An architectural tour of the Dubai Opera

Rediscover the Dubai Opera & what makes it such an important Dubai icon of architecture

22 Oct 2019, words by Ankita Bhowmick in Design & Architecture

Dubai Opera

located in Downtown Dubai, next to the iconic Burj KhalifaDubai Opera is the center of performing arts in Dubai. The project was announced in 2012 and opened its gates for the first time in 2016. 

Designed by Atkins and lead architect Janus Rostock, the building of Dubai Opera resembles the shape of a dhow and is a tribute to the city's maritime history. Though the design of Dubai Opera is inspired by the past, its functionality is contemporary. The building is also known to be able to transform into three modes. It can transform from a theatre to a concert hall and also to a 'flat floor' mode like that of a banquet. This helps the venue to host a wide range of events that include opera, theatre, orchestras, ballet, live entertainment, fashion shows, art galleries, art exhibitions and conferences. 

The Theatre mode is ideal to feature large-scale drama productions, ballets, musicals, conferences and lectures and can host up to 2,000 people. The Concert Hall mode features a series of towers and reflectors on stage and overhead are designed so as to create an acoustic shell around the orchestra.

Dubai Opera

The transformation into different modes has been made possible with the help of a high number of moving floors, walls and ceilings allowing the auditorium seating to change the configuration, or to disappear altogether, along with different stage configuration. 

According to Janus Rostock, design director at Atkins and the architect who led the project, “We looked into Dubai's heritage and traditions for inspiration to find an architectural language which would celebrate the city's past, as well as supporting its future. The traditional Arabic dhow has played a significant role in bringing success and prosperity to Dubai, and through trade these vessels have also played their part in introducing culture and ideas to the city. This theme resonated strongly with our client and it has resulted in a building which is very much embedded in the place, culture and history of the emirate.”

Dubai Opera

According to him, the roof is a major part of the design. He said, "cold air is pumped to the roof courtyard which is open to the elements, so even in summer people will have that outdoor experience." 

“Other parts are enclosed and a conservatory has been added to the design.”

Dubai Opera

“We have also used very transparent glass and the reason is that people can stand outside and look in during the day which you normally would not be able to do during the day as the glass would be too thick and it is darker inside. But you also want to be able to look outside during the night and see the Burj Khalifa, We have used anti-reflective glass to give the best possible views," he added. 

"The lobby is very much a public space which is enclosed by a transparent glass screen, only broken by external horizontal wooden louvers that provide protection from the sun. The lobby and public realm are seen as one – a space where the audience becomes performers for residents and visitors of the neighbourhood."