Dubai Culture and Art Jameel announce selected proposal for the inaugural Jaddaf Playscape Commission: I Dreamt of a City Everyone Calls Home by design collective Theories of Imagination


Art Jameel, an organisation that supports artists and creative communities, announces UAE-based design collective Theories of Imagination (TOFI) –  artist-architect Noor Alwan and artist-designer Abdulla Buhijji – as the recipients of the inaugural Jaddaf Playscape, a commission by Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, part of the Dubai Public Art initiative. 

Dubai Public Art is a new multi-year initiative, led by Dubai Culture, that enables the creation and installation of public art by UAE-based artists. Art Jameel is a curatorial partner, working alongside Art Dubai, Tashkeel, Alserkal and Akaas Visual Arts

TOFI’s proposal has been selected by an esteemed international jury through an Open Call announced in February 2023, which received nearly 100 applications from artists and designers across the UAE. The inaugural Jaddaf Playscape Commission jury included world-renowned local and international art professionals, architects and curators: Cecilia Alemani, Director and Chief Curator of the Highline NYC and Curator of the 59th Venice Biennale of Art 2022; Wael Awar, Founder and Principal Architect of waiwai, representing the UAE at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2021 and winning the Golden Lion; Amal Khalaf, Projects Curator at the Serpentine Gallery, London, and Director of Cubbit Gallery, London; and Nora Razian, Deputy Director and Head of Exhibitions at Art Jameel.

Alongside selecting Theories of Imagination (TOFI) as winner, the jury also opted to award Jury Special Mentions to three shortlisted proposals in recognition of their originality and bold vision. Congratulations go to: Carla Baz, designer; Evan Collisson, designer and multidisciplinary artist; and Jumairy and Lina Younes artist-designer duo.

Set to open to the public in Autumn 2023 in the Jaddaf Waterfront Sculpture Park next to Jameel Arts Centre, the Theories of Imagination (TOFI) large-scale interactive sculptural structure titled I Dreamt of a City Everyone Calls Home is an adventure playground that encourages play and imagination for all ages. Taking design cues from the wider Jaddaf area, it seamlessly combines vernacular architectural patterns, fauna and flora with new imaginative shapes and formats. Through paying homage to the history of Jaddaf as a crossroad of cultures, the playground becomes a celebration of the diverse communities that have shaped Dubai, drawing inspiration from the area’s historical significance as a boatyard and its role in enabling trade and cross-cultural exchange. I Dreamt of City Everyone Calls Home is designed as a whimsical space for collective dreaming. 

Commenting on their selection, Theories of Imagination (TOFI), said: “We are very excited to be working on executing our vision for the playscape specifically in Al Jaddaf. Witnessing the growth of the area over the past few years, we feel blessed to be a part of the city through bringing its people together. Our concept strives to create a space that fosters inclusivity and creativity; a space that’s inviting, enticing and engaging for all ages of all walks of life. We love the notion of parents using the same play elements with their kids rather than watching from afar, teenagers who can embrace the cool in play, children with different abilities who can explore play with other senses, adults who can join in on the fun in less active ways – there’s something for everyone there. We strongly believe in the impact that urban play can leave on cities and our need for these playful informal spaces; a playground at the heart of Jaddaf and next to Jameel Art Centre was a dream brief for us. The concept is dear to our hearts and we cannot wait to see it come together, leaving the impact we think it will.”

The Jaddaf Playscape Commission creates a new artist-designed space in Dubai for creative enjoyment, imagination and play for all ages, opening in Autumn 2023 for an initial intended duration of four years. The Commission is a major opportunity for UAE-based artists, designers, architects and collectives to propose and create a monumental, interactive and playful public artwork for the Jaddaf Waterfront Sculpture Park, the UAE’s first art-themed park, created and managed through a collaboration between Dubai Holding and Art Jameel. 

The Commission, devised and curated by Art Jameel, is part of Dubai Culture’s new Dubai Public Art initiative, a multi-year project aimed at enabling public art installations by UAE-based artists, and fostering creativity and engagement within the community. Art Jameel’s role as a curatorial partner in the new initiative focuses on commissioning a series of works for the Dubai Creek, informed by deep, site- and community-specific research.

Jameel Arts Centre is free and open to the public 10 am to 8 pm from Saturday to Thursday; 12 pm to 8 pm on Fridays and is closed on Tuesdays.

About Dubai Culture & Arts Authority:

Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), under the leadership of Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is committed to enriching Dubai’s cultural scene based on the UAE’s heritage, and is building bridges of constructive dialogue between various cultures to enhance Dubai’s position as a global centre for culture, an incubator for creativity, and a thriving hub for talent.

Dubai Culture is keen on reviving and preserving the emirate’s historical heritage and developing the regulatory frameworks for the cultural and creative sector in line with its strategic roadmap 2020 – 2026.

The Authority also seeks to empower the enablers that seek to support talent and stimulate active participation from society members by investing in the various cultural and heritage assets under its remit, including the management of six heritage sites, five museums, Al Jalila Cultural Centre for Children and eight Dubai Public Library branches, all of which help contribute to creating an economic system that stimulates the cultural and creative industries.

About Jameel Arts Centre:

One of the first contemporary arts institutions in Dubai, Jameel Arts Centre presents curated solo and group exhibitions, drawn both from the Art Jameel Collection and through regional and international collaborations. 

The Centre is a 10,000-square metre, three-storey, multi-disciplinary space designed by UK-based practice Serie Architects. The building is punctuated by seven gardens, designed by landscape architect Anouk Vogel, which reflect local and global desert biomes. Sitting alongside is the Jaddaf Waterfront Sculpture Park, designed by waiwai, and a collaboration between Art Jameel and Dubai Holding.

Located by the creek in Dubai’s Jaddaf Waterfront neighbourhood, the Jemeel’s galleries are complemented by the Jameel Library, an open-access research centre dedicated to artists and cultural movements in the Gulf states and beyond. The Jameel also includes project and commissions spaces, a writer’s studio, an artisan seasonal dining concept Teible’ and the Art Jameel Shop

The Centre serves as a hub for educational and research initiatives for diverse audiences. Its wider programming embraces partnerships with local, regional and international artists, curators and organisations. 

About Art Jameel:

Art Jameel supports artists and creative communities. Founded and supported by the Jameel family philanthropies, the independent organisation is headquartered in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and works globally. Art Jameel’s programmes  – across exhibitions, commissions, research, learning and community-building  – are grounded in a dynamic understanding of the arts as fundamental to life and accessible to all.  

Art Jameel’s two institutions Hayy Jameel, a dedicated complex for the arts and creativity in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Jameel Arts Centre, an innovative institution for contemporary art and ideas in Dubai, UAE are complemented by digital initiatives plus collaborations with major institutional partners and a network of practitioners across the world. 

About Theories of Imagination:

Theories of Imagination (TOFI) includes artists Noor Alwan and Abdulla Buhijji who run a multidimensional art collaboration with an artistic approach that is speculative, exploratory and whimsical. TOFI develops fantasized works of art and creative spatial perspectives rooted in cultural insights and research. The collective’s work explores topics like the link between the self and the other, individuals and their environments, place belonging, and identity and memories across time. They function at the convergence of technology and art to develop interactive experiences that provide fun ways to perceive the present and future landscapes. Their interventions study and learn from human behavior, presenting tales on design fiction, and probing the near futures of various issues via the lens of art. TOFI has been commissioned by Misk Art Institute, Bahrain International Airport, Bahrain Pavilion for the Dubai Expo 2020 and Riyadh Art for Noor Riyadh festival. As independent artists, Alwan and Buhijji showcased their work in Birmingham, Cairo, Manama, Paris, Riyadh and Sharjah.