Kenshington Krystal

Dubai Maritime City will be the world's largest purpose-built centre for maritime commerce and business.

Marina view of the Kensington Krystal.
Marina view of the Kensington Krystal.

P&T designs the gem of Dubai Maritime City.

Dubai Maritime City (DMC), the 450-hectare reclaimed peninsula located between Palm Deira and The World, will be the world's largest purpose-built centre for maritime commerce and business.

DMC will provide the full spectrum of maritime business including commerce, management, retail & recreation, maritime education/research and shipyard repair and maintenance.

The development is zoned to include six interdependent districts including Harbour Offices, Maritime Centre, DMC Marina, Harbour Residences, Industrial Precinct and the Academic Quarter.

In fact, Jadaf Dubai, the oldest ship repair and industrial marine yard in the Persian Gulf, will be housed within DMC's industrial section.

These districts combine to create one of Dubai's most dynamic mixed-use urban locations, built specifically for the living, working and playing of the emirate's maritime community.

Snaking its way up from the mainland and around the peninsula is Ahmed Bin Majid Road, which is a highway that circumnavigates the development and offers travellers-depending on direction-a seaside view on one side, and an urban landscape on the other.

Situated at the entrance to the Harbour Office district, the Kensington Krystal is the first visible structure one sees upon entering DMC. Financed by Kensington Real Estate (KRE) and designed by P&T Architects and Engineers, the 37-storey Kensington Krystal aims to replicate the unblemished beauty of a natural crystal.

"When looking at the building from the city, you're eyes are drawn to a crystallised object rising from the ground," says William Yuen, lead architect and director of P&T. "But when you consider the view from the water, it looks as if this massive crystal is rising from the water."

"The whole idea evolved from the idea of a raw black crystal. Black crystals exist but they are very rare," says Sawan Ravani, CEO of KRE. "We wanted something that wasn't polished to a shiny finish, but instead, something very raw; we wanted something very fresh."

According to specifications set forth by KRE, the form of the building was inspired by the Kensington 'K', which P&T then gently modulated into a series of faceted triangle planes.

The resulting form is an amalgam of both visions: it is an efficient and unique structure that resembles an abstract 'K'.

"The plan was very straightforward. Basically, it's just a rectangular building that emulates a 'K'. It's very efficient this way," says Yuen. "The façade cuts in and out like the cuts on a crystal.... It's a simple form but it's very powerful, very bold."

Location, location, location

The location of DMC is unique because all of the recent focus, in terms of iconic mixed-use developments in Dubai, has been on Downtown Burj Dubai, Waterfront, Business Bay and Festival City. Put simply, it's all been about 'New Dubai'.

Relatively little emphasis is being placed on developments on the more traditional side of the Creek. According to Yuen, "DMC is like a natural extension of the Creek."

What is particularly interesting is that despite all of the fanfare surrounding the developments in New Dubai, DMC is approximately 1.5km away from the most populated areas of the city: Bur Dubai, Deira, and Jumeirah.

Not only is DMC geographically unique, but in financial terms, it's the first of its kind. "The fact that [DMC] is the first commercial freehold development on the oceanfront is phenomenal. Dubai's first commercial freehold development was Jumeirah Lake Towers, which is nowhere near the ocean," says Ravani.

"I like the building's location very much because you can look back to the Creek, Deira and Bur Dubai and you can identify that this is the Old Dubai," say Yuen. "But, if you look forward, you can see all the new developments of New Dubai."

The facade

Despite regulations that the facades of buildings on the island must be blue, green or grey, KRE is petitioning Dubai Municipality for something that will distinguish itself among a sea of marine tones.

"We're hoping to use a black glass facade," says Yuen. Black glass is not currently featured on any building in Dubai-although P&T have designed one other building considering the material-but perhaps the most recognisable black glass facade is Chicago's Sears Tower.

"It's a very rich colour. Black is very assertive. It gives you a corporate feel...the Sears Tower is a world-class example...," says Ravani. "Kensington Krystal needs to stand out as a landmark tower, it's very important that we don't fall into the normal colour range of blues and greens."

In order to achieve the sharpness and elegance they seek, KRE and P&T are looking for black glass that is neither too polished nor too lacklustre.

According to Ravani, something "too shiny" would spoil the richness of the tower, while something too dull would fail to give homage to the building's prime location.

"We're trying to convince [the master developers] that because of its form and material choice and because this building is on a pivotal point on DMC, it requires the colour black. So, hopefully they'll accept it," explains Ravani.

While negotiations on the Kensington Krystal's black glass appear to moving in a positive direction, they're not yet complete, which is slightly worrying to Yuen.

If you look at Chicago or New York, they are cities made up of different forms and colours. All the buildings exist together. There is no reason to dictate that one has to be green or blue. Actually, that might be a bit mundane," says Yuen.

A view analysis

Before beginning the design process, P&T considered the pivotal building site as well as the inhabitant's sight lines before deciding on orientation. The site is exposed on all sides with a view of Dubai and the sea to the west, and the horizon and Palm Deira to the East.

The building incorporates a central core with offices around the perimeter to maximise the full potential of the structure and character of the site.

"We chose a location for Kensington Krystal that would be very visible from many different angles. As you approach from the mainland on Ahmed Bin Majid, you have a direct view of the building. As you turn around and leave DMC, you have to stop at a traffic light and the building is directly in front of you," explains Yuen.

In an effort to fulfil the requirements of the client brief, P&T aimed to design a signature building for KRE that would simultaneously maximise exposure from land and sea and be an iconic landmark for DMC.

Rare rapport

Just 30 days after KRE and P&T finalised their decision on the future site of Kensington Krystal, KRE submitted the concept design for approval from the master developer (DMC).

Needless to say, that kind of quick decision-making and professional rapport in the Middle East's rapidly expanding building industry is rare.

"[P&T] really understood what we wanted from the beginning," says Ravani.

"Not coming from a design or architectural background, it is sometimes difficult to express what we want. But P&T were able to grasp our preferences and come up with something iconic straight away."

Known for world-class developments in Africa and India, KRE sought a building that would authoritatively announce their presence in the Middle East.

"Our flagship project in this region had to be iconic," says Ravani.

"To do justice to such a good location, we had to ensure that we work with a practice like P&T....I would say, at this point, we are addicted to working with them," he adds.

While Yuen seems flattered by the praise heaped on him by KRE, he is quick to point out that successful collaboration isn't just a matter of good architecture.

"It takes two to tango. [KRE] trusts us, so that allows us to engage in a very constructive and meaningful discussion," he says.


Start: May-June 2008

Current status: Concept design; soil testing

Finish: May 2011

Structural engineer: P&T

Lead architect: P&T

Design architect: P&T

Project value: AED 1 billion

GFA: 643,757ft2

Plot area: 109,821 ft2

Number of tower levels: 28

Number of podium levels: G/F+6

Total building height: 199.8m

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