The primary aesthetic of design practices in the U.A.E. has been quite diverse in the past, ranging from the most modern to the most traditional. However, some of the recent projects such as Sharjah Art Foundation, Al Seef, La Mer and Louvre Museum seem to be successfully blending the cultural essence with a modern look.
I believe what really ties the two together is the attempt to minimally capture an idea and allow basic design elements to support it.
Perhaps to take this growing minimal aesthetic further in the coming year, a few aspects could be consciously given more thought in the design process.
The use of materials could be more purposeful in adding to the vibe of a place rather than solely being an embellishment. Many developments in Dubai in the past year have started to make use of the raw, rustic appearance and feel of various materials such as concrete, wood, travertine, brass and corten steel. The stripped down version of these materials really encourages the idea of reducing layers of refinement to what the material naturally is. In terms of colours, earthy tones with accents of bright, vibrant colours seems to be a developing trend that does not take away from a minimalistic look, but in fact lends a mood and emotion through the use of colour. Overall, the preferred look seems to be moving towards something that is light on the eyes, whether it is through the use of lesser materials over larger surfaces or materials that complement each other in their colours and textures.
Sustainability has begun to be consciously factored into design practices over the last year. As we move forward with improving energy, water and resource efficiency, having custom-made solutions tailoring to individual needs would be more beneficial in cutting down wastes. This could be applicable to both exterior surfaces as well as interior tiles, especially if the 3D printing were to be applied to different scales. Moreover, if the manufacture of the material (recycled, locally produced or less refined) would be the key factor in determining the materials used rather than price or commonness, it would be a great way to minimize its environmental impact. Aside from these, even technology that’s compact and visually appealing has begun being used successfully in reducing wastage of water and electricity. These approaches would, although gradually, be quite beneficial in the long run to take Dubai a step further in its endeavor towards sustainability.
The manner in which a space is designed and used really influences the experience of the user. Simple vs. busy, cluttered vs. uncluttered, open vs. congested; these factors contribute to the spatial design of our environment. As an architect, I have come to realize that maximizing the space is essential but with the use of clean lines, open or flexible spaces and natural daylight that lend an airy feel to the space. One of the newer trends that add to the experience is bringing in natural elements; plants and water features; that add neutrality to the space and create a positive impact on the people using it. Not only in homes, but also in corporate projects an open plan is now preferred over individual/separated areas because it reduces the elements in a space and allows for more flexibility and interaction. These elements should really be considered in the design process to create a more wholesome experience.
Minimalism, if viewed as a principle or design philosophy, is a flexible approach to express one’s culture or individuality as long as it ties back to the core idea of eliminating what’s excess and keeping what’s needed.
In the recent few years, there has been a gradual shift towards this minimalistic approach in Dubai’s design culture and considering what it has to offer in terms of the quality of one’s experience and to the environment, I believe it will continue to be encouraged in 2019.