By Colin Simpson

In the shadow of the Burj Khalifa, the word “artwork” is taking on an entirely new meaning.

Long tables at the rear of the Pavilion Downtown Dubai play supporting roles for up to five businesses at a time.
Long tables at the rear of the Pavilion Downtown Dubai play supporting roles for up to five businesses at a time.

While most people go to art centres to soak up the culture, some visitors to Dubai’s newest space are there for a much more serious purpose: for them, the light and airy Pavilion Downtown Dubai is the perfect place to get on with their work.

Some use it as a stopgap between offices, while others just like the ambience and set up their laptops for a day or two each week instead of working at their offices. And not all of them are in arts-related fields.

This is not the first time the building has witnessed honest toil. The pavilion is housed in a former Emaar sales office where people bought off-plan apartments in the Burj Khalifa. It is a joint initiative between the developer and the arts organisation Cultural Engineering.

“I love this place, it’s so fresh and spontaneous,” said Fida Tahboub, who runs an animation company, Kharabeesh, which has secured a contract with Google. It’s non-pretentious and people who work in the arts in any form appreciate it a lot. I have an office in Jebel Ali but I like to come here to work.

“I can really focus and do a lot, the space is just so comfortable with no clutter. I come here at least once or twice a week. It’s a wonderful space to spend some time, and get some work done.”

Light streams through large windows into the white-walled main area. There are various types of seating where people hold meetings or work, and a more private space in a wooden structure, called the Shed. There are shelves of art books, two galleries, a beanbag-filled cinema and a cafe.

Another regular, Hammad Sheikh, art director of the advertising agency Zum goldenen Hirschen, is using the centre as a temporary base until he moves into new permanent premises. He previously had an office at another Cultural Engineering centre, the Shelter in Al Quoz, which recently closed.

“This is more of a workspace than office space,” he said. “We’re temporarily on our laptops rather than our desktops, we’re on the move basically. Since we moved out of the Shelter we’ve been here.

“It’s a great environment and you get to meet a lot of people, especially in a field like ours, which is related to creativity and art.

“We’re basically an advertising agency but more towards the creative market, so we get to meet a lot of new people with ideas.”

Like most of the others who use the centre for work, Hammad sets up his laptop on a long table at the rear of the building.

“On this same table there are five different companies right now,” he added. “And since we’ve been sitting here we’ve found two new clients across the table.”

At the opposite end are Ebrahim Malekzadeh, managing director of a company called Esadore, and his colleague, Jacqui McCumiskey.

“We’re a spa consultancy, we help set up spas and fitness centres for hotels and developments,” he said.

“At the moment we’re working here a lot because we’re waiting for our offices to be finished. We’re usually here as soon as the doors are open and pretty much do a full day here.

“I love it. If this could be my permanent office it would be. If I had private storage this would be my base.”

Gesturing towards the Burj, he added: “And you can’t beat that.”

Jacqui is equally enthusiastic. “It’s great,” she said. “And it’s very good for networking. We’ve met so many different people who could assist with this business, and we also get to know what they do and spread the word.”

Of course all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Soon, visitors to the pavilion will be able to hire a bicycle and go for a screenbreak spin around Downtown.

Or they could always check out some art. This month, added Fida, the centre is holding a Palestinian film festival, “which I’m really looking forward to”.

Enjoying the arts in an arts centre – whatever next?