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First – Old & New

Architects: Ahmad Al Ali & Farid Esmaeil

Project’s Name: Shindagha Historic District


Photographer: Fernando Guerra

Project Description: Al Shindagha historic neighbourhood is located on the shore of Dubai Creek, bordered on the south by Bur Dubai and on the west by Port Rashid. Al Shindagha district began to expand when the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, settled in the neighbourhood from 1912 to 1958.

As part of Dubai’s Historic District, along with Deira and Bur Dubai, Al Shindagha is currently undergoing major conservation and renovation work to turn the district into a prominent cultural destination. Our scope for the renovation initiative of Dubai’s Historic District consists of three distinct projects which include the Expo 2020 Shindagha Welcome Pavilion, Story of the Creek, and the Perfume House.

The design approach originates from studying Al Shindagha’s heritage and context, aiming at reviving and restoring the neighbourhood’s identity in a contemporary setting. Designing a visitor centre and museum in a context with many historic layers was a challenging experience that was overcome by creating a coherent synthesis between the old and new. Traditionally, the district’s fabric portrayed harmony and integration between the natural and built environments. X Architects steered the design in a direction that revisits the past and reinterprets it in an innovative methodology while remaining rooted in the rich cultural heritage.

The Shindagha Expo 2020 Welcome Pavilion, is a new proposed building that acts as a meeting point and information centre for the expected visitors of Dubai’s Historic District. Situated between traditional mud houses, the pavilion is designed as an open ‘plaza’ with a roof. Teak wood has been chosen for the construction of this roof, as an acknowledgment of the significant role wooden dhows played in the triumph of Old Dubai. The shifting walls provide the flexibility to contain the space or let it flow out into the surrounding context.

The Story of the Creek Museum serves as an introduction to the vibrant history of Dubai and provides visitors with an excellent understanding of the context in which Dubai grew and developed into the thriving metropolis that it is today. It also shows how the city’s leaders, both past and present, were essential in providing the vision behind this extraordinary expansion. Visitors will leave the museum with an in-depth understanding of how Dubai Creek has been a generator of trade, wealth, and success.

The Perfume House explores Emirati culture via scent and the heritage that stems from its fabrication and use. Visitors will be invited to explore scents via stations that allow them to compare and experiment with the different scents that are unique to Dubai. Scent is an integral part of Emirati hospitality, a well-balanced combination of tangible and intangible heritage come together to create a very compelling and unique story.

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