Graffiti has officially broken through Dubai’s pristine barriers with the Warehouse Gym’s recent opening.
When UK-based graffiti artists Tom Deams and Sepr were commissioned to spray the new Warehouse Gym located in Al Quoz, it was a welcomed surprise not only for the artists but for the regional design community as well. Living in a largely graffiti-less region, The Warehouse Gym is an inspiring new addition to Dubai’s design make-up.
The gym, though new, has adopted the well-known street style, decorating its walls with graphic and loud illustrations that are typical of an urban city landscape.
With expressions like, “The warriors train here,” and, “Eat clean, train dirty,” sprayed along the walls in colourful, bubbled letters, the gym’s energy becomes one that is albeit, harsh, yet smart and lively.
Fahad Al Rafi, co-founder, The Warehouse Gym, explains: “Basically, my idea was to create a rough environment because the athlete builds up to their success from a natural and rough [atmosphere], which is a harsh training environment.
An athlete reaches the best result from a rough environment and capitalises on it; you won’t find a champion in a hotel. So I wanted to create a [setting] that creates results for people. That’s why I brought in all the best equipment, street art, concrete finish, and located the gym inside a warehouse.”
The hopes of creating a new space that looked a bit damaged were soon realised through a combination of raw, unrefined aesthetics. Together Al Rafi, his brother and gym manager Kevin Teixeira transformed the space into the unconventional gym and brought in two graffiti artists, Deams and Sepr, who hail from Bristol, England.
According to Al Rafi, Bristol is the world’s leading capital for graffiti. “Banksy, who made graffiti famous and turned it into an art, comes from Bristol. So, you can fish from Bristol, in a way. Secondly I know a lot of artists who told me the best in graffiti for texts is [Deams] and Sepr for characters,” adds Al Rafi.
“I was cosy with them because on this side of the world we are not advanced in graffiti, so we need to be careful, and keep it old school graffiti. If I show a UAE national advanced graffiti, he won’t understand it. So that’s why I interfered in each design, because I don’t want to over graphitise it.”
Graffiti artist Tom Deams comments on the design: “[Al Rafi] was looking for something strong and striking almost as if the graffiti had been in the building before the gym came along, still retaining the street urban look but with that wow factor.