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Dubai Mall Chinatown, a gateway to Chinese culture in Dubai

Dubai Mall Chinatown, a gateway to Chinese culture in Dubai


Featuring an aquarium, cinemas and even a dinosaur fossil, the Dubai Mall is simply larger than life. For Chinatown, new extension of the Emaar Properties shopping center, Andrea Destefanis and Filippo Gabbiani, of architecture and interior design firm Kokaistudios, amplified key visual identifiers of Far Eastern Asian culture – including fans, lanterns and trellises – to give another image of traditional Chinese neighborhoods.

Located in Dubai’s largest shopping center, Dubai Mall Chinatown constitutes a cultural bridge between residents and visitors of the United Arab Emirates city and facets of Chinese history and customs. A new 15,000 m² destination for shopping, relaxation and dining, designed by Kokaistudios as a contemporary version on traditional Chinatowns and promising an Asian experience. Two entrances connect the building to the Dubai Mall and the street. Evoking the sloping tiled roofs of a village, the door of the exterior facade, surrounded by a brass metal trellis, is a sublime circular passage, typical of classical Chinese gardens, and leads to an escalator to the upper floor. In terms of design, four zones reflect the culture and traditions of the Middle Kingdom. The first, Lantern Street, is decorated with hexagonal red lanterns, suspended above the shop fronts. Metal mesh awnings, a wooden mortise and tenon structure and a system of floor tiles of different sizes complete the picture of a street market. The Tea Room Garden is made up of shops on the central island and surrounding stores, alluding to the balance of the country’s medicinal plants and herbs. Open concessions selling health and beauty products, therapeutic tea, and rejuvenating spas create a calm atmosphere with soothing aromas. The stalls’ structural columns resemble stylized brass willows, and custom-made, oversized red fans float between them. Next, in the Bird Market food court, pendant lighting including metal bird cages recalls the bird and flower markets of China, while clear GLC concrete pillars printed with bamboo reference its flora iconic. Also on the menu is a range of East Asian cuisines served on metal stands and surrounded by courtyard-style tiled floors. Here, seats and benches are decorated with floral fabrics. The fourth and final space, Neon City, adopts a modern tone and is inspired by the metropolises of Hong Kong or Shanghai. It is a three-story atrium with a skylight, lined with advertising signs for restaurants, cafes and bars, as well as LED screens representing the animals of the Chinese zodiac. The light installation, by Jason Bruges Studio, is a centerpiece. Fans, lanterns and the color red convey an international and pop vision of China, creating an exciting destination for visitors who can discover the country’s newest brands and its ancestral traditions.

Andrea Destefanis and Filippo Gabbiani from the Kokaistudios office.

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