A Peek Into Dubai’s Architecture – How It Has Transformed Over the Years

Dubai once used to be nothing more than a fishing village but it has now turned into a business hub recognized globally. The innovation, dynamism and the sheer speed of the place has been impressing the world for a few decades now. And, Dubai’s progress is more evident in its architecture than anywhere else.

However, we can say that the architecture of the city has reached crossroads now where we’re seeing it shifting gradually from being grand to lush green, and also from being imposing to more approachable. The emirate didn’t complete this journey overnight and rather it all happened gradually. Let’s take a look at how this transformation has happened.

Where It All Started

During 1960s, and for good part of 1970s, the charming conventional architecture of Dubai boasted of those narrow alleys as well as the wind tower homes that reflect the Bedouin heritage of the Emirate. At that time, Dubai was a popular port town and the economy of the country was based on trading more than anything else.

From 1970s to 1980s and Beyond

In late 1970s, even in 1980s, Dubai’s typical image used to reflect simple and modest low-rise buildings that used to accommodate thousands of individuals from around the region as well as Indian subcontinent. In 1979, when World Trade Center started operating, it appeared at a long distance from city center. However, Dubai’s Ruler Sheikh Rashid had a plan when John Harris – the British architect – was ordered to build the Trade Center there. We saw the results coming through when the city started to expand. The pulling power of the city was further increased with the stylish and modernist, concrete-clad designs given to the city.

The World Trade Center remains the very first high-rises this Emirate cherishes and after that they started popping up on arterial roads across the city making an amazing style statement for some of the multinationals as well as the major local companies who chose to establish their offices in the emirate.

The Era of Glass Towers

It was then that the era of those beautiful and glamorous glass towers started and the city started to grow quickly through 1980s. During that time, there was extensive use of exposed glass walls and just about every commercial building and a high-rise featured those. In fact, most buildings looked much identical. There wasn’t any discourse whatsoever on the environmental performance as well as no innovation existed beyond that.

Stepping Into Modernity

The glass towers era ended when the exclusive hotel Burj Al Arab was launched in 1999. It remains to be among the very first symbols of modernity in the UAE even today. It also announced Dubai’s cosmopolitan vision for future on world stage.



Soon after, the Emirates Towers as well as some other brilliant structures were constructed and it started an entire decade of some of the most intense construction activities in Dubai leading to landmark projects like Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, and many others. It was in 2010 when Dubai came up with the iconic Burj Khalifa in Downtown district, which is still the tallest structure around the world even today and signifies modern engineering  located in the Downtown Dubai, one of the busiest hubs of the Dubai.


From there onwards, the architectural influence has broadened up creating connections throughout Dubai’s design sector. Local companies collaborated with the bold European designers to experiment with a variety of new architecture forms, including low-rise luxury floating homes. With eco-friendly projects becoming more prevalent in recent times, the reputation of Dubai to constantly reinvent itself has been cemented.

The architecture in Dubai today takes an even wider view compared to what it had back in 1980s. Now, the Emirati designers as well as the regional designers are taking design frontiers forward with the help of their experience and knowledge of the design practices in the region and they’re being presented to the diverse audience. The thing that makes Dubai’s architecture more interesting is impact of the different international communities on city’s overall design and aesthetics. They’re more receptive than ever to fusion of the global ideas and the best local practices.

It shouldn’t be surprising for anyone that Saudi Arabia and UAE boast biggest design markets inside Mena region. A study shows that, in 2019, 30000-plus design graduates will be needed in Middle East for making this sector thrive. Design industry in the region is expected to see 90% of its growth through architecture, fashion and interiors. In fact, interior design and architecture are thought to be the highly demanded creative careers throughout the region now.

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