Jameel Arts Centre, one of the first independent contemporary arts institutions in Dubai, is designed by UK-based Serie Architects led by principal Christopher Lee, with Dubai-based ibda design as consultant architects. The building is comprised of three floors of gallery spaces; an open-access research centre and library; dedicated projects and events spaces; a rooftop terrace designed for installations, film screenings and events; and a restaurant and shop and espresso bar.
The architecture, as well as the thinking behind the Centre’s curatorial programme, is influenced by the building’s position on the Dubai Creek, and includes a subtle play on interior and exterior spaces, aiming to maximise a sense of openness and accessibility. Light is funnelled into the galleries and library through seven gardens which punctuate the building, re-set the mind, and allow art, books and the community to directly interact with flora and the outdoor. Multifunctional in its design, the building is conceived as a series of boxes of varying dimensions that are bound together by a one-storey colonnade. This allows for maximum curatorial flexibility: project and exhibition spaces range from the intimate to double-height galleries for total installations and more imposing works.
While the colonnade and courtyard-style gardens draw on the rich architectural traditions of the region, the building is resolutely contemporary, and clad in a shimmering white aluminium, contrasting with grey fairface concrete pillars and black terrazzo walkways.
The Jameel Arts Centre gardens have been designed by renowned landscape architect Anouk Vogel. Conceived as a series of seven sustainable, open-air courtyards, the gardens funnel light into the Centre and provide moments of pause and reflection.
Each garden has a particular design and character, and each represents a distinct desert environment, named after a country, region or particular species: Namib, Socotra, Chihuahuan, Australian, Silk Floss, Arabian, and Spiny Woodlands. Each of the seven gardens features a collection of sculptural plants native to the world’s varying desert ecosystems. Rare plants, such as dragon blood, adenia ocotillo and turtle plants, as well as more familiar plants, including fan aloe and marble cactus, make up a few of the 149 varieties featured.
Vogel has drawn inspiration from the history of botanical adventurers, as well as the ways in which plant seeds and species journey across the world. The uniquely sourced and landscaped plants are set against soft pink terrazzo and sculptural elements, providing spaces within the galleries and library for reflection as well as environmental education for all ages. Please check the What’s On section for information about tours and workshops.
An eighth garden, set between galleries 2 and 3, and open to the colonnade on the Creekside, is created by artists, via commissions and exhibitions. The Artist’s Garden allows artists to draw on their own practice and interest in flora and the meaning and symbolism of plants, or opt to pick up on the inspiration of the Dubai Creek itself, or touch on the Centre’s curatorial thematics.
The Centre also features site specific installations by local and international artists that interact with the building itself. Two new semi-permanent works from the Art Jameel Collection, are featured as stand-alone works. The Lobby features an interactive work by Lara Favaretto, with views of the Creek.