Project update: Inside Dubai Properties’ minimalist $272m 1/JBR tower
The lead consultant and architect team of Dubai Properties’ 46-storey 1/JBR tower explains why constructing a minimally designed project is not as easy as it may seem
Minimal is not a word that comes to mind when thinking of most properties in Dubai. After all, for nearly two decades, developers have focused on ostentatious designs for buildings that are then highlighted with opulent finishes and fittings.
One developer is striving to change all that, however, with a new project that is under way off the coast alongside Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR).
There has been much talk about Dubai Properties’ 1/JBR project, a 46-storey luxury residential building that caught the attention of many online when its advert stating that the project is ‘not for everyone’ went viral. But why is it not for everyone?
Visiting the site of the $272.2m (AED1bn) 1/JBR, Construction Week spoke to the project’s architect to understand what makes it stand out from its peers in the city.
“The thing about this project that is really different is that it is minimal,” Ivar Krasinski, founding partner and design director at Edge, the lead consultant and design architect of the project.
“It is really not that common in Dubai that you find buildings that are initially trying to [achieve] a calmer aesthetic, although that is starting to become more and more of a trend.”
Krasinski says the developer is looking to present a luxury option complete with 360-degree waterfront views and high-quality finishing.
Founding partner and managing director of Edge, Martin Baerschmidt, says the advert for the property has been very well received, with more than five million views on YouTube. He adds that it captured the “spirit of the building”.
“I think the biggest testament [to the design] will be going into the building and seeing the views first hand, which is something that cannot really be described in the commercial” Baerschmidt says.
The architects also touch on an interesting point – simplicity seems to be the growing trend for design in the city. This involves opting for a simpler style, but trying to be creative for high-end customers, according to Krasinski.
“This is what’s happening at the moment. The market is starting to accept that simplicity can also be luxurious. And that it is actually more luxurious than having more decoration. The 1/JBR project has a bold and clear design,” he says.
As for its construction progress so far, the building of 1/JBR is moving at a rapid pace, with the team currently completing one floor of the building every week.
Core walls have been cast as far up as the 15th floor, and slabs have been cast to the 13th floor. Block work is progressing up to the ninth floor.
“In terms of overall construction, much of the podium is already done, with the superstructure maybe more than halfway done. We are starting with the finishes inside, and from outdoors, the ceilings are in place,” Baerschmidt says.
“A lot of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems are in place, and the finishes are starting to come on board now, with the glass curtain wall and the front façade coming in soon.”
According to a recent update that Dubai Properties supplied to Construction Week, finishing work is also currently being carried out on the basement and podium levels.
The developer awarded Dubai Contracting Company the main contract for 1/JBR in February 2017. WSP has been appointed as the structural and MEP engineer, and the architect of record for the project.
The building will be a purely residential development, without a commercial or retail element. Once completed, it will feature a total of 164 housing units, covering 45,096m² of gross floor area and 73,756m² of built-up area.
The development’s amenities will include a gym, an infinity pool and a children’s pool, as well as a barbecue area. Residents will be entitled to two parking spaces per apartment or six parking spaces per penthouse.
Each of the five-bedroom penthouses will be accessible through a private lobby at parking level and will have exclusive elevator service.
“When the project began, originally the site was zoned as G+1 and it was going to be a beach club, and then people started looking at it financially from the Dubai Properties side, and started suggesting more and more square footage in the building, until it went from G+1 to G+46,” says Baerschmidt.
“This was something that really made a lot of sense for a piece of land like this, which is really exclusive and really unusual. Going G+1 on it would not have been a good return.”
The project, which broke ground in March 2016, is now around 40% completed and on track to be delivered by the fourth quarter of 2019.
Emphasising the design details, Baerschmidt highlights some of the features residents will find at 1/JBR.
“We have a very distinct balcony design, where we are staggering balconies so you do not see the same height – you start to see the sky even though you are on your own balcony,” he adds.
“And we also have a special elevator strategy, where we have a common lift lobby, so you have semi-private and private elevators going to individual apartments in the building,” he says.
Baerschmidt adds that these aspects were very challenging to implement. He explains that from a structural point of view, the tower is one of the narrowest in terms of aspect ratio: “It is one of the narrowest towers aspect ratio-wise, at 46-floors tall, but [is also] very narrow in the beachfront/street dimension.
“It is what we call a single-loaded building, meaning that all the apartments are on one side,” he says. “Dubai Properties did not want people on the front [of the building] paying prime prices for the view, with people on the back basically piggybacking on the success of the project.”
As a result, 1/JBR only offers beach-facing apartments.
Krasinski says: “Every single apartment, every single room, has those views – other than bathrooms, every part of the apartment will face the waterfront.
“Originally, we wanted 80% of the units facing those prime directions, but over time we realised it was actually possible that, if you simplified the building down, you could get 100% views from every single room, to each one of those points of interests from anywhere in the building.
“That was something that really helped solidify the scheme,” he says.
There was also another key consideration for the architects when designing the building in this popular waterfront location. The views of the water from 1/JBR add what Krasinski describes as a scenic and calming touch to the design, and this point is distinctly highlighted by the developer in its advert for the property. However, visitors to the area will be aware that, as one of the city’s main tourist hubs, JBR suffers from significant traffic congestion.
A Dubai Properties spokesperson told Construction Week that although traffic around the area was one of the greatest challenges being faced on the project, the team has been successful in devising a plan to address the issue.
“Given the popularity of the community, construction and logistics are perhaps the main challenges undertaken by Dubai Properties’ project management team who successfully maneuver all phases of construction around the livelihood of JBR,” the spokesperson said.
The developer is working closely with Dubai Municipality and the city’s Roads and Transport Authority in order to alleviate the risks of traffic jams in the area both during construction and once the development has been completed.
Krasinski says that the team has worked to guarantee smooth exit from, and entry to, the building, which has included constructing a roundabout to separate residents from any visitor-related traffic in the area.
It is hoped that the residents’ parking spaces at 1/JBR will also help to reduce congestion surrounding the building.
While the aim with this project might be to create a simplistic experience for the residents, some believe that, in the end, this might not be an entirely straightforward proposition, Krasinki explains: “The thing about the simplicity is that it is actually more work to get a project to a point where all the extraneous detail is put away neatly, and where it does not interfere with the [development’s] overall image.
“While on one hand it is simple, on the other hand it’s actually far more complex to create a building like this.”