UAE projects shortlisted for World Architecture Festival 2023

Buildings in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Egypt also recognised by event celebrating global design

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Projects from across the Arab region are in the running to win big at the World Architecture Festival.

The annual event, which begins in November in Singapore, celebrates some of the world’s most impressive structures and designs.

The contest is split into three sections: Completed Buildings, Future Projects and Landscape.

The first has 18 categories including Shopping, Religion and Mixed-use. The second has 12 categories including Experimental and Residential. The Landscape section only has two categories, Architecture/infrastructure and Gardens, parks, ecological/environmental.

Four projects from the region have been shortlisted in the Completed Buildings section along with a further nine designs in the Future Projects section.

Shortlisted architects present their projects live to an audience and a judging panel made up of industry experts. One will be awarded the World Building of the Year.

Below are shortlisted projects from the region in the Completed Buildings section.

The Mosque of Light, Dubai

The Mosque of Light in Al Quoz, one of the UAE's first to have a female designer,has been shortlisted in the Religion category.

Moving away from the traditional appearance of a mosque, the design by Sumaya Dabbagh of Dabbagh Architects focuses on creating a serene space for worshippers. This was done through the controlled use of natural light along with the form and materiality of the structure.

The main building is separated into two sections, a block for male and female prayer areas and a residence for the imam and muezzin. The two sections are connected by a courtyard formed through a sculptural canopy.

Traditional Islamic patterns are incorporated throughout the exterior and interior of the structure. This creates an enchanting play of light and gives the form of the structure a dynamic, tactile texture.

Once Upon a Forest pavilion, Dubai

Designed by OBMI architecture firm and created as part of Dubai Design Week, the Once Upon a Forest pavilion in Dubai Design District took inspiration from the UAE’s natural heritage and ecology.

Recognised in the Display category of the competition, the design and organic form of the pavilion was influenced by the mangrove forests of the UAE. Constructed from local materials, the multipurpose space is a place for meetings and social interactions.

The natural forms, materials and composition of the structure, inspired by the landscape of the mangroves, create a complementary, vibrant contrast to the contemporary, urban landscape of the design district.

Presentedby store, Riyadh

Premium trainer and streetwear store, Presentedby, has been shortlisted in the Shopping category of the Completed Buildings section. The new store in Riyadh was designed by Spanish firm External Reference Architects, led by architect Carmelo Zappulla.

The design took inspiration from the Saudi desert, focusing on the significance of water. The qualities of water were explored through a number of mediums and are used to present and display products.

From a programmable water curtain that generates a responsive waterfall to animated water holograms and sculptures including a 17-metre-long, 3.5-metre-tall frozen display, External Reference Architects combined tangible elements of water through physical, sensorial and digital elements to create a unique experience for customers through architecture.

Oman Across Ages Museum, Oman

Inspired by the Hajar Mountains in Oman and located in Nizwa, one of the oldest cities in the country, the Oman Across Ages Museum has a striking presence.

The museum includes a number of galleries, a library and an auditorium as well as educational, social and research spaces. It has been shortlisted in the Culture category of the competition for its unique geometric form that echoes many features of the surrounding landscape.

Designed by COX Architecture and led by architect Steve Woodland, the museum includes a number of immersive and high-tech experiences and exhibitions for visitors showcasing Oman’s heritage from prehistory to the modern day.

The structure’s angular rise from the landscape is designed in a manner to usher visitors through an array of spaces that tell a story, from nature’s raw beauty in the form of soil and rocks to spaces that explore volume and lightness.

Additional shortlisted buildings

The Future Buildings section, which recognises designs that are yet to be built, includes nine projects from the Arab World:

  • Nora Mosque and Community Centre in Ajman, UAE, in the Civic category
  • Al Ain Museum in Abu Dhabi, UAE, in the Culture category
  • Ring Island, Dubai Healthcare City, Dubai, UAE, in the Health category
  • The Absorbent Sandstorm Skyscraper in Dubai, UAE, in the Experimental category
  • Syed Al Shuhada in Madinah, Saudi Arabia, in the Commercial Mixed-use category
  • Al Medinah Wellspring, Saudi Arabia, in the Competition Entries category
  • The Mosque in Saudi Arabia, in the Competition Entries category
  • Makkah National Library in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, in the Education category
  • Probiotic Tower in Cairo, Egypt, in the Experimental category

The World Architecture Festival will take place from November 29 to December 1 in Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

Updated: July 28, 2023, 1:08 PM