When Emaar chairman Mohammed Alabbar wanted to reinvigorate the organisation and relocate the entire team to Emaar Square in Downtown Dubai, design worldwide partnership (dwp) worked to provide a new dynamic workplace
As one of the largest and most lively property developers in the world, Emaar had recently decided to re-energise the company headquarters and relocate the whole team to a new office in the heart of Emaar Square.
The project, led by Mohammed Alabbar, was not just run-of-the-mill. It was to be an honest reflection of the company’s vision, future and its ever-increasing role in the framework of a growing Dubai.
Emaar teamed up with design world partnership, better known as dwp, to help capture and translate the company’s zeitgeist presence in the region’s continuing development.
Emaar’s previous office was located in Emaar Business Park and spread over six floors. With fragmented departments and limited shared facilities, the interior was uninspiring and detached from the company’s forward-thinking conceptual foundation.
George Kahler, design director, dwp explains: “There are many drivers for change in a company’s decision to refurbish their offices or relocate. Emaar’s corporate values were not reflected in its previous property. It’s dynamic, collaborative business process was being hindered by the cellularised spaces.
“Emaar is at the leading edge of local and global real estate development. It is a market leader, making waves and setting new standards. Its interiors needed to reflect this and to attract and retain the best possible personnel.”
Emaar’s brief to dwp called for daylight, long work-tables, dynamic planning, open-plan, few doors, and a ‘raw loft-style’.
It was a clear and direct vision, and according to Kahler, dwp delivered exactly to Alabbar’s requests. The new headquarters now sits in Emaar Square and measures at 6,250m2. With three floors linked, all 15 departments have been centralised to one location. The open-plan is also efficient and provides a space for collaborative working.
“Emaar’s previous offices supported it through a different era for the development industry. It was emerging from the financial crash and wanted to claw back its entrepreneurial spirit, to shape up its operations, inspire the staff to perform and drive the organisation forward,” says Kahler.
“[Emaar’s] previous office space was fragmented and did not fully reflect this new Emaar drive. The new office design completely changed the dynamic and has contributed to and reinforced the chairman’s vision. It’s a huge success.”
Emaar feels that the traditionally personal approach to doing business has been lost in the Middle East. Rather than handling operations over a hospitable cup of coffee, the individual workstation had at some point taken over.
Emaar hoped to rectify this and bring back some of the lost allure of Arab culture. The company now looked to create collaborative communities, where employees and visitors could discuss professional matters in social settings.
A quick look at the floor plan shows different areas called ‘neighbourhoods’ located throughout the layout. Kahler explains: “The layout concept is based around creating a series of communities. This is not only a direct reflection of what Emaar does, but enabled its constant organic growth and contraction of departments within a non-rigid desk arrangement.
“Departments are defined by their personnel and sit side by side others for cross-collaboration of business units. We used our knowledge of furniture systems and contemporary workplace design trends to give them all the functional performance required by its staff, including cable management and integrated IT.”
The brief also called for no doors, standing meeting rooms and creative spaces. According to Kahler, a key to the design was the lining staircase which provides a connected feel throughout the floors.
Kahler says: “The new space has fewer offices and more shared collaboration areas and is therefore a far more efficient use of real estate giving the client a much higher return on productivity versus real estate area.
Central to each floor is a variety of collaborative work spaces offering an infinite array of meeting scenarios rather than a series of cellular fixed meeting rooms. This freed up far more space given to open plan working.”
The new office rejects the corporate office style, as well as the overtly branded one. Instead it focuses on an interior that is both reflective of the company’s confidence and vision, as well as the conceptual styles that are appreciated by modern design culture.
“We went away from all the standard corporate materials,” notes Kahler. “We did not use carpet tiles or stone. In the open plan areas we used marmoleum. Circulation is timber plank and feature areas use poured, raw concrete.
“We exposed the soffit and services and sprayed it out white to give a feeling of space and light. We also used natural cork flooring for meeting rooms and on walls, to assist the acoustics and to be able to pin directly onto walls. Additionally, full height digital wallpaper is employed throughout to reinforce the brand.”
The use of cork on the walls – so those using the meeting rooms can pin their work up – is just one example of the creative use of eco materials applied by dwp. The design and architecture firm also used an eclectic mix of finishes, furniture pieces and materials. This is most obvious in the Forbo flooring and Allermuir furniture.
Kahler regards the linking bridge and staircase in the reception, with its exposed soffit, beams and structure, as a stand out feature.
“It’s a wow factor from ground up to second floor reception,” he says. “We coordinated with the structural engineer to cut the post tension slab and insert the steel structure staircase.”
While the new Emaar HQ boasts an intelligent interior design that ideally represents the inhabitants in an accurate, subtle way; the community-based approach applied by the property developer is not only obvious in its official dealings, but also its office design. And dwp made sure to follow all the sustainable rules of LEED certification. It illustrates that the client was not only concerned with the aesthetic and function of the office, but also the effect it would have on the environment.
Kahler says: “We always design to LEED sustainable guidelines and this was no exception. Although the client did not request LEED certification, we followed the LEED CI check list and ensured that all bases were covered. Gypsum was sourced locally and the cork, FSC timber and recycled content desking system added to the sustainable design.”
To dedicate the conceptual foundation of a growing and powerful organisation to transparent inner-workings will speak volumes for many years to come.
And while the community-based, open plan office space is already one major accomplishment, the environmentally-friendly element further makes a bold statement.
Khaler concludes: “Emaar is a dynamic organisation, all about delivery, which requires huge coordination requirements. The staff needed to engage internally and with external consultants and clients in many different ways. The wide array of collaboration spaces supported this.”