A New Vernacular

Hor Al Anz Cultural District is a mixed-use development with a concentration of cultural and retail programs built around what is primarily middle-income housing. With a rich mix of programs that place culture and art as a social catalyst, the project aims at creating a self- sustaining model of “live-work-play” synergy within a single urban block. The design scheme draws inspiration from the already rich context of active streets and compact urban character present in the surrounding neighborhoods.

A plan built around an array of courtyards, plazas, and alleyways with the intent of maximising retail frontage – a response to market preferences suggesting retail as the most lucrative market component within the project’s context. This compact layout more than doubles the area yield and frontage for retail offerings than that provided by a conventional perimeter block configuration. The result is an urban fabric synonymous with vernacular urban forms of the region providing shade and breeze through narrow and intimate walkways and public spaces.

The configuration of the building footprints follows a modular grid of 6x6m. The housing blocks sitting atop the podium structures step back for additional privacy and a more spacious perception between the residential units. The retail offerings and community facilities housed within the podium floor s are meant to serve the residents’ needs. They provide access to facilities such as a gym, a nursery, a community centre, a library and a range of convenience retail outlets. A 500-seat community theatre occupies the edge of the plot and acts as a landmark in the project while contributing to the cultural offerings of the development.

The standardisation in the design extends to the unit layouts and reveals an ensemble of configurations that can be interchangeable. The established unit mix supports the concept of social inclusion intended by the development catering to a variety of ethnic, age, and income groups.

The Architecture Language

The architectural language results from a simple manifestation of the tectonic quality of wall, slab and opening, coupled with the use of operable full height awnings with a variety of infill material such as metal, wood, fabric that would provide shade and privacy to the units. The austerity of the architecture is both an expression of the construction approach and a response to the budget constraints. This juxtaposition between the heavy and the light, the opaque and the permeable contributes to a general urban character of eclectic playfulness and warmth that is not different from the surrounding vernacular character.

Team: Ahmad Othman, Raslan Al Hawi, Fayez Najeeb, Daniel Furdik, Monalyn Gelera, Sneha Joseph, Devika Kumar

Client: Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, Government of Dubai

Collaborators: Vizualization by Dimatz

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