2016 has definitely been an eventful year for architecture and design, to say the least.
This year, design was on the forefront more than ever before in the Middle East, and especially in the UAE, with the launch of the first design school in the region, Dubai Institute of Design & Innovation (DIDI) in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Parsons. The school will be designed by Foster + Partners.
Foster + Partners has also announced that it will be opening offices in Dubai Design District, alongside Calatrava International and Benoy. We had also recently visited Zaha Hadid Architects’ newly opened office in d3, and interviewed Patrick Schumacher, principal at the firm, as well as Tariq Khayyat, head of Middle East region.
One of the saddest, and perhaps most shocking news of 2016 was the death of Dame Zaha Hadid at the age of 65. Tributes poured in for the late Royal Gold Medal-winner (the first woman to receive the title), with the Postal Service in Iraq featuring the Arab-born architect’s face on its new postage stamps.
This year, we also lost one of Dubai’s most highly regarded interior designers, James Bassos who passed at the age of 39.
On a happier note, Santiago Calatrava made big regional headlines this year with the announcement of his new project in the Dubai Creek, The Tower, which will surpass the Burj Khalifa in height. The project won this year’s Middle East Architect Concept Design of the Year Award.
Speaking to Micael Calatrava about the project during the awards, he said: “One of the things we wished to do was to play on the legacy that the Burj Khalifa has left and really complement it for what it is and what it stands for. So we chose subtler shapes and more subtle designs, to form a sort of conversation between the two buildings”
Calatrava International has also been selected to design the UAE’s National Pavilion at the Expo 202o, with a falcon in flight-inspired design.
Foster + Partners, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Grimshaw Architects have also won a global competition to design the theme pavilions for Dubai Expo 2020.
BIG also made headlines this year, showcasing a continued involvement and growing portfolio of UAE-based projects. In addition to designing one of Dubai’s Expo 2020 pavilions, Bjarke Ingels, founder of BIG, is also involved in the design of the Hyperloop, Dubai’s first ever high-speed transport system which will reduce travel time between Dubai and Abu Dhabi to 12 minutes.
BIG also participated in a regeneration project for Abu Dhabi’s Port Saeed area, completing a culture and arts hub, Warehouse 421.
Futuristic transport has also been a topic of discussion this year, with the announcement of “jet-like” pods to be implemented on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island.
The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and Dubai Properties have also started the test run of driverless vehicles, each capable of carrying 10 persons, over a 650 metre long track in Business Bay.
Advancement in technology and innovation has also been a big topic this year, with the completion of the first-ever 3D-printed building in Dubai. The Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, also revealed this year that by 2030, 25% of Dubai buildings to be 3D printed.
3D printing is also one of the solutions that Qatar is looking into to create “desert-proof” stadium for the World Cup in 2022.
2016 was also a year of fires, starting with the Address Hotel fire on New Year’s Eve. Other big fires in the UAE followed, from two residential building in Ajman, to the Sulafa Tower fire in Dubai Marina. A fire also broke out in the architectural award winning Viceroy Tower in Dubai’s Jumeirah Village Circle.
Lastly, the year is never complete without the announcement of some crazy projects. The creation of the largest man-made lagoon in the world was announced this year in Dubai, as well as the announcement of Dubai Steps.
The project is a 25-storey structure which will reach 100 metres into the sky near Union Square and is planned to take no more than a year to build, according to assistant director general of Engineering and Planning at Dubai Municipality.