The Pavillion in Dubai

We look inside the new spiritual home of Dubai's creative community


The Pavilion goes against the extravagant Dubai grain: all airy, light-filled spaces in natural materials – it's a creative blank canvas. It includes a cinema, library, espresso bar and restaurant, and aims to allow the mind to wander in any direction. It invites creatives in to work, socialise or simply ‘be’. We wonder if ostentatious Dubai is ready to enter the realm of Californian or Swedish design? But sure enough, a week in, and The Pavilion Downtown Dubai, opposite Burj Khalifa, is buzzing with hipsters.

Persian designer Mohsin Jawaheri, who was the project’s construction manager, believes that Dubai’s reinvigorated interest in art is all down to the economic crisis. ‘During the credit crisis the best thing you could invest your money in was art,’ he says. ‘It’s not connected to real estate or banking, so people with money thought art was the next best thing.’

Many of The Pavilion’s current crowd have come over from Dubai’s original ‘creative space’, The Shelter, in Al Quoz, established by Ahmed and Rashid Bin Shabib (a space which is temporarily closed and set to launch in Media City). The brothers noticed the Downtown building, which had been there for six years (originally a sales office for Downtown’s developer, Emaar). They then came up with a new concept and a successful 30-second pitch to Emaar, which leads us to today.

Well, via some major work: ‘It used to be very opulent, but we gutted it,’ says Palestinian interior designer and architect Abboud Malak. ‘We brought in natural woods. When you are in a space like this it’s very calming.’

Jawaheri believes that lots more of Dubai’s future design, style and architecture projects will be crafted in a similarly thoughtful way to The Pavilion. ‘During the boom people didn’t pay attention to detail; they wanted to build and not worry about the long term. Today people are spending wisely. They want things that will age well.’

The Pavilion is one of the few spaces of its kind in Dubai and the masterminds behind it believe that it will change people’s perspectives and create a new community there.

‘It’s not purely a gallery or a lounge or restaurant – it’s anything you want it to be; just come and bring your computer or socialise. It’s a versatile space and encompasses everything,’ says Malak. ‘The people will make the space what it is.’

Contemporary art agency The Third Line has come up with a simulating menu of events for The Pavilion, including independent films, music events and, of course, exhibitions. So now you have the space – what are you going to think about?

3 more art spaces you need to see

The Fridge: Defining this Al Quoz space is quite tricky – one afternoon they’re teaching people aerial silk acrobatics, the next night there's a classical music concert on and the next night after that a huge party. But there is one thing that it is not – and that's cold.

XVA Gallery & Café: This gallery, café and hotel is a slice of bohemia in Dubai. The traditional wind-tower flanked architecture contrasts the modern art shown. Hire an office in the old quarter.

The JamJar: By day kids come to slap acrylics all over canvas, by night there are cutting-edge exhibits and art performances.

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