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Lines, Forms, Spaces

When Dariush Zandi, The Courtyard's founder, sourced a plot of land amid desert and warehouses in 1992, he imagined it as a personal studio space. He needed a place where he could hone his photographic practice, a personal passion pursued alongside his governmental work in architecture and preservation.


The plot's scale surpassed the needs of a single individual, a sentiment echoed by friends and fellow artists who recognised its potential. Intrigued by Dariush's endeavours, a few artists drawn by the allure of space joined him, and this initial spark paved the way for others to follow suit. The Courtyard transformed from a space where aspiring artists built friendships and exchanged ideas into a more formalised setting—a creative hub and community centre. Reflecting on the journey, Dariush notes: "As a city planner and urban architect, I'm used to living by design, but here I've never planned. It's been an unexpected and organic evolution.”


Inside The Courtyard, a central walkway ushers visitors through the space. The Courtyard is a collection of five buildings that embrace both the Khaliji architectural style synonymous with the region and other unexpected elements. Dariush, reflecting on his role as an urban designer, observes the intriguing phenomenon of people intentionally detouring through The Courtyard on their way to work or other destinations.


He attributes this to a combination of factors—a chance to grab a coffee on the move, the tranquillity emanating from birds and flowing air currents, the unexpected aesthetic that defines the space, and a design facilitating unhindered movement between areas.


Elevations, coated with a mixture of sand and natural pigment, exemplify a commitment to minimising chemical usage, while the notion of working with resources that already exist—found objects sourced from across the Emirates—slows down the cycle of production and consumption. It's a design process and ethos that serve as an extension of the surrounding environment and its people.


The objects absorbed into The Courtyard hold and breathe history into the present. Inside, one can encounter the doors, windows, and Mashrabiya screens from demolished homes in the Bastakiya neighbourhood. "Other items are as obscure as pavers from a nearby interchange on Sheikh Zayed Road, pieces of an old boat salvaged from the shipyards in Al Jadaf, and bricks from a decommissioned Syrian bakery in Deira," says Dariush. "These pieces now function as both a permanent museum and functional design."


Northern Façades

Inspired by Ancient Egyptian monuments and tombs, the idea was to create a sculptural effect with hand carved writing into the façade.

As a ruin of a typical stone house, the building was built around the original stones.

Typical Greco-Roman exterior with a twist of Arabic - parts of the material are salvaged from the Zabeel palaces.

Inspired by the entrance of a classical Egyptian mosque.

Modeled after traditional Cairene mashrabiya houses, with a fairytale nostalgia. 

Southern Façades

A little sci-fi post-apocalyptic infuence through the films Battleship and Water World. 

Traditional forts of the region, mainly from the UAE and Oman, have buildings with rough surfaces, slanted walls and harsh stones - the holes are for guns and the protected cylindrical structure is for pouring hot oil on enemies.

Traditional architecture style of old Dubai, such as Bastakiya.

Eclectic façade created from the salvaged pieces of various seafaring vessels and other buildings.

Classical French exterior, with long shutters, balcony and larger entrance. An Arabic influence is visible through top corners and shapes modeled after reused glass bottles.


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