metro by Aedas - Sheet5
A train platform_©Ashim D’Silva at

The platforms are on one level, while the ticket office concourse and retail outlets are on the other. Depending on whether the lines are elevated, the rail track and platform level are often above the ticket barrier level. This arrangement is commonly seen on the Red line. The configuration may differ for underground stations or at ground level. 


A train entering a station_©Denys Gromov at
A train entering a station_©Denys Gromov at

The trains were built by the Japanese manufacturer Kinki Sharyo, each with five compartments for a capacity of 643 passengers. Platform-edge doors, air-conditioning, and full automation are features of every train. Despite being driverless, the carriages have qualified warders to handle emergencies and maintain order. The Gold Class carriage has a plush leather interior decorated in blue and aqua tones. Additionally, a carriage is reserved for women and children, decorated with a turquoise pixel pattern on the walls and floor. The rest are standard “silver” class carriages.


The design team employed industrial quartz stone, vitreous enamel panels, glass, and metal as the primary elements used in the stations, focusing on durability. The platforms, decks, and other significant parts of the substructure are precast concrete. In contrast, part of the facade is glass. The shell is a massive steel structure without interior columns for support. A double-skin cladding, with aluminum panels on top, offers an ecologically friendly approach to cooling the roof using natural, “solar-assisted” ventilation processes.

Construction | Dubai Metro

Structural details_©
Structural details_©

The stations are constructed inside a curved steel-framed enclosure with steel produced in Malaysia and Singapore. A row of hoop-shaped ribs spans the stations’ platforms and tracks, which support the curtain wall glazing and skin of standardized quadratic panels that wrap over the stations. That has been considered the most cost-effective approach as it utilized much less steel. The shell has sizeable overhangs that reach 30 meters in length.

About 5,000 tons are estimated to have been employed in the construction of the depots. Sources claim that more than 30 billion dollars have been spent on developing the whole project, most of which is believed to have been spent on the structural steelwork

The engineering firm Atkins used the LUSAS Bridges analysis program to aid in the study and design of several steel lattice bridges to facilitate pedestrian access to the elevated stations.

Innovative/Inspirational elements and technology

A tactile guidance path for the visually impaired_©Francois Nel/Gulf News
A tactile guidance path for the visually impaired_©Francois Nel/Gulf News

Aedas created a “Barrier Free Access System” to support disabled passengers with easy station navigation. It incorporates an international standard tactile guidance path for the visually impaired, signs for direction and information for the hearing impaired, and wheelchair access. There are taxi ranks and park-and-ride lots at major metro stations. 

Fun Fact | Dubai Metro

Dubai Metro appears in the trailer of the sci-fi blockbuster ‘Star Trek Beyond,’ partially filmed in Dubai in 2015.

Reference List


Wikipedia (2021). Dubai Metro. [online]. (Last updated March 2021). Available at:  [Accessed 11 October 2022].


ArchitypeReview (/). Dubai Metro Station. [online]. (Last updated /). Available at:  [Accessed 11 October 2022].


WikiArquitectura (/). Dubai Metro. [online]. (Last updated /). Available at:  [Accessed 11 October 2022].


Aedas (/). Dubai Metro. [online]. (Last updated /). Available at:  [Accessed 11 October 2022]. 


O’Neill, J. (2021, September 9).  Dubai metro is 12 years old and here’s a look back on its design history. Commercial Interior Design, [online]. Retrieved from: 


CID (2009, September 9).  Going underground. Arabian Business, [online]. Retrieved from: 


RailwayTechnology (/). Dubai Metro Network. [online]. (Last updated /). Available at: [Accessed 14 October 2022].


Lusas (/). Dubai Metro Network. [online]. (Last updated 08 September 2021). Available at: [Accessed 14 October 2022].


K Abdul Basti, A. (2008, January 11).  Dubai metro to use 25,000 tonnes of steel. Emirates 247, [online]. Retrieved from: [Accessed 15 October 2022].


A graduated BSc. in Architecture and soon-to-be master’s student, aspiring to specialize in sustainable and energy-efficient built environment. Having lived in both the Middle East and Europe has ignited travel as a passion, which she considers a valuable learning experience in the architectural profession, contributing to a spark to explore further through writing at RTF.