Nestled within the peaceful grounds of Safa Park, within short walking distance of Gate 5, is Dubai’s newest creative hangout. The Archive is a beautiful low-rise structure that seems to effortlessly blend into the surroundings.
Not surprisingly, the old facilities building itself actually dates back to 1975, but Japanese architect Takeshi Muruyama has fused the traditional Arabic elements, such as the structural arches, with minimalistic black interiors and floor-to-ceiling glass to give it a slick, contemporary feel. Approaching The Archive, you’d be forgiven for losing your bearings for just a moment: jazz plays softly from speakers surrounding the outdoor café-style seating, making it easy to believe you’re in Sydney, New York or London.
In fact, the focus here is solely local. The Archive stocks a range of art books, including those on typography, calligraphy, fashion, design and art history, from the Middle East and North Africa region only. Its founders are well-known around town as the visionaries behind Dubai’s groundbreaking creative hub The Shelter, and for having much to do with art space and café The Pavilion.
The Archive librarian and programme manager Sara Malki explains that the launch of The Archive was a natural progression within the city’s arts scene. ‘The focus of The Archive is to dispel negative stereotypes about the Middle East,’ she explains.
As well as stocking art literature, which is regularly updated each month, the space also houses a central table complete with power points for mobile workers, plus a pleasant café with al-fresco seating that will eventually serve all-day breakfast. It also includes a busy programme of cultural workshops, such as architecture and book-making, film screenings and artist talks.
‘Art exhibitions will disappear, but the art books will be here all the time,’ explains Malki.
On top of that, The Archive is also involved in organising community events to help engage people with the park. These include football (every Saturday morning), dance classes, boot camps, musical performances and yoga on the grass. Though the organisation itself is non-profit, people can participate on a pay-as-you-go basis. And while you can’t borrow the books within the library to take home, The Archive offers a place for people to spend the entire day either reading, working, eating or simply looking out into the green, grassy landscape that seeps into every aspect of the structure.
Whether you’re interested in art literature, want a place to work or simply hope to enjoy a coffee in one of the most serene spots in Dubai, we suggest you check out this gem while the weather permits. Stay tuned to our art events pages for details of upcoming talks and screenings.
Open daily 8am-8pm. The Archive, Gate 5, Safa Park (04 349 4033).