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Elle Decor Italia

Dubai’s hipster district

Discovering Alserkal Avenue, a hidden gem inside big metallic boxes in the outskirts of Dubai

Carlotta Marelli

If you are wondering whether there are hipsters in Dubai, the answer is yes, there are indeed. We even visited their neighbourhood, far away from the big malls and from the stereotypes we think of when we imagine the UAE.

The place to find them is Alserkal Avenue, a hidden gem in the outskirts of the city, which looks like a redeveloped old industrial district. Initially, there was only one warehouse and the rest was built by artists and archi-stars to recall the so-loved industrial aesthetics. In the heart of this district, there is Concrete, a big concrete exhibition centre designed by OMA with a very busy schedule. “Concrete is one of Dubai’s building, not only because it is physically located here, but also because of everything about it – from the materials to the workforce – belongs to the city. As this city is known for oversize, shiny and overloaded buildings, this one had to have a more neutral impact” explained Koolhaas at the inauguration. 

But don’t be so European to label something as ‘fake’ just because it’s not at least 5 centuries old, it would be a huge mistake. Sure, that warehouse-look doesn’t help, but what’s inside these big metal boxes is truly interesting.

This is the home of a creative community – as its founder and sponsor Abdelmonem bin Eisa Alserkal likes to call it – made of 53 contemporary art galleries representing local and international artists, concept stores spanning from fashion to jewellery and design, gourmet locations (such as Mirzam’s chocolate makers), cafes and co-working spots that have a lot to teach to Europeans. 

Among the most interesting events planned for November, month of the Dubai Design Week, Concrete hosts the While We Wait exhibition-installation. This is an immersive piece of art designed by Palestinian architecture and design studio AAU ANASTAS, which used 500 stones collected from different locations around Palestine to create a big and visually permeable sculpture. This meditative installation reflecting on nature’s cultural affirmation in Palestine was already displayed at the V&A Museum in London. 

Africa by Design at warehouse n.59 is another exhibition that tells about a place that wants to offer an international perspective on the world of design. The incredible work of designers from seven sub-Saharan African countries is showcased here with fabrics, sculptures, objects and installations representing the beauty and the complexity of different cultural factors. They also represent a dialogue between business and design and its potential to contribute to local economies through manufacturing and employment.

Among others art exhibitions, you should not miss Heretic Spaces at Elmarsa Gallery, a personal exhibition by young Tunisian artist Thameur Mejri (born in 1982) who tells about brutality, war, bigotry, intolerance and lack of communication in a chaotic and refined manner.

So, next time you’re in Dubai, take a taxi (as it’s almost impossible to walk there), leave any prejudice behind and explore Alserkal Avenue. You’ll see that being a hipster in Dubai is completely different. 


by Carlotta Marelli / 27 November 2017


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