Dubai/ Transformation of Village housing I : Cluster vs Segregation (1995 – 2005)

Time frame:  Post-discovery of oil (1995 -2005)
The housing design of Dubai has drastically changed over the period between 1995 – 2005. The city of Dubai exist in a constant state of flux as the city is seemingly in a constant state of becoming. Since the 1970s the pace and tempo of Dubai urbanism has skyrocketed due to the rapid economic growth in consequence of the discovery of oil. The sudden oil wealth had, inevitably, created an influx of immigrant workers because of the need for major engineering projects. While the citizens of Dubai can benefit from the job creation of the construction works, there will also likely be continued reliance on an expatriate labour force to support economic growth. This results in imbalance between citizen and expatriate populations. Projections has shown that the total population in the UAE will increase from approximately 9 million in 2014 to 11.5 million in 2017; meaning the overall percentage of expatriates increases along time. The demographic trends highlighted the main challenge and hypothesis of the articles that “In What Style should Dubai Housing Be Built?”  Should residential architecture in Dubai respond to the citizens who form part of a shrinking minority or to the expatriate population comprising the majority?

The urban texture of Al Bastakiya (Gordon Brent, 2008)
The Al Bastakiya village (Gordon Brent, 2008)






Village Layout of The Al Bastakiya village (Archnet, retrieved 2017)

Traditional residential communities in Dubai were based on tribal systems that governed both nomadic and settled communities. In most cases these tribes belonged to larger groups represented by the sheikhdoms of the Al Maktoums in Dubai. The Al Bastakiya village, for instance, situated along the Dubai Creek, is on the oldest residential area in Dubai. It was constructed back in 1690s and consisted of 60 housing units in its prime time which were majority owned by rich Persian merchants. The village was designed in clusters with narrow lanes and wind towers separating the houses. The traditional housing was changed when oil was discovered in the region and most of families moved to the new and modern city of Dubai. The Al Bastakiya village was destroyed to make way for the development of a new office complex. A new style of living was introduced upon the demolition of the traditional village and the Jumeirah Village circle is a modern example of village living in Dubai.



Jumeirah Village (Provident Estate, retrieved 2017)

The Jumeirah Village is a coastal residential main comprising low rise private dwellings. There is a collection of more than 2,000 villas and townhouses built in class Arabian and Mediterranean styles. Under the influence of international architectural style, the layout of the village no longer designed in clusters but segregated low-rise housing. Artificial communal facilities like parks, lakes, schools and community centres are built within the village creating a “city within a village”. The area is popular with expatriates rather than locals and it also form the major population in the current day Dubai. This thus explains the shift in the architectural style as architecture should respond to and serve all. Since the heterogeneous population has enriched, it presupposes the tendency to universalizing architectural style. Yet, it manifested concerns about the weakening of the national identity of Dubai with accusations that modern architecture in Dubai are built on a tabula rasa.


Katodrytis, George; Mitchell, Kevin. “The Gulf Urbanisation” Architectural Design, 2015: Vol 85, Issue 1, 8-19
Katodrytis, George; Velegrinis, Steven. “Drawing on Sand: Cities in the Making” Architectural Design, 2015, Vol 85, Issue 1, 72-79
Zuhairy, Hasan. City Growth and Development Chronicle: Dubai, Working Paper, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania, 2012
Ouroussoff, Nicolai. “The New, New City.” New York Times Magazine, 2008: 70
Ahmed, M.S. Ouf “Authenticity and the Sense of Place in Urban Design.” Journal of Urban Design, 200: 73-86


1 Comment on “Dubai/ Transformation of Village housing I : Cluster vs Segregation (1995 – 2005)

  1. The comparison of traditional village housing to new private dwelling provides a great insight for understanding the transformation in developments of Dubai. The strong forces of individualism and mass production could be seen in the photo of Jumeirah Village, which greatly contrasted with the village layout that presents more complete planning functional arrangements. It is mentioned that artificial communal facilities are built to resemble the village community within the new city, which I think it will be interesting to compare the connectivity, living styles and social territories in each of the housing types. Is it a change in living styles under the economic development that is accommodated with new architectural forms or the influx of foreign influence in architectural styles that is adapted by people? How different people are living in these new townhouses and in what scales are the social communities built? These questions also extend to the diminishing of national identity of Dubai.

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