Located between Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) and the public beach, The Beach is one of the most recent and exciting developments to be unveiled in Dubai. Covering over a 1km stretch of shoreline between the Hilton and Sheraton Hotels, Cracknell were appointed to design and supervise the construction of this low rise entertainment, leisure and retail development.
Answering the Clients’ (Meraas) design brief to create a vibrant outdoor urban environment and offer the community exciting recreational facilities, Cracknell wanted to ensure full advantage was taken of the beach front setting and provide a well thought through integrated design response. The architectural design established four distinct character zones across the development, ranging from recreational, centred around the cinema building, a commercial zone with an urban plaza as the hub, a large elliptical plaza to the centre of the site suitable for outdoor events, and a high end zone with exclusive restaurants, outdoor dining and retail outlets. Along the length of the site the landscape design links each of the architectural character zones by three corridors. The first of these is the urban street corridor adjacent to the JBR Walk. The external edge of The Beach now compliments the urban street character to both sides of the existing road. This edge is punctuated at strategic locations by wide pedestrian access routes allowing visitors to approach from the JBR walk and provides connections from the street, across the central spine (second corridor) to the beach promenade which provides the third of these corridors. At the northern end of the development the landscape to the recreational zone is designed around the main attraction, the indoor and outdoor cinema. The landscape features here include a colourful and brightly designed shaded water play area known as the ‘splash pad’, which is popular with children and their families. Adjacent to the ‘splash pad’ is a permanent amphitheatre for live performances, lawn areas for people to picnic and children to play. The recreational area of the promenade is adjacent to the beach and elevated above the sand. The beach promenade provides an active corridor and is designed to provide an enjoyable open space suitable for different users groups. It provides a wide meandering footpath adjacent to the jogging track complete with a series of outdoor gym areas with exercise equipment for people to use. Steps, access ramps, seating walls, all light in colour, have been integrated into the level changes down to the beach. Benoy architects have designed the beach facility buildings, which are situated strategically along the beachfront and provide showers and toilet facilities for beach users. If you were to walk from the cinema along the central spine to the southern edge of the development you pass through 3 plazas of contrasting scale, each offering a different experience. The first of these is the commercial plaza. The commercial plaza is square, with low buildings and shaded walkways spanning across the buildings and enclosing the space. A large water feature commands the centre of the square with the water reflecting both the adjacent buildings and the olive trees planted within the water feature itself. The sound of water along with the dark stone finishes of the water feature enhances the calming atmosphere and reflective qualities of the space. The surrounding paving is a mixture of dark and medium greys laid in a direction to accentuate the orientation of the water feature within the plaza. Seating from the restaurants spill out into the square offering a very convivial space for al fresco dining. The next area is the central plaza where the relatively narrow and shaded arcades open up into a large elliptical space, bordered on one edge with buildings facing the plaza and the other opening out onto the hub of JBR Walk. The eye is drawn towards what we call the ‘chocolate box’ building, on the edge of the reflection pool as the centre point of the space. The plaza is framed by the steel and wood arcades adjoining the buildings and provides shaded seating on the edge of the plaza. The plaza level is lowered towards the centre, to enhance the sense of space. The plaza was kept free of any landscape elements to ensure maximum use for festivities and seasonal functions. The southern end of the development is aimed at a higher end use, such as fashion boutiques and signature restaurants. The selection of dark honed stone finishes compliment the limestone facades and copper finishes of the buildings resulting in a sleek high end appearance.
The landscape paving and planter materials are natural stone. The pallet is simple, light, medium and dark grey stones which vary in size, pattern and finish to provide subtle variation within each of the character zones. A large area of the development particularly towards the beach is constructed with a mosaic cobble pattern which uses the 3 grey tones to produce a pixelated wave pattern which represent the movement and eddies of the Arabian Sea washing onto the shore. The raised planters throughout the development are simple and light in colour with integrated timber seating and lighting specifically designed and made for the project. Street furniture, including seating, handrails and fencing throughout the project is specifically designed by Cracknell, with the majority being constructed from timber.
The planting on the podium is designed to enhance the transition zone from dining to beach. Soft, relaxing and gently flowing with the contours between the plaza and the lower promenade. Defining the edge of the beach, Washintonia palms have been planted along the length of the promenade. Another significant area of soft landscape is to the basement parking at the point where visitors access the podium landscape by escalators. Ficus benjamina trees are planted on the basement car park level and their canopies extend above the ground-floor level making them an attractive feature and visible at the landscape plaza level above. Throughout the design phases of the project the Cracknell team were acutely aware that JBR and Dubai Marina were already considered to be heavily congested with traffic, street parking and additional nearby construction projects. A lot of consideration was given to existing residents’ concern that The Beach development was only going to perpetuate this congestion. Therefore, as well as developing open spaces, traffic studies were conducted very early on in the design process, with Cracknell being influential in proposing and delivering the aesthetic integration and construction of the widening of the JBR walk road, and creating a 2 way traffic system, replacing the regularly congested one way system around the development. Provision for ample underground parking was a key design feature for this project, replacing and extending the previous car park the site has been developed upon. It is anticipated the Al Sufouh tram system will link with the development, which will further contribute in reducing parking and traffic congestion in the area. One other excellent fact that should be noted is that through responsible design and despite the additional offerings of the development, the beach itself is now actually greater in area than when the construction work began. Cracknell are also involved in the refurbishment of JBR The Walk . Whilst ensuring both The Beach and JBR retain their own identities, the refurbishment of JBR is just as exciting and the landscape enhancements will contribute positively to one of Dubai’s most popular residential retail and F&B zones. The Beach development was opened in February 2014 and all the early signs indicate that it is a hugely successful development. Cracknell approach any new project with one key principal in mind; how does it make a positive contribution? We believe The Beach is a place that people will enjoy and it will set a new standard for Dubai developments offering a very real alternative to the ubiquitous indoor malls. Cracknell looks forward to being involved in more high quality, imaginative and fun outdoor spaces in the future.