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China comes alive in Dubai Mall

By Retail4Growth Bureau | November 07, 2023

Chinatown located at Dubai Mall offers an alternative take on traditional Chinatowns, serving as a cultural bridge between USA and China. 

Located inside Dubai’s biggest shopping mall - Dubai Mall, Chinatown is positioned as  a cultural bridge between UAE and China. A new lifestyle destination for shopping, relaxation and F&B promising to bring an Asian experience, the 15,000 sqm commercial space is conceived as a contemporary take on traditional Chinatowns, and as a place of discovery. 

Kokaistudios, which designed the space, shares the details.  


Two entrances connect the Chinatown development to the Dubai Mall and street respectively. Evocative of the sloped tiled roofs of a traditional village, the external facade is dominated by a moon gate: a circular entrance passage typically found in classical Chinese gardens, here it is imagined as a literal gateway to Chinese culture. 

The China Narrative 

Figuratively transporting visitors to the Middle Kingdom are four thematic areas that collectively construct a narrative of China. The first is “Lantern Street”, the commercial space’s main thoroughfare and festooned with contemporary versions of the traditional Chinese light. Thousands of hexagonal red lanterns hang high above open shop fronts, while metal mesh awnings, mortice and tenon wood structure and a system of different-sized floor tiles recall a Chinese street market.

The structural columns of the central shops are designed as stylized brass willow trees, and custom-made oversized red fans float in between, nodding to Chinese culture and making for a dramatic canopy. 

Illuminated stories

Latern street

Similarly sensory in approach is the enticing food court “Bird Market”. Overhead custom lighting comprising metal bird cages recall the bird and flower markets of Chinese cities, while bamboo-imprinted pillars of light GLC concrete nod to China’s emblematic flora. The space offers visitors an array of East Asian cuisines, served from metal latticed stands and surrounded by courtyard-style tiled floors. 

Bird Market

The guests are welcome on seats and banquettes decorated by Chinese floral fabrics.

A fourth thematic area strikes a thoroughly contemporary tone and takes inspiration from China’s dense metropolises such as Hong Kong and Shanghai. “Neon City” is a three-storey atrium with skylight, lined with signs advertising eateries, cafes, and bars, as well as LED screens depicting animals of the Chinese zodiac. The multidimensional light show installation, designed by Jason Bruges Studio, is also a big highlight. 

Neon city

“Unlike the traditional Chinatowns in the popular imagination – for example, enclaves in London, New York, and San Francisco – China Gate responds both to its specific mall context, and the global travel hub of Dubai. To that end, the space makes playful use of instantly recognizable visual tropes of China, such as fans, lanterns, and the color red. These identifiers convey a pop-infused, international vision of China, creating an exciting destination for visitors to discover everything from the country’s newest brands to its age-old traditions,” sums up Kokaistudios. 


Project Information

Project Name: Dubai Mall Chinatown

Location: Dubai, UAE

Client: Emaar Properties

General Project Management Company: WSP (Middle East)

Opening Time: Sep. 23, 2023

Service Scope: architectual facade renovation+interior design

Interior Design Area: 9100sqm

Design Company: Kokaistudios

Chief Designers: Andrea Destefanis, Filippo Gabbiani

Design Director: Pietro Peyron

Design Team:

Interior: Suzy Zhang, Alex Jiang, Chang Qing, Kim Jin, Sila Beste Tekin

Architecture: Andrea Antonucci, Lu Tian, Zhu Wenye, Zheng Fei

FF&E: Winnie Chen, Rao Lingshan

Lighting Design: Inverse Lighting

Lighting Show Design: Jason Bruges Studio

Signage & Graphic Design Concept: Spectra

Text: Frances Arnold

Photography: Anique Ahmed


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