Dubai-based Swiss Bureau Interior Design, which received the Highly Commended recognition in the Interior Design Firm of the Year category at the 2018 Commercial Interior Design Awards, is primarily known for its stellar portfolio of corporate workplaces.
But recently, the practice was tasked with designing a food and beverage project in One Central Dubai. Andes, a fine dining restaurant in the Trade Centre area, exudes sophistication and subtle industrial influences.
“Industrial chic — that is the concept behind the design of Andes,” says Joakim de Rham, co-founder, CEO, and design principal of Swiss Bureau Interior Design.
“The client wanted the space to be cosy, loud and humming, but not over cramped, with a serious focus on a quality theatrical food experience. They envisioned offering a dining experience with a contemporary take on Chilean and Argentinian cuisine through an open-display kitchen,” De Rham explains.
“Being transferred into a slightly closed-off area towards your table, you can still hear people walking outside and, at the same time, get a glimpse of what’s going on in the kitchen. The feel that surrounds you is visibly industrial, but very eclectic,” De Rham says.
At night though, the crispness of the venue dissolves to project a softer, moodier space, and attaining this effect was Swiss Bureau’s biggest challenge.
“What the client ordered was a brilliant balance between a light and airy daytime venue and a moody night time spot. It was a real challenge and pleasure to translate our design capabilities into a South American fine dining experience, suitable for both day and night,” remarks De Rham.
This ‘brilliant balance’ which the client called for was achieved with the thoughtful use of lights and the combination of light and dark finishes.
“It was a real challenge to get right as the client wanted the space to have a lunchtime cafe feel in the day and a fine dining atmosphere in the evening. The lux levels and warmth created by the lighting were paramount to get this effect right. We created different clusters of lights to define the different spaces and intentionally light the surfaces and objects, instead of the spaces. The trees, shopfront, and bar therefore really stand out as design features,” explains Zoe Victoria Allen, design manager at Swiss Bureau.
“While waiting to be served, guests will witness that industrial look brought with dark metal framing but also notice a more elegant ambience that was created by white marble. The two contrasting looks merge harmoniously as a result of combining light metals, such as bronze and copper, with light textured concrete surfaces and a little bit of wood,” says De Rham.
The efforts have paid off, and the final look is something de Rham is proud about.
“You could say that the final look of the shop front, as well as the ambience requirements of the clients, are great examples of us passing the test. We managed to create that intriguing level of visibility and noise between the kitchen and the rest of the space that would allow the visitors to be on the backstage while still having some privacy. In addition to that, we managed to turn the shop front into a masterpiece by using metal piping, instead of wood, and suspending the metal shelving from a very high ceiling to create a very detailed and impressive look.”
De Rham also credits the success of the project on the outlook of the client.
“One of our favourite parts about designing Andes was working alongside owners who had a serious passion to open this restaurant, impeccable taste, and a great vision for the space.”
Another challenge the company dealt with was budget.
“Taking into consideration the intricacy of the design, the budget was substantially a challenge that we managed to overcome to create a memorable and sophisticated space that people would talk about.”
A line of trees, stand out from the sea of brown and white at the centre of the restaurant.
“Greenery is an element that is really missed by people in the UAE and we find everyone seems to enjoy greenery when it is brought into the interiors,” says Allen.
Besides their aesthetic advantages, the trees serve another purpose. “We also used these tall elements to divide the space so it did not feel too open. Because of health and safety codes, we used real trunks that were specifically selected from local nurseries, dried and cured, to which half silk leaves were then applied,” she remarks.
The furniture at the venue has been provided by Interior360. “We work with them often as they have a significantly reliable quality. I particularly like their combinations of metal, wood, and leather in their soft seating as it worked perfectly with the architectural design,” says Allen.
But how is working on an F&B project different from working on other commercial spaces? Allen says that the main difference lies in the emotions the design has to evoke in the customer or client. “There is a much bigger focus on the emotion invoked by the ambience of the space. The environment has a bigger impact on the patrons experience as the food also does, but only has an initial expenditure. The outset cost will keep working for the client but it has to be absolutely perfect.”