In communication and response to the unique and extreme desert conditions of the UAE, the Dubai Residence provides a moment of quiet repose, sheltered from the intensity of the local elements. This 1,700 m2 single-family home nestles discreetly into a community of private villas, each surrounded by 3-meter high boundary walls. The simplicity of its serene stone-clad exterior is expressed as flush, planar, and protective.

Project Name: Dubai Residence
Studio Name: Shubin Donaldson
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Photography: Shubin Donaldson
Project size: 18300 ft2
Completion date: 2021
Building levels: 3

Dubai Residence by Shubin Donaldson - Sheet1
View of pool side ©Shubin Donaldson

At the same time, areas of perforated openings punctuate the surfaces, hinting at the interior and glowing lantern-like in the evening. The solid exterior appearance is contrasted by a simple curved interior edge that defines the hidden courtyard and recalls the edges of the wind-swept dunes of the desert. One moves through a concentricity of protective ‘shell’ walls from exterior to interior, revealing an interior garden oasis.

The building is oriented using its taller mass to passively protect the inner courtyard from the dominant direction of wind and sandstorms while also maximizing valuable shading throughout the day. Other portions of the building volume are arranged to screen the neighboring structures and reinforce a framed view toward the sky. The view over a dark bottomed swimming pool adds visual depth to the courtyard experience as water spills over an infinity-edge towards the descending driveway buffering the outer wall.

The entry sequence moves through a fortified portal to a double-height foyer space revealing views into the garden and pool. A monumental stone stair rises at one end of the foyer to a west-facing upper window flooding the space with afternoon light. The sun is filtered into patterned shadows and dappled light that characterize the interior, modulated by a series of operable bronze Mashrabiya screens.

Dubai Residence by Shubin Donaldson - Sheet2
Staircase ©Shubin Donaldson

The main level supporting the most public spaces has an open feel. It accentuates cross-sectional views across the entire site allowing the garden courtyard to feel like an extension of the interior experience. The upper level distributes the more private spaces around the curved perimeter of the volume, reinforcing the upwardly viewed aperture.

Other features such as a home theater, squash court, and multi-use room are comfortably located on the lower level. A water feature and lush peripheral garden surrounding the building offer a rich and diverse layer of experience.

High-performance exterior glazing and the rooftop photovoltaic array will offset energy concerns, while regionally sourced limestone provides a natural and authentic feel to the surfaces. Cast in place concrete perimeter walls will be naturally pigmented to approach the warm tonality of the adjacent desert landscape.


Rethinking The Future (RTF) is a Global Platform for Architecture and Design. RTF through more than 100 countries around the world provides an interactive platform of highest standard acknowledging the projects among creative and influential industry professionals.