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Does KOA hold the blueprint to contemporary living in Dubai?

From high-rise to haute living, Dubai has long been coined an architect’s playground. With the ever-changing landscape and skyline testament to the construction power of the Emirate, it’s no wonder that world-renowned Zaha Hadid Architects have set up shop in the Dubai Design District (D3) with architecture powerhouses, Foster + Partners, Santiago Calatrava and Benoy all rumoured to follow suit.

Amidst the design hub, Mohammed Bin Zaal (Founder and CEO of KOA) is adamant to champion local talent to produce real estate worthy of redefining the residential sector. “For me, we are a boutique developer, we shy away from the larger firms in preference to showcase homegrown talent. We have a platform to inspire,” he says.


The latest venture, KOA Canvas, is a cutting-edge residential project located near Mohammed Bin Rashid Gardens. Earmarked for completion in the first quarter of 2018, it paints an idyllic picture of modern-day Dubai living.


Assembling a dream design collective to interpret his vision, Mohammed Bin Zaal appointed award-winning architect, Tarik Zaharna, Founder of T.ZED Architects, to work alongside Kamelia Bin Zaal, his sister and a talented landscape artist. “We started working on this particular project a year ago and found that the ethos of T.ZED Architects perfectly complimented our vision.”

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The T.ZED Architects aesthetic is clear, a far cry from the ‘more is more’ design precedent for which Dubai is notorious; theirs has a paired-back purity which has fast become their trademark. Founder, Tarik Zaharna (who cites Peter Zumthor and Isay Weinfeld as current design heroes) claims that the KOA Canvas project gave his team “the opportunity to use timeless architecture to produce a new model of modern living and remove the traditional boundaries defined by where one lives, works, and socialises a catalyst for a new type of neighbourhood in this city, one where a multitude of cultures live and work together.”

With some forty floor plans for a total seventy units, the KOA Canvas venture is truly breaking the Dubai property development prototype. Meaning, you wont have an identikit abode to your neighbour. “The goal was to step away from the cookie-cutter approach, to design something unique and shift the mind set. I wanted to reimagine the concept of the home and remove the boarders,” Zaharna affirms. With the apartments brimming with natural light and the development housing water features, open-planted courtyards, an amphitheatre and gourmet market, you get the sense that with this real estate comes a rather charmed lifestyle. A lifestyle, that is in keeping with the natural habitat, as landscape artist Kamelia Bin Zaal explains, “My brother made it clear from the outset that he wanted the landscape to reflect our true environment. In creating a desert landscape (that remains true to the UAE), I chose a palette of 80 percent indigenous plants and 20 percent adaptive or native plants. Why is this important? In doing so, we are creating a truly sustainable landscape that will eventually use very little water in comparison to a typical landscape for a commercial project. As far as I am aware, this is the first commercial project of it’s kind to use such planting.”


A focus on natural materials for both the interior and exterior is “to create a continuous conversation throughout the various spaces,” says Zaharna. More specifically, “materials such as grey quartzite stone cladding, copper mesh and thermally-modified tulipwood have been utilized on the exterior of the development. Natural sandstone, used for the amphitheater, crosses the threshold from exterior to interior merging the outdoor and indoor.” The ode to nature is reinforced by the neutral colour palette of the interior, which serves to create a canvas that the client is then able to interpret as they wish. “The units embrace an honest expression of materials so that the end-user can define their own space. They aspire to resonate with our generation in terms of living and life-style, as well as with future ones,” states Zaharna.With three young entrepreneurs joining forces to create a forward-thinking new take on the traditional home, KOA may just be the pioneer of the shape of things to come. “KOA means a change in the real estate market, it means bravery, fearlessness, it means strength. We are trying to focus on individuality and identity and these are the things that we think are lacking in the market at the moment,” states Mohammed Bin Zaal. After witnessing this progressive architecture come to light, we are inclined to agree and wait with anticipation to see what the future holds.

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