By Andy Sambidge www.arabianbusiness.com
Huge chandeliers will light the main underground Khalid bin Waleed Station, the designer behind the Dubai Metro project has revealed.
“We had a long discussion with the RTA about whether they wanted decorative light fittings in there. We showed them examples initially, just to put it out there. We expected them not to like it, but they did, so in the main underground, we’ve got chandeliers,” John Carolan of KCA International said.
In an interview with Commerical Interior Design magazine, Carolan said his initial designs were based on the London Underground.
“I had been in London, maybe three or four years before and they had just started refurbishing some of the stations. One of the things that always stuck in my mind was Baker Street and how they had very simply provided a way-finding tool by just having Sherlock Holmes’ stalker hat and pipe.
“I thought that was a great idea and that we would do the same, but in a different way.”
He said the design for the Dubai Metro was first presented in June 2006 and it was “really out there”.
“I knew the design was quite radical – but I thought that we should just push it out there and see how it was received. We looked at some of the metros in other parts of the world – Moscow, London, Singapore and Paris, for example. In many cases, they were very hard-edged and unfriendly. They were very Euro-style – a lot of concrete, glass and steel.”
Commenting on the reaction to the design from the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority, he said: “What we came up with was not what they expected, I don’t think. However…the general view was, this is what we want. We want uniqueness, and this represents Dubai. We got a very positive response to the presentation.”
The overall metro system is designed around the four elements of earth, air, fire and water.
“The great thing about this was that you had design and you had colour, so you could mix and match and get quite a lot of variables. When we were doing historical sites, such as Union Square, Burjuman or Al Ghubaiba, we also looked back at historical references to the place. For example, Burjuman means desert pearl, so we used that as the basis,” Carolan added.
Asked which his favourite station in Dubai was, Carolan picked Khalid bin Waleed Station (Burjuman).
“I like Burjuman, just because of the glamour of it all. I also like the overground stations because of their simplicity. Those spaces are special.”
He said the main challenge of the project “was trying to get inside the head of the client”.
“The design had to mean something; it couldn’t just be design for design’s sake. The good thing about the RTA is that they always respected our design and kept with our design intent. They were a great client like that.”
Carolan said he believed Dubai would have the best designed metro system in the world. “It’s going to be the most unique, let’s put it that way, because people are always going to be subjective. I think it will set new standards for people to follow.
“Stations do not have to be cold, hard and unfriendly. They don’t necessarily have to be glamorous but they can be rich. And that’s what we were trying to do. We were trying to add a degree of richness and vibrancy.”