Layers of Dubai

brise soleil 1

waterfall dubai mall

black tiles 3

metro 1

looking through screen

Palm Drive 1Coast layerspalm coast with palm


A super-modern city sprawling across the desert. The sun penetrates to every possible corner, unforgiving and relentless. In the height of summer people scuttle from one air-conditioned space to another, and the pace of life changes to accommodate the harshness of the climate.

The practice of layering is requisitioned so that people can function within this environment. Buildings are enveloped in brises-soleils, sunscreens, which cast intricate lace like patterns on the internal spaces; there are endless permutations of these, some of which are very beautiful. The local people cover themselves up with long flowing robes, which fall in folds creating gentle, cooling waves of fabric. Canopies of palm trees and other foliage provide shelter for the pavement or for parked cars.

Layering occurs as a cultural phenomenon as well. Traditional ways of life are overlaid by contemporary standards, and by the influences of the many expatriates and international business people who come and go regularly and rapidly, and in the drive for this relatively young realm to make it’s imprint on the rest of the world there is always a new idea being pushed in front of the one before.

The fusion of all these elements has gradually evolved to give Dubai its own, slightly mysterious, identity. It is intriguing to examine this in detail, to peel back the layers, revealing the constituent parts, to find the origins of these, and reconstruct the city in your mind, but with a greater understanding of what it is you are seeing.

All photographs taken by Ju Underwood in Dubai


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