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Light, Color, Matter. Guest Area for the New Dubai Sport Arena

by Riccardo Robustini

Compasses Magazine

Landing in Dubai something that you notice at first glance is the color of the sky and the intensity of light. A light that often seems filtered through the moist, hazy and dusty atmosphere. It is a different light than that of the Italian and south European latitudes, where colors are much more saturated and light defines shapes with a sharper blade cut between sun and shade.

Another peculiarity of these latitudes is of course the perpendicularity of the sunrays, that compresses and shortens shadows’ length until they disappear within the object itself. These two characteristics generate environments that recall sci-fi movie photography, like Interstellar or The Martian, exemplifying Richard Kelly’s conception on environmental lighting.

Within this contest, the perceptual space among indoor and outdoor spaces is often uncomfortable, almost annoying. While entering a building, the contrasts between light and shade, hot and cold, noise and silence are often overwhelming sensory shocks. The entrance, ideally, turns into a large filter that receives and leads towards the arrival point. The «eyes of the skin»[1] must gently readjust to the new perceptive geographies.

VIP lobby

The lobby of the Dubai Sport Arena works as a cognitive catalyzer between exterior and interior. The subtle reliefs, in form of waves on the floor, create an artificial landscape that mediates the experience with the outside and reminds of the mild dunes of the surroundings. The ceiling is composed of horizontal colored acrylic strips, rhythmed by five smart skylights, in which a LED nanostructured system simulates a realistic sunlight and blue-sky experience. This innovative lighting system generates an effect that reproduces the exact feeling of natural irradiation, striking through the ceiling openings. The light hits some glass seats that, acting as optical prisms, dissect the light beams into their spectral components projecting them onto the floor. The matt white sidewalls work as a canvas, on which a light system with an alternating angle reflects the colors of the acrylic strips, flowing through the surfaces and dematerializing them.

Light, color, art and visual perception

The eventual meaning of a building goes beyond the architectural role and, perhaps, it must work as a perceptive experience too. Color modifies human feelings on another cognitive level, shifting spaces tectonics, influencing mood and senses. The quality and the shape of the lights of a place define its character, its identity, whether it is unveiling or hiding.

The research developed by artists like Robert Irwin, Nobuhiro Nakanishi and Sabine Marcelis were investigating on the color’s role within individual and shared spaces perception. Those resulting reflections where integrated into the project objectives since its early stages. The light that unfolds its full color spectrum through objects and architectural elements (floors, ceilings, and walls) is not complementary to the project, but is its principal raw material for design. Objects reveal themselves through the contrast, that makes them visible and defines their identity. Opposites generate identity and character for places, things and people, following similar dynamics and principles. The choice of materials aims at generating contrast between the containing elements and those contained (objects, furniture, finishes and water features). Walls and structures, partially cladded with hand-chiseled limestone slabs and sprayed cement, together with opaque concrete epoxy floors, set an almost primitive backdrop for the contained objects. The items claiming the space, such as the metallic lacquered polyethylene chairs, the colored transparent glass counters and the colored acrylic strips partitions, strike for the color and the ephemeral materiality of each element, absorbing and diffusing light with different, almost dematerialized, color tones.

The corridors leading to the private rooms are fitted with LED systems that reproduce the color of the sky and the solar spectrum through nanostructures that compensate the absence of natural sources. The light, intense and precise, flushes the optical glass bricks walls, that subdivide it into its spectral components, the luminous beams, projected onto the opaque surfaces of the floor and ceiling. The outcoming rainbow mesmerizing effect paints the floor in an arbitrary and unpredictable way. The resulting loss of control aims at delineating an abstract and seamless lighting effect.

A contrast among natural and artificial lighting took shape from the large contrasts between the environment and the light, defining the architectural project. Playing with transitional boundaries and with the opposition between the elements, an unexpected and eventually unique experience was created for this building typology.

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