Shaping Dubai: an Interview with Arthur Benedetti

Shaping Dubai: an Interview with Arthur Benedetti

Arthur is known best for his design process, which begins with a story. Drawing on themes and motifs to inform his designs, Arthur’s approach is rooted in the contextual meaning of a project’s site and the aspirations of the client. Finding enjoyment and ease within the design process, Arthur’s main source of inspiration comes from the often-overlooked concept of play. He understands that the experience of a project is what visitors will leave with and ultimately return for. The challenge of transforming grand ideas into designs that hold meaning, importance and tell a story once fully realized is where Arthur excels.

Q: The quality of public realm is significantly influenced by the design features of buildings facing roads and squares. Dubai’s most successful streets and public places are, in fact, created through private initiatives, which were able to turn the design quality into a fundamental asset. To what extent is it possible to intervene as designers outside the property boundaries and what are the main strategies that you adopt in your practice to influence the surrounding of the buildings you design?

AB: The best opportunities for intervention, of course, are within the larger master planned developments, where the master developer provides the vision and design for the public realm space. We have been fortunate to be involved with several projects in Dubai, which are large-scale multiuse projects in which the design of the public realm is a contributing factor in the branding and identity of the project.

Dubai is a lot like Los Angeles, and yet in some ways, totally different. Like LA, the city is a collection of ‘projects’ or destinations dotted across the landscape and accessible by an enormous infrastructure catering to the automobile. Unlike LA, it has not yet found the means to connect these destinations together into a sustainable network of communities or neighborhoods. The car is currently the dominant method of transportation, but we believe that there is a strong leaning towards the creation of more walkable and accessible communities, and even connecting communities; perhaps like the hundreds of neighborhoods within LA metro area with each expressing a unique character and quality.

Q: 5+ design is extensively working in Dubai across all design scales, from large master plans, to the design of complex buildings, residential towers and smaller pieces of architecture such as the pavilion constructed in Business Bay. In all projects, particular care has been taken to deliver high-quality public realm as well as increasing walkability and improve user experience. What qualities and design solutions are in common to most of your projects?

AB: At the root of our global experience is several decades of retail design, in which the smooth and uninterrupted movement of people, the comfort of the visitor, and the visibility and attraction of the surrounding atmosphere is the key to success of the project. We bring all these attributes into the design of our projects from the large-scale master plans residential/commercial projects, to parks and pavilions.

To create projects that stand the test of time, we utilize age old traditions of human-scaled, public space design; creating enduring spaces that transcend the cultures or generations that utilize them. Timeless design incorporates authenticity, comfort, intuitive wayfinding, ease of use, discovery and a few elements of surprise.