An architectural project which designers Benoy say will change the character of Dubai is currently entering its final stages of completion.
The Beach, opposite Jumeirah Beach Residence, is a low rise entertainment, leisure and retail development, along a 1km stretch between the Hilton and Sheraton hotels on the shoreline.
When initially proposed it received some negative comments from local residents who feared it would block access to the seafront and increase parking problems in an already extremely congested area.
But the architects say underground parking facilities and access routes through the development have combined to alleviate theses issues.
Paul Priest is associate director of Benoy. He said: “The brief was to create a connection between the existing walk and the sea, to transition a retail environment with that of external dining and the leisure activities of the beach. Our concept was to provide a permeable open air solution, curved in plan to respond to the beach.
“The plan gently meanders between different spaces down from Jumeriah Beach Road to the beach below.”
The development is in the form of four different zones, from family orientated through dining and retail to high end luxury brands.
A 10-screen cinema and an outdoor viewing area is at one end while the other – yet to open – features top retails outlets.
The materials used in construction reflect this – coarser concrete gives way to steel, stone and eventually copper.
Priest said: “We created four character zones within the project, which was essential for differentiating such an elongated site.
“The commercial offer from one end of the development changes from mid/high level to luxury, and the character of these areas are a reflection of that.
“The first consideration was the treatment of those spaces with regards to scale, proportion and aspect. Further to this, we developed the detail on a building by building level to ensure each was approached as an individual entity, as well as by way of a single development.
“Finally we selected materials that were appropriate to the particular architectural character. All these in combination have created both subtle and obvious differences in the texture and feel of the space and have created distinct and individual environments.”
The issue of access was another one that had to be tackled, Priest said: ”To prevent a visual barrier, we carved channels through the scheme along key axes from the JBR podium stairs down to the beach and from arrival points, to ensure visual connectivity with the sea was maintained. The urban grain of The Walk has been extended into The Beach which then dissolves along its edge to the sea.”
The other concern from local resident was tackled by the creation of a large car park under the entire development.
Areas are colour-coded for easy identification of spaces while a series of “air gardens” – large open stairwells with vegetation at the bottom – provide ventilation, natural light and cooling.
An initial model– put together by partners in the project Brewer Smith Brewer Gulf – emphasised public access and leisure activities as well as a central plaza-style performance space.
When Benoy started design work, the architects faced an issue of cultural sensitivity among the disparate users as they had to ensure that the requirements of beach-goers, diners and shoppers did not come into conflict.
Solutions included elevating the external dining zones from the pedestrian areas in order to aimprove privacy for those spaces, which were then wrapped in landscaped envelopes.
Priest said: “We also ensured there was sufficient space between the dining areas and the pedestrian walkway, and the more informal zones beyond, such as the jogging track and finally the beach. The challenge was to combine these activities, and success in achieving this has created an incredibly dynamic, vibrant and cosmopolitan destination.
“I honestly believe The Beach will change the character of Dubai and set a new benchmark in global destinations.
“Architecture is about people, and there is nowhere else in Dubai that you will find such a mix of people going about their lives, locals and expats, young and old, families and individuals. For me, this is the true test of its success.”