Spencer Ogden opens Middle East office in Dubai and gets to the root of contemporary design
Strong office design can be difficult to come by, so we were thrilled when we were invited to check out the new Spencer Ogden space in Dubai’s Media City.
The award winning global energy consultancy recently announced its expansion into the Middle East market and brought with it its renowned design driven styling.
With a number of branches located all around the world from its home base in London to cities like Hong Kong and Houston, Spencer Ogden’s establishment in the Middle East was, to many, a long time coming.
Designed by Bonita Spencer Percival, design director, Spencer Ogden, the Dubai office exhibits a contemporary look that is cleverly fused with local tradition and culture.
“The inspiration was twofold,” said Percival. “Firstly, the location was extremely inspiring and met the criteria of a Spencer Ogden office, in as much as the views are spectacular much like our other offices.
One side overlooks the Palm and the other [overlooks] the Burj. The light and space is incredible, which is very Spencer Ogden. Secondly, a part of my inspiration for all of our offices comes from the local culture.”
Percival insists that tying in the local culture with the design is something that’s carried through all of Spencer Ogden’s offices.
She adds: “The light and space is on a par with our other major hubs around the world while the club room and boardroom are specific to the region. All of our offices follow this formula—there are many similarities but a distinctly local feel is threaded throughout.”
The new office is located in Media City’s Arenco tower on the seventeenth level. At such a high position, it’s fortunate that the space is almost entirely bordered by windows.
This composition allows not only the view, but also the natural light to brighten up the space. While this may be a natural design feature, it’s one that gives life to the office and reminds end-users of the importance of connecting with the outside world.
Upon walking into the office, one is immediately overcome by the plush Astroturf that covers the floor of the main section. With exposed pipes on the ceiling and the white washed walls, the green floor covering is refreshing to look at.
“The actual office space always has Astroturf, as well as the large round tables where all the wiring is hidden so it creates an uncluttered, very ‘un-office’ look,” says Percival.
She adds: “We also always supply a very funky, groovy 1950s style ‘American diner’ in each office.” Also adding quirk are aged posters and signs sourced from local markets, hung to the right of the entrance door.
Further into the space, large round tables stand out where employees are positioned to work from. The massive circular tables are made from reclaimed wood and merge well with the space, adding a second dimension to the otherwise geometric-based styling, which can be seen in the black and white tiling for the kitchen and square tables that line the windows.
As Percival mentioned, the American diner feel is most blatant in the kitchen area, where the Smeg refrigerator takes central stage and applies an Emirati feel as it displays the UAE national flag.
Complimenting the refrigerator are the vintage lighting pendants, the chequered flooring and the high pub tables. Though thematic, together the elements maintain a sense of lightness.
Percival explains: “We try to be very respectful of each region and try to incorporate as much local styling as possible. We do this with small accents throughout, such as the UAE flag fridge, and then we go for more of a full-on local theme in the club and board rooms. I tend to source most of the decorative items at local markets and antique shops.”
Sporadically placed throughout the office are playful objects like bicycles, foot-scooters and baseball bats.
Percival notes: “All of the offices have these energising elements—telephone head pieces [that are hands-free], bikes, unicycles, golf putters, etc, so that while the staff are on the phone all day talking to clients, they are inspired and energetic as they move around the office.”
To the left of the office is a private board room, which most acutely highlights local culture. Encased in glass panels so as to be transparent and open to the rest of the office, the board room consists of two spaces: the first being a standard, western board room and the second a Bedouin-like sit down area.
The juxtaposition of both reflects the difference in the British and Arab cultures. Where Westerners tend to sit in a more rigid setting to discuss business, Middle Easterners are known for their hospitality. The boardroom fusion allows both styles to really stand out and cater to the diverse market in Dubai.
About incorporating a Bedouin-inspired board room, Percival notes: “This seemed like a natural direction to incorporate elements of the UAE culture into the office. For one, the Bedouin tent style is gorgeous and colourful and fits well into the space.
We try to supply an atmosphere for our employees and clients that is a little other-worldly from the normal office look, so people are relaxed and therefore the lounging effect was appropriate.”
Inside the boardroom small details help create the bigger picture, from one corner being dedicated to old English culture, to the other displaying artistic and framed images of Emirati culture.
“For the boardroom, the table and chairs were inspired by retro campaign furniture, hence the battered suitcases and canvas chairs, and the pith helmets, which is an homage to the English culture and then the homage to the local culture is the Bedouin tent.
“We try to not take ourselves so seriously and the decor is to encourage our employees to have fun while working really hard,” says Percival.
In addition to the round tables, the boardroom floors are sustainable and are also made of reclaimed wood. And according Percival, most of the materials including the flooring and lighting were sourced by Dubai-based company Design Infinity.
The new Spencer Ogden office maintains its British heritage while also incorporating local influences as seen through the boardroom and flag fridge, and as Percival says, the decor is youthful and refreshing.
It’s an office that stands as a prototype for others who are also aiming to achieve similar looks that promote healthy, happy employees.
Percival concludes: “Like the company, the office is a mixture of the London roots of Spencer Ogden, [that are] blended with the local culture. The decor is young and energetic with a fresh feel to inspire our employees and clients, [as well as] a slight sense of humour.”