Designed by Roar, Edelman’s new office in Dubai spans 1,000m2 and is located in the notable One JLT building.
The workspace for the firm builds on the success of Edelman’s Abu Dhabi office – also designed by the award-winning firm back in 2016.
“Edelman, the world’s largest public relations company, had acquired local firm Dabo & Co. The brief was to create not just a great office space, but a home that would help unify two teams that had been competitors for years, and had previously worked in separate offices,” says Pallavi Dean, founder and creative director of Roar.
One of the big design challenges with Edelman Dubai was to create a link to the Abu Dhabi office, and yet give it a distinct character.
The project builds upon the ‘cultural villages’ concept Roar had used for Edelman’s Abu Dhabi office.
“They had loved the ‘cultural villages’ concept we developed for Abu Dhabi: the idea of creating separate cities within a city, such as Soho, Wall Street and Harlem in New York. But we couldn’t just repeat it. So, we took it to the next level in Dubai, adding layers of colour, texture and furniture to give each village more personality,” explains Dean.
The project has been executed after extensive research — “the most in-depth Roar has ever conducted”, according to Dean.
“We combined two research methodologies. The first is Roar’s own UXD (User Experience Design) process, which we had used to great effect for Edelman’s Abu Dhabi office. This takes findings from focus groups, interviews, questionnaires and observation and refines them into a one-page list of priorities. In addition to this, we worked with the workplace psychology team at Herman Miller, using their ‘living office’ process. The result was a deep understanding of the needs of senior and junior staff, and a thorough, research-based set of guidelines to frame our design decisions.”
One of the striking features of the project has been the use of colour to demarcate sections of the office and give them a personality. This has been inspired by a study conducted by the University of Texas that showed that colour impacts mood and wellbeing.
“We wanted to test drive this theory,” says Dean.
Blue is the dominant colour in the entrance, reflecting Edelman’s branding.
Blue also lends the main reception zone, named Civic Square, a rich hospitality look and feel. “We wanted people to feel like they were walking not into an office, but a boutique hotel,” says Marcela Munoz, associate with Roar, and one of the lead designers on the project.
The end of the office has tonnes of green and pink, while the interior palette has an ombre gradient colour transition.
The element that connects the entire gradient effect is a series of ceiling baffles that rotate slightly to create a dynamic movement through the space. The ceiling baffles serve as a wayfinding device and give each department an identity. The colour transition on the ceiling is matched with the floor. The desks, joinery and glass partitions all symbolise the zone they are in.
Colour has also been used to add a playful vibe to the office. “Most of the Edelman Dubai office has a fresh, young, vibrant look and feel: we have a ‘go bananas’ creative lounge (wallpaper by Mr Perswall) and a ‘hanging monkeys’ phone booth room (wallpaper by House of Hackney),” remarks Dean.
Much attention has been placed on creating a space that would balance two audiences or “straddle two worlds”.
“Edelman is a global media entity with a predominantly millennial workforce. However, their clients are mainly large companies and government agencies, who are typically older. The office therefore needed a youthful energy, but with a feel of maturity and professionalism,” says Dean.
Edelman Dubai starts and finishes with two bold interior architectural statements.
“At the entrance, the Civic Square is the most dramatic space. The sweeping curves in an otherwise linear floorplate punctuated with a shallow dome in the ceiling is a powerful architectural gesture. To the back of the space, the eye is drawn to the skyscraper skyline peeking through floor-to-ceiling windows. The impression is very much that of the lobby of a boutique design hotel, with a blend of custom-designed pieces and designer furniture. The final space is what we call the Urban Park: more sweeping curves, this time in a step format to create a show-and-tell space for presentations to clients and staff ‘town hall’ meetings. It also doubles as a lounge and café for staff, with café style seating and recessed nooks for discreet conversations,” she explains.
City Lofts district — the first space visitors enter after the reception — is the most sophisticated space in the office.
“It’s a flexible hybrid of a meeting room, co-working space and a private office. This is where the young creatives in jeans and t-shirts meet the high paying clients in suits. It’s also a co-working space for clients and consultants visiting the office — a commuter work space,” says Dean.
After City Lofts, visitors enter the main work zone: the Creative District. The Creative District is set in an ombre colour scheme to lend it a playful personality. The ceiling, carpets, meeting rooms and breakout spaces for different departments are colour co-ordinated, with an ombre effect filtering across the large, open floor plate.
Finally, visitors arrive at the Urban Park, a space featuring a café-style amphitheatre space, a multi-function area for public meetings, presentations, eating lunch and informal meetings. All striking a balance between formality and informality, creative and corporate.
One of the biggest stand-out features of the design process has been the use of works by local artists and craftsmen.
“It was important to infuse local references, without resorting to clichés. We achieved this by embracing local art. Specifically, we commissioned paintings and installations from two Emirati artists: Zeinab Al Hashemi and Khalid Shafar,” comments Dean.
The reception area features a custom-made wall installation by Khalid Shafar that uses the iqal, the black cord worn by Emirati men to keep their head covering in place. It creates a visual representation (in Morse code) of Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s quote at the Arab Media Forum 2018: “To harness all efforts to serve the country and the citizen wherever it is”.
Wall art by Emirati artist Zeinab Al Hashemi, based on satellite images of Dubai, grounds the City Lofts space in its local context.
The design has several subtle nods to the Islamic world, such as the arches in the joinery and interiors coupled with the shallow blue dome in the reception
“The overall effect is to create a sense of place: that this is an office in Dubai, not Denver or Dusseldorf,” comments Dean.
The office has a wide range of working options: sitting desks, standing desks, individual office spaces and informal collaboration spaces, as well as rooms with a dedicated technical function, such as a green room for video and TV filming.
“We’ve aimed to create an eclectic mix with the furniture — refraining from the oft-used commercial desking and seating systems,” says Dean.
“For the workstations, we made a conscious effort to vary the material and the shape of the desks. Some worktops are white while others are in wood, each with a custom colour accessory to reflect the zone it sits in. Each ‘village’ has a variety of work positions, with some sitting desks and a standing desk at the end of each row. Task chairs are by Vitra.”
The project also makes of a broad variety of lighting products, from the likes of Flos, Estiluz, Studio Italia, Aromas del Campo, DCW editions, Seletti, Excloosiva, Petite Friture, Vibia, Zerolighting, Axo Light, and Mathieu Challieres.
“For the Civic Square reception area to create the impression of walking into a boutique design hotel, we’ve used the curved forms of a Ligne Roset sofa and Driade armchairs coupled with La Palma side tables,” she adds.