The doors of Abu Dhabi connect the small mountain studio in Southern California all the way across oceans, cultures, worlds, to a United Arab Emirates sheik’s palace. This connection came about by the architect Victor Bisharat picking up a book in 1984, and being inspired by the work within.  He was moved to seek out and commission the artist to construct the 18 interior and exterior doors of his palace design.

To find the artist, Victor went to the Triton Restaurant in San Diego which is featured in the book, and asked the staff who had done the artwork. Only then did Victor learn the whereabouts of the mountain studio and artist.

Bisharat wanted the doors to be like Arabic coffee, rich and lavish. He also suggested not trying to incorporate religion into the doors, because it would be too complicated. To understand better the distant world these doors would serve, poetry was read. Knowledge of the rich Eastern culture and history was amassed through verse. This knowledge was then incorporated into the design of the doors. Legends and traditions pertaining to the space and function beyond the door was considered and incorporated to try and establish a universal understanding and appreciation of beauty. Nature and animals were a common theme in the poetry and culture, and served well in forming this universal connection.

To design the doors took six months, to construct them another six. Over a dozen craftsmen converged on the studio, combining their knowledge of wood, glass, and metal to bring these physical and spiritual connections to life. The result is a collection of pieces that work to transcend the distinctions of distance and background, and work instead to bridge cultures through beauty.

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Photos: Otto Rigan
Door design inspired by Arabic poetry
Detail of fine artisanship
James Hubbell carves on a door
Door detailing with copper and gold elements
Door detailing with copper and gold elements
Works in progress
Mayme Kratz and fellow worker building stained glass
Fine teak wood was used for the doors
Detail of door and glass elements
Peacock door illuminated
Detail of peacock door, interior view
Peacock door, exterior view
Gardens and wildlife were inspiration
James and Anne Hubbell host lunch for workers and friends who helped with the Doors project
James works with Mayme Kratz on stained glass
Drawing of stained glass element
James paints on gold leafing
Detailing the gold leaf finish
Son Lauren Hubbell helps with polishing
Sketch of a door design
Close up on horse head
Inlaid wood reveals horse profile
Fine carving blends with design detail
Painted deer and bird design
Detailed door knobs and locks
Hand-blown and metal-sculpted door knobs
Hand-blown and metal-sculpted door knobs
Detailing rich to the eye and the touch