The Virgin Mobile Office in Dubai Design District, designed by Schwitzke & Partner, captures the creative vibe of the brand.
After delivering successful concepts for the Virgin Megastore brand in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Schwitzke & Partner’s team was challenged again – this time to design a workplace for Virgin Mobile, a recently launched brand in Dubai. The 1,150m2 office is located in Dubai Design District and uses a variety of colours and materials to reflect the brand’s character.
Marcus Kaess, art director at Schwitzke & Partner’s Dubai office, says the aim was to capture the casual and creative vibe of the Virgin Mobile brand and give it a trendy and young look, while not affecting the functionality of the space for its 80-plus staff.
“Virgin Mobile is an entirely different company, but they liked our previous retail designs and that we understand Virgin as a brand,” says Kaess. “They wanted to an open-plan office where staff can work, collaborate, and have fun together. They wanted a place where they can be ‘super casual’, almost like a student hang-out.”
Commenting the brief, Rob Beswick, vice president of brand, Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa, says: “Our vision was to create a space that reflects the brand and is fun and accommodating for our digital natives. Open and engaging spaces, places to think and reflect, and the use of natural and beautiful materials, were key. We briefed the designers to create a space where people would feel at home and comfortable, and a place that would inspire creative innovation.”
As Kaess explains, the whole space carries the idea of a group of creatives sitting together to work on one common idea, like roommates at university.
Lounge chairs with a modern design, decorative lights, wooden benches in the canteen, and a kitchen improvised out of metal tubes, all carry this story, and fit well within the creative hub of d3.
“The causal-industrial concept has been around for quite some time, but we feel it is absolutely the right one for the Virgin brand. It fits the story behind the brand, of being an open, no-barriers, and customer-friendly company with a casual and personal feel to it,” he says.
The casual welcome begins in the entrance area, where a lighting installation spelling out “Hello” greets visitors. A reception desk is set against the white brick wall, and is a common feature of Virgin Mobile stores.
“We didn’t want to have a traditional reception desk. We thought it should look more like a food and beverage space. We added industrial pendant lights and bar stools to get away from the typical feeling of the reception. The ‘Hello’ looks like an old sign where the glass is broken, and the wall behind it is clad with different construction woods,” says Kaess.
The meeting rooms, public spaces, printing stations, lounges, and alternative work spaces have been placed strategically, allowing relaxed intercommunication between team members and their clients.
“It’s an open-plan, U-shaped office, which we tried to break into smaller areas with different colour accents and furniture. We took into consideration which departments needed to sit close to each other, and getting this workflow right was a challenge,” explains Kaess.
The CEO’s office and a meeting room for the board members stand out from this casual look, using of more refined and finished materials. Two of the meeting rooms are placed in a reused shipping container, painted in dark blue. One of the meeting rooms in an open-plan area features floor-to-ceiling wooden panels, which also act as blinds for extra privacy.
Throughout the space, the materials and colours are a blend of industrial and rough materials – like raw wood, untouched concrete columns, and raw steel – and pops of bright colours like yellow, dark blue, and Virgin Mobile red. Greenery also adds vibrancy to the office.
Kaess says Schwitzke & Partner used standard ceiling lighting for work spaces, making sure they utilised natural light as much as possible. Leveraging their experience as retail designers, they also added focussed lighting spots on the shelves and the walls, to create a warmer look and feel.
He adds that one of his favourite features of the design is that a lot of the furniture has been custom-designed, such as a long shelf made out of black metal, which acts as a space divider. Another is the office’s kitchen area.
“It is the backbone of the office, bringing people together,” he explains. “In this area, we’ve used pallets to create private micro meeting rooms, like pods, where staff can have informal meetings or just spend time on their own.”
This industrial kitchen combines white cabinets with a solid oak counter and white metro tiles. Open shelves and bistro tables with benches add to the casual atmosphere, alongside high tables and chairs that are set against the windows overlooking d3. The design team also created a padded notice board with rubber strings, where staff can hang magazines and pictures.
“It is a very welcoming – and pretty cool – place, where employees can feel at home and relaxed,” says Kaes. “And most importantly, when you walk in, you are not afraid to touch anything.”