A creative hub

The 22-million-sq-ft development is located close to Mohammad Bin Rashid City / Pictures: SuppliedThe 22-million-sq-ft development is located close to Mohammad Bin Rashid City / Pictures: Supplied

The design industry in the Middle East surpassed $100 billion (Dh367.3 billion) in 2014, growing at more than double the pace of the global industry over the last four years. While the global design industry grew at the annual rate of 3.7 per cent, the market in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) posted an annual growth rate of 7.4 per cent. This was highlighted in the Mena Design Outlook 2015 Report, brought out by Dubai Design and Fashion Council and Dubai Design District (d3).

Dubai Design District is a 22-million-sq-ft development close to Mohammad Bin Rashid City and Business Bay. Financed and developed by Tecom, the district started development in 2008 but progress was slow until 2012. With the changing design landscape in the region after the global recession, and areas like Karama, Al Quoz and Satwa offering limited space for art galleries and designer showrooms, the design district started development to become a mixed-use hub for the design industry.

“At d3, we are developing a dedicated ecosystem with the ambition of inspiring, engaging and enabling creativity and innovation,” says Mohammad Saeed Al She-hhi, Chief Operating Officer of d3.

Site details

The site will feature a mix of commercial, F&B retail, entertainment and residential real estate. The district is being developed in three phases. Phase one is complete, featuring 11 buildings and 500 companies that employ 10,000 professionals. It is located strategically in an area a short distance from the city’s arterial highways and two international airports. It is also close to the creek, the historic trading centre, and the tourist attractions of Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall.

Modelled on areas such as Shoreditch in East London and Meatpacking District in New York City, d3 is aimed at replicating the atmosphere of these organically created global design hubs. The aim is to make Dubai a design hub, rivalling London, Paris, and Milan, and also incorporate elements of the communications design hubs of San Francisco and Seattle.

Phase one is centred around brands and established studios. About 220 businesses signed up to move into the district, including luxury companies such as La Perla and Hugo Boss and architects and designers such as Vik-tor Udzenija and Wanders Wagner Architects.

The design market

According to the Mena Design Outlook report, based on a study by accounting and consulting firm Deloitte & Touche, the value of the design industry in the UAE, including communications, fashion, architecture and media, stood at $27.6 billion in 2014. The report highlighted that the design industry in the region is on an upward trend with the sector’s growth expected to continue outperforming the global design industry. “With an aver age growth of 6 per cent, the Mena design industry will grow at twice the pace of the global design sector and by 2019, its contribution to the global design sector will reach 5.2 per cent,” the report states.

The district is a key part of Dubai’s strategy to foster the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), with 95 per cent of all firms in the development from the SME sector.

Emirati designer Khalid Shafar, who opened his store, Kasa, in Ras Al Khor in 2012, feels a space like d3 offers a unique value to the industry.

“Given the scale and potential of d3, there is a gathering of designers in one place,” he says. “It is bound to draw attention to their work apart from offering these artistic minds opportunities to collaborate on new work.”

He adds: “When I started out in 2011, there wasn’t much happening in the design space in Dubai. It is heartening to see the kind of platform new designers today are receiving through the model that d3 is based upon. It will add to the promotion of the city as a design hub and offer unparalleled exposure to the next generation.”

Phase two and beyond

Foster + Partners, the agency that won the mandate to work on phase two of d3, is creating a community for 6,000 designers spread across 1 million sq ft, due for completion next year. “This is an exciting initiative, which supports young creatives, and allows Dubai’s design scene to flourish from within,” says Gerard Evenden, Senior Executive Partner at Foster + Partners.

Phase two is geared towards start-up companies and new artists and designers. Foster + Partners plans to create a mix of flexible contemporary offices and communal working facilities around a series of pedestrianised streets and outdoor event spaces, mimicking typical street patterns in Shoreditch and the Meatpacking District.

“Approaching the brief, our first step was to explore the balance of activities in a successful, youthful creative hub, and to understand the aspirations of the different users,” says Evenden. “We analysed the way spaces were being used, and then brought a variety of functions together to encourage collaboration between disciplines.

“This, combined with the highly flexible modules, will help to create a thriving, self-sustaining community.”

The design was developed through a series of conversations, workshops and focus groups with local creatives. One of the key goals is to ensure the new spaces will evolve organically and adapt to any purpose. The master plan also outlines the completion of 2,200 hotel rooms and 1,300 serviced apartments by the 2021. These are part of the third and final phase of the development, which will feature the Waterfront Promenade.


Source: Manika Dhama, Special to Property Weekly PW



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