Case study: Perkins + Will designs new Dubai office for BP

One of the world’s leading gas and oil companies BP has operations in nearly 80 countries, with its own office in Dubai having been established more than a decade ago.

When BP decided it was time to enter a new and improved chapter in its long-standing history in the region, it went to Perkins + Will to create a stunning new office design that represented the company’s core values as well as its vision forward.

According to Perkins + Will senior design, Matthew Sexton, who led the 15,000ft2 project, BP’s brief was about collaboration and communication.

He says: “BP has a very stringent set of guidelines with corporate identity and there are different driving factors with the local client. So working on the project, we had the local client and then we had the overarching international team that were monitoring the project. We had a lot of different input, but ultimately BP wanted to have something that when you walked in, you knew it was BP.”

The design team and client worked closely to create a space that not only followed the company’s guidelines but also surpassed them in a subtle way. In allowing Perkins + Will more freedom than previously allotted to designers, the team was able to illustrate the company’s quest for new forms of communicating corporate identity.

According to Sexton, the Dubai office is slightly more opulent than other BP offices, and it appears to be setting a new standard for the company’s upcoming projects.

Sexton says: “I would like to think it is raising the bar for BP, and it kind of rings true because the brief for BP’s Oman office is that they want it to be like Dubai. They don’t want it to be a copy of the Dubai office, but they want it to have the same spirit.”

Before delivering a concept, Perkins + Will invited the Dubai staff to a workshop where they gathered intel on the interests and opinions of those who would be inhabiting the space on a daily basis. From office assistants to managing directors, the design team made sure to gather a wide variety of information to make sure the concept reflected not only the company, but the employees who would be working in the local office.

Afterwards, Sexton’s team linked the information back to the brand and the corporate values, and came up with a design that illustrated BP Dubai’s strong focus on collaboration and communication.

“BP is very much about its people. So we looked at ways to visually represent the connection between the different core groups, because BP has multiple sub-groups within its organisation and they all have their own specialty. Obviously BP is oil and gas, but it also has trade and sales teams, so everyone fits within this matrix. So we tried to link it all to the brand,” says Sexton.

The layout of the office is divided into two main portions, the first is what Sexton refers to as the front of house and takes up nearly 15%-20% of the overall size, while the second is back of house. For the design team, the two portions would approach translating the BP vision differently while maintaining subtle consistencies.

The front of house is clean, white and minimal, and centres its design on incorporating the Helios from the company’s logo into the structure of the space. The back of house is more playful and integrates BP’s branded colours into the furniture, walls and carpeting.

“What we wanted to do because the colours are so bright, is use them subtly and make sure that when people walked into the office they went ‘wow.’ BP wanted the space to be BP, but they didn’t want it to be about how much money they spent on it, they wanted it to look like we spent time and energy on the space not just money,” adds Sexton.

BP’s mark symbolises dynamic energy in all of its forms and this led to the LED-lit ceiling design, which incorporates the Helios, and back-lit wall that morphs into the reception desk. It’s a striking design that immediately stuns and welcomes guests.

When Sexton first started sketching out ideas for the reception area, he began by drawing the Helios and that ultimately formed his centre point and everything grew from there. “I wanted the desk to be round but I wanted it to integrate into the walls, so the walls sort of morph into the desk and there are these stems that sort of come up from the floor for support,” he notes.

The stems that line the front panel of the desk are lit from above, while a yellow strip colours the face of each panel.

The back of house maintains more back-painted glass as well as iconography sourced from BP’s stock archive. While the office is open, the layout allowed for breakout spaces and private rooms along the outside of the centred working space.

Sexton explains: “For example, in a room called ‘communication room’ that has reception phone booths, there is this glass wall in the front of you that is back painted with either green or yellow. Imbedded in the glass is a logo, like a phone with a chord. And that logo would be manifested on the doors as well, but a negative of it. So that concept was used all throughout the office, even in the front of house.”

While the reception desk consists of Corian, the front of house also boasts light oak timber. And toward the second half of the office, personally customised carpet by Interface further contributes to communicating BP’s corporate identity.

As with all open plan offices, providing pockets of privacy is key to keeping staff happy and at BP, Cigar Chairs by Boss Design allow individuals to make private phone calls or simply enjoy the view of Downtown Dubai.

“It was my first project with Perkins + Will, so I was in a position where I wanted to prove myself,” says Sexton of the award-winning design.

“It was lovely, and I have a real sense of pride about it. With Oman, it’s different clients but it gives me a level of credibility.

They can trust me because I’ve done it before and I really enjoy that because we’ve built a good relationship with them. Though it’s not the same client, they came to the Dubai office to walk around and they know now they’re in safe hands.”

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