OMA repurposes four warehouses into a collection of configurable spaces
In 2007, a group of warehouses opened on Alserkal Avenue in Al Qouz – the industrial quarter of Dubai – to promote cultural activities and the collaboration of artistic disciplines within the area. With an expansion in 2015, the collection of 25 galleries and art spaces has continued to grow in both size and popularity. Global studio OMA is the latest to try its hand at modernising the concept, with a renovation aptly named Concrete.
Bringing together four former warehouses, the 1250 sq-m space is the firm’s first project in the United Arab Emirates. ‘[The building] was a typical shell with exposed utilities,’ the architect comments. ‘The space was divided into four separate rooms, which were mainly used as storage. The main requirement from the client was flexibility to accommodate different types of event at the same time’ – a request which is achieved through the installation of moveable walls, which can be manually guided through tracks in the ceiling to create interior spaces split into multiple configurations.
While the back elevation has been sprayed with a dark composite of concrete with mirrored aggregate, the original front façade has been replaced with a polycarbonate cladding. Two sets of full-height doors mark the entrances to the 8-m-high space, encouraging ample natural daylight into the interior, as well as enabling easier practical access for large exhibition works.
The architect explains: ‘behind the translucent front façade – which also strengthens the visual communication between the yard and the interior space – and the large skylights, the ceiling is equipped with ambient lighting strips and, alternatively, a large number of spotlights which are adjustable to the various event types.’
Photo courtesy of Alserkal Avenue