x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Metro stations will look like museums

A slice of local culture will be on display undeground next year as part of an ambitious plan to turn two Dubai Metro stations into Green Line showpieces.

Heritage-themed artwork will be displayed on Metro stations along the Green Line in Dubai, under an ambitious plan by the Roads and Transport Authority.
Heritage-themed artwork will be displayed on Metro stations along the Green Line in Dubai, under an ambitious plan by the Roads and Transport Authority.

DUBAI // A slice of local culture will be on display underground next year as part of an ambitious plan to turn two Metro stations into Green Line showpieces.

Architects and labourers are working on heritage-themed designs deep inside the Al Ras and Al Ghubaiba stops, a senior Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) official said. The construction work will weave elements of the late 19th century architecture of the nearby Dubai Creek area into their decor.

The station platforms, common areas, entrances and exits will feature the emirate's classic architectural style, along with arches typical of downtown Dubai. They are likely to be a sharp contrast to the modernistic interiors of other Metro stops. "We wanted the interior design to be part of the fabric of that area," said Abdul Redha al Hassan, the RTA rail planning and development director. "We have used elements from heritage buildings to give the stations the same theme as their surroundings."

The interiors will feature images of elegant wind towers, or brajeel, intricate lattice work known as mashrabia and narrow alleys called sukaiks. The brajeel, which are part of older courtyard-style homes in the Emirates, were built to funnel cool air into houses. "For the mashrabia, we are using a screen effect, so it's like a shaded effect that will be used inside the stations," Mr al Hassan said. "In some areas, this screen-like effect will be seen behind glass."

The walkways leading to the exits and entrances will conjure impressions of the winding sukaiks in Dubai's historical Bastakiya and Creek areas, he said. The 18 stations on the Green Line are expected to open in August, the RTA said. It will also share two stations with the Red Line. Interior work will be completed early next year, and samples are being checked for final approval. The classic design plans won the approval of experts.

"You would find this in a heritage house or a museum, but to make an effort like this in a public space and get the public part of it is a great idea," said Janet Belloto, the co-chair of Zayed University's art and design department. Using a state-of-the-art project to showcase cultural themes opened interesting opportunities, said Robert Ferry, a local architect. The Dh29 billion Metro will be the world's longest driverless system. "If done holistically, when you go down the escalator you can arrive at a beautiful, traditional area," he said.

Planners have already been mindful of safety and fire standards in selecting materials, Mr al Hassan said. Metal panels and stone will be textured for an aged effect and used instead of traditional sandalwood and coral, which are more inflammable. Limestone, metal panels with heritage pictures will adorn the walls, the flooring will use artificial stones or tiles, and perforated metal will line the ceiling.

"Chandan [sandalwood] is impossible to use but we made a copy with metal and special paint," he said. "You will not realise it's not timber. There are real stones and composite stones, there is some mosaic. But mainly the materials are fire-resistant. We give it different texture and colour to look traditional." Mr al Hassan, an architect himself, and a team of four others have worked with the international firm Aedas and the interior company KCA on the stations. The colours of the heritage-themed Metro stations will reflect the earth, water, fire and wind motif seen in Red Line stations. Al Ras has a blue, water-like background and the earth theme melds into Al Ghubaiba's beige shades.

The heritage idea is in line with an announcement two years ago by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to turn Dubai Creek into a cultural hub.

rtalwar@thenational.ae