Occupying a minimal area of 38m2 and drenched in natural daylight from its full-height windows, Akin by the Beach is the latest iteration of the home-grown barbershop concept, Barber & Shop, designed by Dubai- and London-based architecture practice Anarchitect.
Located in The Beach development in the Dubai Marina precinct, and connected to the wider wellness programme of the Warehouse Gym, the barbershop establishes a sense of craftsmanship through a refined palette of materials, from solid ash, metal finishes, to custom resin sinks.
“Our brief for Akin was to challenge the ‘traditional’ barbershop and explore a new perspective while maintaining the familiar functionality, and enhancing the social dynamics and experience for guests of the shop,” explains Jonathan Ashmore, founder and director at Anarchitect.
“Given the project's close proximity to the beach and the year-round Dubai sunshine, contextually, we wanted to create a bright, fresh and crisp feel to the space without losing the rich association barbers have with craftsmanship and detail,” he adds.
Featuring a highly functional layout with four barber stations, the solid architectural American Ash hardwood structure custom-designed by the firm, is the backbone of the project, and has become a signature of the Akin brand in terms of defining its interior architecture. The wooden framework is a visual feature, but also integrates with the functionality.
The composition of the structure is designed to be adaptive to respond to each new location and performs as an insertion to visually frame the peripheral context in which it is sited.
The self-supporting frame is modular and can accommodate a variety of functions, from a barber station, to retail display, entrance door, shelving, waiting bench, and a panelled wall system. This allows for each new Akin to be reconfigured to best suit its context while keeping a sense of uniformity through the same craft, detail, and material. Ashmore explains: “For the structure, we chose to work with solid ash, a lighter, smoother wood than the darker, heavier-grained woods traditionally associated with barbershop culture.”
The dimensions and modules which were established for the original design for Akin Barber & Shop on Sheikh Zayed Road has been reproduced at The Beach location and further evolved to allow for the barber stations and chairs to be positioned back-to-back as well as side-by-side to better respond to the existing space, while taking advantage of the natural light coming from the full-height windows.
“Our principal thought process behind this engineered approach was to create a functional, free-standing structure that can accommodate a barber station perfectly sized and spaced, display cabinets, open shelving, storage door access and also the main entrance door and canopy,” says Ashmore.
“This ensures efficiency when planning for each new project and allows us to re-configure the barber shops based on dimensions that we have developed with the barbers themselves and that we know work, particularly in compact spaces as small as 35m2.
“Within the design, the timber structure has the capability to free-stand independently of any space, as an ‘object’ for potential pop-up or shop-in-shop setups. It s lighting by PSLAB is integrated with an adjustable clip-on system, and all other electrical and plumbing connections are also embedded within.”
He adds that the American Ash wood was sustainably sourced, chosen for its hardwood properties, soapy-light tones and characterful grain of a natural material in contrast to the harder, manmade concrete of the project’s shell and core. All of the metal work and glazing within the project was locally sourced from UAE-based fabricators.
Akin by the Shop sits within the Warehouse Gym complex, sharing the same entrance.
“To overcome the complexity of the multiple programmes and personalities of this hybrid wellness space, we carefully curated a dynamic entrance sequence composed of framed wall panels, linear LED lights and metallic quartz flooring slabs to lead visitors to the key entrance point of both Akin and the gymnasium facilities,” explains Ashmore.
“Applying our experience across diverse design typologies, we created a layout that also incorporates a grooming concept into the limited area. It creates an integrated space that is social and energetic with each individual programme contributing to the overall wellness experience of the project,” Ashmore adds.