Two Houses in the Arabian Desert: Assessing the Built Work of RCR Architects in the United Arab Emirates


Today, with many foreign architects receiving commissions in the United Arab Emirates, it is essential to query how the region’s culture, environment, and building traditions influence design approaches. This study examines the siting, geometry, construction, and material choices in two adjacent homes in Dubai, a project by the Pritzker Prize laureates, RCR. These architects are renowned for built works that are deeply responsive to the landscape of their hometown in Spain’s Catalonia region. Key formative projects and their entry into global practice are analyzed according to the concepts of place identity, material imagination, and the poetics of construction, a theoretical position with a long practical tradition. The idea of architecture as a constructional craft is related to the creative engagement with local matter and topography that are at the essence of RCR’s way of designing and making. By situating their work within the region’s challenges, we explore how their design methodology transforms into the unique characteristics of the desert. The dwellings, iterations of the same steel and concrete vaulting system, evoke dunes to offer a study in contemporary critical regionalism. By focusing on RCR’s interpretation of Arabic geometry, the houses reveal the role of tectonics and materiality in the realization from concept to built form. We draw on onsite documentation, interviews, and drawings provided by the architects. In emphasizing the importance of regional responsiveness, the dynamics of international construction practice, and detailing, this study highlights essential issues for practitioners working in an increasingly global market.


Igor Peraza
Professor of Practice, Architecture, American University of Sharjah, 'Ajmān, United Arab Emirates


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Architectonic, Spatial, and Environmental Design


Material imagination, Regional Responsiveness, Place Identity, Poetics of Construction

Digital Media


Two Houses in the Arabian Desert (pptx)