Tree of life

Bash Hesnef designs the Saatchi & Saatchi Middle East headquarters for 95 staff in Dubai Media City Bash Hesnef Interior Design was invited to pitch for the Saatchi & Saatchi offices in Dubai Media City, thanks to its portfolio of advertising and media firms, including Young & Rubicam, Media Edge, Wunderman and Partnership.

The firm was founded in 2006 by Mohammed Basheer and the company has its own fit-out and joinery division, headed by an interiors architect and project managers.

The pitch was given to seven competitors and the brief stated that the new office had to reflect the global image of Saatchi & Saatchi, taking into account its creativity in the advertising sector.

The design concept had to be one of a creative environment but also very functional. The office is on the 40th floor of Business Central Towers and had to accommodate around 95 employees.

“Adil Khan, the visionary regional CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi and his team liked the feeling of an industrial office that incorporated natural finishes, but also wanted a very bright environment with clean lines,” said Paul Divers, general manager, Bash Hesnef Interior Design.

“Technology was also an area they wanted us to explore. This was the type of brief we enjoy because it gets our team’s creative juices flowing.”

Aside from these guidelines, Bash Hesnef was left to its own devices in creating a design proposal for its Middle East headquarters, taking into account the functionality of the space and accommodating the staff headcount.

“After receiving the brief from the Saatchi & Saatchi team, our owner and creative director, Mohammed Basheer booked an overnight flight to London to visit the firm’s London HQ,” said Divers.

“On his walk around the office, he quickly started to get a feel of the image they were trying to portray and not replicating any ideas from the London office, Basheer began sketching ideas and concepts on his flight back to Dubai to share with the design team.

“Having worked in the advertising industry as a creative director for a number of years prior to turning to interior design, Basheer fully understood what was required and what mood to create within an agency environment. This definitely helped our preparation for the pitch. We fed off of Basheer’s direction and ad agency experience to bring the concept to life.”

The space itself is 10,000 square feet in a shell and core state. Due to the standard office tower ceiling the team wanted to create as much height as possible for ideas to breathe so it opted for a bright white open interior overhead to give the effect of a high roof.

“We explored the possibility of white throughout as the main colour scheme, which reflected the firm’s branding colours, and to maximise the space and give it a clean contemporary look. The white, coupled with a concrete epoxy finished floor, gave a bright but industrial allure to the office,” added Divers.

“Coming from a villa on the beach front, where the last Saatchi & Saatchi office was located, we wanted to keep as much natural daylight flowing into the office as possible and also allow the staff to enjoy the magnificent views from the 40th floor, thus open work stations were introduced along with floor to ceiling glass partitions.”

Scattered throughout the office are breakout areas for the employees to have informal meetings and brainstorming sessions.

To encourage interaction, the design team introduced swing seating, bean bag areas, ‘cubby-holes’ built into the walls and a ‘glass boxed’ pool room to give staff an area to let their creativity flow. These areas have flashes of colour to bring vibrancy to the office.

“Keeping in mind the brief and with the Saatchi & Saatchi team wanting to introduce some form of technology, we came up with the idea of iPad stations. Bar seating at the reception area fitted with permanent iPads were installed, to allow staff and visitors to sit and scroll through some of the ad firm’s recent campaigns,” said Divers.

“We believe we won the project on three particular points. Firstly, we put together a very functional office layout with a creative edge and very clean lines, which was exactly what the client wanted. Secondly, we used alternative and creative ideas to save on cost.

It is much easier to design projects when you have an open ended budget but when there are financial constraints, you have to be more creative to achieve your goals.

“Lastly, our project timeline, which included all design finalisation in 3D renders, elevations, MEP drawings, Tecom approvals, plus the complete fit-out works, in 60 days was a huge advantage. We knew we could meet this timeline and were more than happy to have completed within our projected handover date.”

One of the main challenges Bash Hesnef Interior Design faced was to come up with a design that would add a
‘wow factor’ to the office but still manage to accommodate 95 employees, along with its meeting rooms, offices and day-to-day functional spaces. It needed to keep the flow of the staff and the relevant departments together, whilst avoiding an overcrowded feel.

“A well-planned layout ensured that these items did not hinder the project. Moreover, a very bright white colour scheme, with open ceilings and using as much natural daylight as possible gave it an open feeling,” said Divers.

“The next challenge was that this was not an ‘open cheque’ project and we had to ensure budget constraints were going to be met. Without splashing money on high end materials and furnishings, we made use of our inventive ideas to keep costs down. The use of custom-made furnishings and vinyl print wall graphics added life to the office but at the same time, kept costs low.”

The final challenge was agreeing to complete the whole turnkey project in 60 days, which included all MEP drawings and approvals.

“We were confident in our team and knew we could achieve this tight timeline, without compromising on quality. We kept to our promise and delivered the project within this time, a credit to our fit-out division and project management team,” added Divers.

“All the Bash Hesnef team was delighted with the result and is very proud to have completed the project for a client that came with a great heritage. We believe the final product was true to the enduring legacy of Saatchi & Saatchi.

“The client was delighted with the project and we believe that all the staff enjoy working from their new office space. The office opening party saw many of their major clients attending along with senior staff members from the London HQ and we believe they were all suitably impressed.”

Bash Hesnef recently opened an office in Mumbai thanks to the number of hospitality project enquiries, and plans to open offices in Doha and Beirut soon. It wants to expand its expertise into hospitality projects, with many restaurants and hotel projects in 2012.

It is currently working on the Uranio head office, which is the distributor for clothes brand Diesel and Fred Perry in the region. The next project is to design and build a head office for McDonald’s fast-food restaurant, in the Shangri-La Hotel in one month’s time.

It will address the overall concept and direction, the ambience, individual materials, textures, furniture, wall finishes, specialist features, and lighting.

“2012 is already proving to be a bright start for us with many projects on the horizon. The company has gone from strength to strength, creating distinctive spaces for an impressive list of multinational organisations, using innovative design ideas for commercial office spaces, retail outlets and food and beverage concepts,” said Divers.

“This has been the lineage of Bash Hesnef that the company has built upon over the years. Thinking out of the box sets us apart from our competitors.

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