The prominent project has won the Interior Project of the Year 2019 in the Public Sector during the Commercial Interior Design Awards in Dubai.

As an independent project for appreciating skilled filmmaking talent, Cinema Akil was a place of wonder and intrigue; not blockbuster hits. It originally launched in 2014 and now reopened at its prime location, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai Warehouse 68.

Unlike the common cinemas you’ll see scattered around Dubai, Cinema Akil exhibits something different and founder Butheina Kazim took a distinct approach to make it feel like home for everyone. Her vision wasn’t just a cinema that screened independent films, but a communal abode that radiates a spirit of togetherness. Individual elements of the space work together to make it equally welcoming for everyone, something Maja Kozel calls “a universal design language”.

Founder Butheina Kazim already envisioned multiple aspects of the final design, which isn’t surprising considering that she’s been working on this project for quite a few years. She articulated these ideas to Maja Kozel, so she could clearly interpret them by aligning them with a practical design sense. Kazim had pictured an expanse that would elicit a wave of ‘nostalgia’ through its art deco appearance, which she wanted to incorporate into the re-vamped cinema.

After the collaboration of design with Cheb Moha of the pop-up for the cinema last year, architect Richard Wagner took the reins and restructured the permanent location. Maja Kozel was appointed to add features of spatial design so that the space falls in line with the cinema’s theme.

A more permanent project from its previous installment, this version of Cinema Akil also includes a unique tea-based concept ‘Chaiwala’, which will cater to visitors’ food and beverage needs. The first edition of its kind, ‘Chaiwala’ at Cinema Akil is a forerunner to the café that will be opening at a new location which will be revealed soon.

To bring back that wholesome vibe, they decided to reupholster the old sofas and keep the Artwork and décor that the client collected as a means of giving the cinema its own character. Upon entering the location, you’re greeted by a box office, which gives a pleasant, vintage aesthetic and is connected to the ‘Chaiwala’ kitchen and serving area. In this area, you’re met with tasteful décor like a traditional rug, classic cinema seats, and an old map of Dubai. Here, they repurposed old cinema seats from the Golden Cinema in Dubai. Near the ‘Chaiwala’ kitchen area, a large wooden bench is attached to the wall and is decorated with cultural accents like woven Afghani cushions that have a monochrome pattern. On the other hand, fascinating artwork mirrors and old film posters grace the walls.

Visitors will notice that the ‘Chaiwala’ area has its own personality, made up of its bare concrete walls, eccentric turquoise backdrop and a terrazzo-tiled countertop in the kitchen. While designing the space, Maja Kozel broke up the length by adding shelves made from old scaffolding. Right before you enter the cinema, there’s a corner booth with comfortable seating.

The cinema itself has a diverse range of seating; love seats, plush sofas, and three-seaters are lined across the room. Friends of the cinema donated these sofas, and they were reupholstered with eye-catching red fabrics. The color red is everywhere so that the space gives off that authentic cinema flavor from the seating to the flooring, and even the walls.

From the films to the seating, décor and Indian streetfood bites with a twist, Butheina Kazim’s Cinema Akil is a creative sanctuary and treasure for those who crave an encounter that falls beyond the conventional Dubai experience.

Images by Mohamed Somji

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