Al Seef, Architecture, Dubai, Dubai Creek, GAJ, Heritage, Heritage architecture

GAJ completes design for heritage-inspired Al Seef development on Dubai Creek

Godwin Austen Johnson (GAJ) has completed the design for Al Seef, a new cultural tourism development on Dubai Creek that recreates the Emirati heritage style architecture of the nearby Bastakiya neighbourhood.

The firm was responsible for the design of the overall masterplan, as well as the design and construction supervision of the eastern section of the project which includes phases 2 and 3.

“For this unique project it was essential that we first appreciated the extent and requirement of preserving and showcasing traditional Emirati architecture and local trades,” said Jon Sander,  associate partner.

“The challenge was to design the buildings as if they had always been there, withstanding the test of time through aging techniques and carefully calculated degradation percentages. Water marks, caulking and bulges in the edges all contribute to achieve this, as well as specifically chosen materials and finishes unique to local conditions of the time.”

The eastern section includes a number of heritage-style cluster buildings which recreate the memory of old Dubai, extending out towards the existing historical district of Bastakiya.

“This started with the masterplan which was to act as the guiding principle of the development to ensure a cohesive vernacular architecture based on local heritage building principles and construction materials, reflecting local traditions as well as the environmental, cultural and historical context,” Sander explained.

Some buildings within the development are designed to appear as if they had been built in the 1960’s, featuring darker walls, little lighting and simple decorative elements. Others include lighter walls with more intricate detailing and embellishments on the facade – an indication that they have been built at a later stage where the emirate started seeing a boom in trade and business.

The use of materials were also regarded to create an authentic relation to the past, with all doors and windows made from Dabema African Teak, in addition to the use of handmade wrought ironmongery and traditional palm tree materials. Lighting fittings are made from brass.

“Attention to detail was crucial for this project and the team spent many hours researching the era, visiting museums and old souqs as well as trawling through old news stories and photographs for inspiration to ensure that the finished product was as authentic as possible,” Sander said.

He continued: “It was important to ensure that elements such as cornices, ironmongery and wooden doors were as close to the original as practicable. Chandals, pergolas and barasti, which have been used in Emirati architecture for many years, have been cleverly incorporated as shading or screening to hide modern equipment, and many of the fixtures are reclaimed items.”

Al Seef comprises of leisure, retail and dining areas, which all keep the original brief and design strategy as the overall masterplan.

Last month, GAJ celebrated 25 years since the completion of its most iconic project, the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.