Pixel’s seven buildings will have a lively communal space Image Credit: Supplied

As the new heart of Abu Dhabi, Makers District is a mixed-use development strategically located in Reem Island in Abu Dhabi, across from the cultural hub of Saadiyat Island. The scenic mixed waterfront development offers contemporary living in a dynamic environment. The first mixed-use project in Maker’s District is the Pixel project. Its seven towers incorporate residential, co-working office spaces, food and beverage and retail. Stefan De Koning, architect at contemporary design firm MVRDV, and Nigel Craddock, design director at Imkan, discuss the design of this unique development.

How will the residential complexes connect to the retail and the workplace spaces?

Nigel: The essence of Pixel and the whole of Makers District is to provide end users with an enriching and collaborative engaging environment, and the way to do that is to provide a very dynamic mixed-use development.

The retail, food and beverage, office and residential areas are pixelated in both the plan and the architectural section of the development so you have a completely pedestrianised, active ground-level experience. All the parking space is below ground level and across the seven towers there is a dynamic mix of the spaces giving opportunities for human interaction.

Stefan: From the architecture and design point of view, we decided on seven very slender, not-too-high buildings and as Nigel said, with a very lively public space. On the lower part of the tower, we created lanes that provide intimate spaces so every food and beverage and retail outlet will be very close to the public realm. When you are on the terrace you will have to manoeuvre through the people to get to your next destination. This will allow a lot of interaction between the public realm and the users of the building.

There will be a Metro stop right by the buildings. You will have access view to the beach and you are surrounded by all the developments so nothing is hidden.

What materials have you used?

Stephan: Materials were considered at the secondary level. The main intent was exposing the way the building was built. Since the project is Makers District, with all the artistic elements attached to it, we wanted to be very honest about what we build. So, we did not look at high-end finishes, but rather good quality, raw and honest materials — what we call Raw Chic, the overall atmosphere and identity will be industrial chic.

How will Pixel compare to other mixed-use developments in the UAE?

Nigel: I think it is very hard to draw comparisons between Pixel and anything else to be frank, both from a dynamic and architectural point of view.

Imkan has a very strong drive to create soulful places; they’re places where people feel like they can belong. There’s a real difference between a cookie cutter, “there’s a place for you to live in” approach, versus there’s a place where you can feel that you truly belong.

I think the big thing for Imkan in working with MVRDV on this project is that through the architecture they are creating what will be an awesome place to live and feel like you are part of a community. They’ve done that with a very clever articulation of the buildings and the architecture around the plaza area, they’ve promoted those incidental interactions.

There are lots of great components that people will only appreciate once they start living in Makers.

What is the concept behind the development of architectural language?

Nigel: We’re place makers and we wanted to create an enriching and collaborative dynamic environment and great communities and we thought the way to go about that is to think of the best places to live in the world and the successful developments, so we’ve sort of curated our consultants by doing a lot of research to help them understand what we’re trying to do.

We have a real array of typologies that have come out of this project, ranging from one-bedroom to lower-ground four-bedroom penthouses, which is super exciting for a developer because you are offering a very personal choice and this all comes out of the ongoing research on this project.

How was way-finding in the development addressed?

Stefan: From the point of arrival in the district, you will be transported right through the middle of the development. You will have access to view the beach and you are surrounded by all the developments so nothing is hidden.

Starting with the Artery then moving from the Pixel to the beach fort, the architecture creates an environment where you automatically move towards the key feature of the project, which is the seafront, making sure you never get lost.

We wanted to diversify the space, creating different sizes of areas, different identities for the destinations so your way-finding is very easy because you’re at a uniquely identifiable place all the time. You’re not at the city-grids where you walk around the corner and you end up in the same place again.