“Working together and experimenting with something new. And that’s what the X stands for – the unknown.”
“It was at the start of this construction boom here in Dubai around 2003. We talked about working together and experimenting with something new. And that’s what the X stands for – the unknown.
We wanted to take a very specific route, to develop our own design language; we are against the generic. We started right after graduating, almost the next morning – we didn’t take a rest! We immediately had three very different commissions in Dubai: A residential house; a floating houseboat and a commercial fashion showroom.”
In the last 14 years, they’ve built up a formidable array of projects and commissions. One of the most picturesque being the Visitor Centre for Wasit Natural Reserve in the neighboring Emirate of Sharjah.
They designed two long buildings that intersect each other – and are practically hidden at ground level – which feature a public area for viewing and education and a service, research and veterinary area for the center. It’s now home to 350 bird species and a migration stop for 33,000 birds.
“Part of our office philosophy is that we design in context of the locality with our core environmental values as part of our design process. As this was such a sensitive site, we didn’t want to have an object that becomes a superimposed icon, rather we developed something that camouflages itself with the beautiful topography. In addition, some birds need specific light quality, shade, and we had to respond to that.”
They’ve also been involved in a highly complicated and long-term masterplan for a mixed-use site in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
“We’ve been working with the city since 2011: We did the research first, then won the first phase and the second phase of the competition and we’re still continuing – it’s a collaborative process.It’s more of an infrastructure project than pure architecture – we’re working on central site with public places and courtyards that during the Hajj will provide essential services to tens of thousands of people – you have to remember that each year 20 million people attend the pilgrimage. But then at other times of the year, the site has to revert back to being for the local community with cafes et cetera.”
Their current projects in include two mosques, moving away from the traditional typology and new UAE embassies in Ankara and Doha. But most of their work is to be found in the Emirates.
With Dubai being a construction and architecture hot spot, it means local architecture practices are facing international competition as the likes of Zaha Hadid, OMA and Fosters & Partners who all have local offices here.
“For sure it’s a very competitive place, every major global architect has an office here, plus you have very experienced local consultants.
But we found that as we have a more-design orientated practice we have a niche that gives us an edge to compete.
And also because city is getting more diversified, there’s been a huge development in understanding and industry and culture. Dubai has created this platform for people to come from all over the world. It’s become very easy to collaborate here; it’s a very collaborative place. The city is helping us; we have now the resources and creative industry available here to compete and succeed.”