VSHD Design completes an underground fightclub-inspired fitness space in Dubai Design District

Dubai-based design practice creates a gym which references brutalist architecture highlighted by an extensive use of concrete

As fitness concepts continue to grow in popularity in the UAE and the region, gyms and physical activity studios are mushrooming in cities around the Middle East. Dubai-based VSHD studio, founded by Rania M Hamed, recently completed the Warehouse Gym project in Dubai Design District (d3).

The brief on the project included a gym floor, juice bar, cycling studio and circuit training factory all in a limited space of 600m2, which was unevenly spread out. "Working with an irregular plan of three separate retail spaces, we inserted a semi-transparent cube in the center of the space to host the different functions," says Hamed.

"Our main challenge was to deliver a boutique fitness facility that is inviting, inspiring, authentic, functional and in context with a leading destination (d3) for design, art, and culture."

Inspired by brutalism in architecture and underground fight clubs, VSHD wanted to refrain from using the common materials found in most health clubs. "We used materials such as concrete bricks combined with gold copper alloy to make it look current, while at the same time creating a space that is elegant, warm and muscular."

Specifically customised LED suspended lighting was used to conceal all the ceiling services while maintaining an overall vibrant lighting mood that can be controlled by the different exercise zones.

As the gym is located at the main entrance of d3 with views from two main streets, it was essential that the design should capitalise on the view from the street to give it a visually-appealing curbside appeal. 

The reception and juice bar area was designed as a communal space with a 17m-long glass façade on the main street creating a meeting point for the design community where they can meet after their daily workout or for non-members to stop by and grab a healthy smoothie or salad while experiencing the ambience of the gym.

"With the gym space originally made up of three separate retail outlets which are rented out to three different commercial functions, we had to make sure that the spatial flow is seamless in a very functional manner, whereas each  exercise area has its own distinct space, within the open plan to ensure that different users enjoy the gym's dynamic environment and vibrancy," explains Hamed. 

The semi-transparent cube in the centre of the space can be combined with the gym floor to provide a large studio accommodating a larger number of users depending on the function.

Materials used in the main gym floor and studios like the locally-sourced concrete bricks, gold copper alloy and concrete flooring are resilient to heavy use and develop an appealing patina that gives an authentic feel.