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Dubai Opera House opens its doors

The Atkins-designed Dubai Opera has opened with a sold out performance by Placido Domingo.

The 2,000 seat Dubai Opera is set to be the centrepiece of the new Opera District at the heart of Downtown Dubai, close to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

The building will be a stunning new architectural reference point for the region, while its multi-functional auditorium makes it the most technically complex and state-of-the-art performing arts venue in the world.

Uwe Krueger, Atkins’ CEO, said:

I’m passionate about opera, so I’m both personally and professionally excited about the role we have played in this incredible project. It’s stunning design and engineering complexity is a testament to what can be achieved through a truly collaborative approach between all stakeholders involved in its delivery.

More than that, its impact will add an important multicultural offering for Dubai’s residents and visitors, supporting its long term growth as a dynamic and successful city.


Janus Rostock, Atkins’ design director and lead architect for the Dubai Opera project, said:

We looked into Dubai’s heritage and traditions for inspiration to find an architectural language which would celebrate the city’s past, as well as supporting its future. The traditional Arabic dhow has played a significant role in bringing success and prosperity to Dubai, and through trade these vessels have also played their part in introducing culture and ideas to the city – they’re part of the reason Dubai is so welcoming and culturally diverse today.

This theme resonated strongly with our client and it has resulted in a building which is very much embedded in the place, culture and history of the emirate.

A key consideration in the building’s design was its impact on the surrounding neighbourhood.

The foyer of Dubai Opera will be very visible through special anti-reflective glass, effectively transforming theatre-goers into performers for the local community by blurring the lines between the interior and the plaza.

Janus added:

We had a very special opportunity to transmit Dubai Opera’s inherent spirit and energy well beyond the venue itself, and this will add vibrancy across the public realm.

Atkins said that while Dubai Opera is inspired by the past, its functional aspects are rooted in the present. Of particular note is the building’s ability to transform its internal layout into different modes to suit individual events. This is achieved with a number of moving floors, walls and ceilings that allow the auditorium seating to change configuration – or to disappear altogether – as well as enabling different stage configurations.

To deliver this in an utterly seamless fashion, with no compromise between modes – whether in terms of aesthetic quality, comfort or safety – demanded close collaboration between architectural and engineering experts.

Richard Smith, technical director and Atkins Fellow said of the project:

Dubai Opera’s shape and the stringent theatrical design requirements needed our building services engineers to use four types of advanced virtual modelling to predict the performance of the building and its systems and to optimise the design solutions. In building services terms, this is a really complex project which demanded outstanding teamwork and technical ability to deliver.