Interactivity hallmarks Dewan Architects + Engineers’ new office in Dubai
The regional consultant firm, with operations across the GCC and Asia, recently moved its operations from a villa on Al Wasl Road to a spacious office in Dubai Design District (d3)
A workspace fit for an urban design company: That’s perhaps the first impression a visitor would form of Dewan Architects + Engineers’ new office space in Dubai Design District (d3). The regional consultant firm, with operations across the GCC and Asia, recently moved its operations from a villa on Al Wasl Road to a spacious office. Being a design firm, it was only fitting that the company should move to d3, which is home to several designers, artists and creative thinkers in the UAE.
According to Haider Al Assam, Dewan’s director of operations: “The d3 environment allows for more informal interactions with clients, peers and partners through the various functions and events that take place in the area.” It is these interactions that enrich the business, and help it in the long run. “This is where the values lie. We can build friendships and professional associations with like-minded people in our industry.
“d3 is the design hub of the region, and is a great incubator of talent. Being in this young, innovative, design-focused environment is the right choice for us, and allows us to better cooperate with our peers and partners who are also in d3,” adds Assam. How hard is it for a design company to plan its own office? With an expert understanding of materials and the design market, any experienced company will, arguably, want to create the best outcome at the lowest costs. “We had a limited budget,” states Assam. This made the company more judicious about the materials it used. Mohammed Adib, chief design officer at the firm, says: “We had to make sure to source economically-priced elements and mix them with the custom-made items.
“The total refurbishment budget was around AED3.5mn, which is a relatively small budget for a 1,700sq-m space.” Almost 30% of the amount was spent on custom-designed furniture. “Going for off-the-shelf products would have been more expensive,” explains Adib.
Another challenge the company had to deal with, is the transplant of ‘shells’ or workstations from the old office into the new space. “An important aspect of the design was the fact that this was a refurbishment and not a new build,” points out Adib. “We have extensive experience in refurbishment from our European office, and wanted to make sure to use as much of the existing shells as possible, as our company is strongly committed to sustainable design.”
With an open plan concept and a colourful, grid system layout, the office has been specifically designed to encourage collaboration and interaction among different departments. “As a design firm, we believe in collaboration, sustainability and creating spaces designed for their users,” emphasises Assam.
The new office has been designed to evoke more creativity. “The workstations are arranged to allow for team members to face one another, while different departments are separated by informal breakout areas to facilitate short meetings and discussions,” says Adib. “Tables have been placed in such a way that all team members have a direct view of each other and can discuss matters without leaving their desk.”
The company also made the best use of available space. As Adib explains: “Each team cluster is close to other teams with several added value areas between clusters. Although the clusters are more cramped than a traditional layout, people gain functional spaces that are shared with other clusters and minimise displacements within the office.”
One of the standout features in the office is a carpet tile covering on the walls that mimics cobble stones that disintegrate into moss. “Another different approach we have deployed is carpets on the walls,” Adib discloses. “We used this to make it appear larger as the end of the concrete floor merges with the wall, helping with acoustics as well.” The office also has a ‘forum’ space where team members can exhibit designs, materials and technical innovations to others in an informal, theatre-like setting.
The company placed special focus on using materials in their natural state and introducing colours to focus areas. For instance, the steel used in structures such as tables and shelving has been kept in its original state. Also, materials such as wood and concrete retain their natural tones.
“We strongly believe in the psychology of colours, especially in the workspace,” emphasises Assam. “Each colour helps define a feeling, and we have tried to use soothing colours in places that receive a lot of sunlight and energetic colours in places that receive less direct sunlight. The materials used enhance the relaxed attitude that is needed for a creative process,” he adds.
Workspaces have been designed to be interactive yet encourage individual productivity. An open space planning with the creation of clusters with “green islands” creates a working space that gives employees a secluded feel and allows them to concentrate.
The lighting structure has also been designed to contribute to individual productivity. Desks have table lamps that light individual workspaces, while the other areas make use of indirect light that bounces off the ceiling. Spotlights on indoor plants highlight their role in enhancing the natural, open-air feel of the space.