DUBAI OPERA, DUBAI
ATKINS, NEOLIGHT AND LIGHT + DESIGN
Dubai Opera sits within the Emaar property group’s
Downtown Dubai development along with the Burj
Khalifa, the Dubai Mall and the Dubai Fountains.
Its vernacular form is inspired by the traditional
Arabic dhow, or sailing boat, and local heritage is
a theme throughout the interior.
The glass frontage comprises 1710 facade and mullion
sections, and 1270 individually sized glass panels.
It is passively cooled using roof overhangs, external
louvres and traditional mashrabiya, which also help
control natural light levels. However, its design is
perhaps mainly notable for including a 360-degree
lobby, created to be part of the public realm; the
whole of the facade is open and accessible to
pedestrians, meaning that there is no back-of-house.
Neolight carried out the lighting design for all front
of house and landscape areas, from full concept
through to completion, plus detail design through
to completion for the auditorium lighting design,
conceptualised by Light + Design Associates.
The lighting experience starts on the approach to
the venue, says Neolight senior project designer Gary
Thornton. From the external perspective it is the
interior glow of the ‘dhow’ that provides the beacon
and focus of the building. Recessed LED marker lights
draw visitors towards the entrance, guiding them
along the plaza and through the gobo projections that
create a dynamic lead-up to the building.
Dubai’s seafaring heritage is also celebrated in the
design of Symphony, the 27m-high, five-tonne
installation that descends through three storeys of the
main atrium. Designed by Libor Sošták of Czech glass
manufacturer Lasvit, the dynamic sculpture is lit by
nearly 3000 internal, white LED sources and sparkles
with thousands of hand-blown crystal ‘pearls’. Their
spacing and movement are controlled by an app and
represent a fishing net in a vortex of bubbles.
The lobby is enclosed by a transparent, white glass
screen with an internal and external anti-reflective
coating. Atkins design director and lead architect
Janus Rostock emphasises that a key consideration
in the building’s design was its impact on the
surrounding neighbourhood. The glass, ‘effectively
transforms theatre-goers into performers for the local
community by blurring the lines between the interior
and the plaza,’ he says.
Around the full circumference of the building the
dhow is illuminated by internal columns that appear
to run full height and are lit through with integrated
Above left: the glass frontage
comprises 1710 facade and
mullion sections, and 1270
individually sized glass panels
Left and above: Symphony,
a 27m-high, five-tonne
installation, internally lit by
3000 LEDs, descends through
three storeys of the main
atrium. Ambient and accent
lighting comes from seamlessly
integrated fittings throughout