Interior design firm DWP has used wooden organic structures and greenery to provide a bright workspace for Smart Dubai’s new office in Dubai Design District.
When Smart Dubai, a city-wide initiative to make Dubai “the happiest city on earth”, decided to move to its permanent home in Dubai Design District, the design team at dwp was challenged to translate its progressive vision into a multi-functional and collaborative space.
The client also wanted its design to tie back to the Middle East but without being too literal. Taking inspiration from shifting sand, the designers created several organic structures throughout the space. An intricate ceiling at the entrance and wooden slats that surround the coffee bar area are the main design features. Designed in Revit, each wooden slat needed to be individually created and produced to follow the form.
“The entire concept was based on elements of the UAE and a story rooted in the Middle East. We were looking at shifting sands, a meandering creek, and desert oasis,” says Nadine Abedzadeh, interior designer at dwp, adding that all these elements were used as subtle references.
Previously Smart Dubai was renting an office in Emirates Towers so the client wanted its new permanent space to feel more like home and be flexible enough to meet future needs.
“They wanted to have space where staff will be efficient and enjoy working,” Abedzadeh tells CID. “Future expansion was addressed from the early stages of design and has been allowed for in terms of MEP requirements. The current state allows for 42 staff, which can increase to 60.”
Spanning 1,800m2, new Smart Dubai office occupies an entire floor in building 1 in d3. Inspired by the Dubai Creek, the central walkway meanders through all areas of the office, making them easily accessible and connected.
Moving away from the traditional entrance layout, the designers placed casual seating area and hanging bubble swing chair set against screen partitions made of natural rope. To the right sits a virtual reception with a touch screen, which helps navigate all visits to the office.
“An unmanned reception directs visitors to the relevant space, whether that be to a meeting room or the coffee bar oasis, which allows visitors to interact with the space. Visitors type in their name and who they want to visit and employees are then informed by SMS that their visitor has arrived,” explains Abedzadeh.
Right by the entrance sit three glass-enclosed executive offices, adorned with more casual lighting pendants and quirky accessories while on the left designers placed acoustic pods for individual focused working.
“To make space feel more comfortable, we included table and floor lamps that are not typical for corporate spaces, such as cork pendant lights,” she says.
Interestingly, 90% of all walls, including glass partitions and concrete walls are writeable.
Natural materials, including solid oak timber and white oak veneer, concrete and natural rope, were used throughout the office. The warm and neutral colour scheme is accented with splashes of the Smart Dubai signature blue colour and natural greenery.
Along with an open-plan working space, the team also provided a range of working and meeting spaces.
“Dynamic placement of desks and breakout spaces encourages staff collaboration and communication. As per client requirements, all open areas, including reception, café and quiet zone, are multifunctional and able to be converted into rooms for more casual meetings,” says Abedzadeh.
This is accomplished with various types of seating, such as task chairs, yoga balls, sit/stand stools, acoustic pods and sound-absorbent partitions.
Pockets of live landscaping were created throughout the office, including the wall-mounted planting pods for each staff member to nurture. Plants were specifically chosen for their added value to the environment but also to act as an air purifier.
The client also requested from the designers to make the best use of the natural light. Inspired by a desert oasis, the café enjoys a premium location within the space.
“We intentionally placed the coffee bar oasis on the side of the building where the sun rises,” she adds. “It can also be used for causal meetings or as a waiting area.”
Around the café area, the design team created an LED screen to display twitter feeds for #smartdubai and any bespoke office announcements. Also, all lighting within the space features sensors to turn itself off when a particular room is not in use and automatically turn on by movement.
A circular glass-enclosed collaboration meeting room offers both privacy and transparency. Seating upholstered in the Smart Dubai blue colour is customised to fit the shape of the room while all glass surfaces are writable.
Next to it, the design team created a quiet zone, allowing staff to move away from their desks and have a break or informal meeting. With lounge chairs, a neutral carpet on the floor, bird cages suspended from the ceiling and cork deco walls, the space was designed to resemble a ‘living room’.
The auditorium is another area where technology needed to be seamlessly integrated into space. Working closely with the dwp team, Summertown Interiors developed the smart solutions to achieve Smart Dubai’s seamless technology objectives via client workshops throughout the fit-out.
“I am delighted to have partnered with dwp to successfully achieve the delivery of a new breed of offices. The quality of the Summertown fit-out achieves the design intent, through attention to detail, high quality finishes and craftsmanship. We are also proud to have collaborated so closely with Smart Dubai to achieve their goal for seamless office technology,” says Abdoullah Albizreh, business development manager at Summertown Interiors.
Describing Smart Dubai as an organisation that “thrives on innovation and creativity”, H.E. Dr Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, director-general of the Smart Dubai office, explains organisation sought an office design that not only reflects its corporate culture, but also inspires its employees.
“We employed a team of experts from dwp to ensure our office adheres to international environmental standards. Dwp did an outstanding job and built a space that reflects our identity as a progressive smart organisation, as well as our mission to make Dubai the happiest city on the planet – starting with our own offices. Our facilities overwhelmingly rely on organic material, including wood and rope. This reduces our carbon footprint and reflects our core principal of sustainable, environmentally friendly development.”
Currently, Summertown is managing the LEED certification process and is expected to reach the client’s goal of Gold certification.