Designing for the public sector

Laurent Haddad, design manager, RW Armstrong

By definition, the public sector and institutional organisations are the part of the economy concerned with providing various government services. In most countries, that sector includes services such as the environment, citizens’ affairs, public transit, public education, healthcare and accountability, among others. And unlike the business sector, which is intended to earn a profit for the owners of the enterprise, the public sector’s primary goal is to provide the best customer service, improve performance, and eventually reflect a government image.

In the MENA region, especially in the UAE, this sector is finding itself a new realm, set of design standards and a true character of its own, which we as interior designers, space planners, and architects are witnessing and being part of.

Influenced by the ambition to grow and excel, with the patronage of their governments, those institutions are getting the strongest support. And additionally to their core functions, they are aiming to represent through their particular corporate identity the broader image of a country.


Last year, the government of Abu Dhabi issued a manual standardising the corporate image and identity as well as the signage and way finding for all government related spaces. And it is currently preparing a new manual for architecture and interior design for the public sector as well.

Consequently, our involvement as interior designers then puts us in the centre, and gives us a broad perspective about the dynamics and aims of the market and the region as a whole. We are being educated constantly, as we are contributing through our creative ideas and designs.

In my opinion, what is really thrilling is that while you are working on one single project, you could be designing for the past, present and future!

When designing a new headquarters of an authority for example, you should start with the present in applying the current program and requirements of the client, as well as designing it with the latest in spatial arrangements, standards, technology, furniture and materials.

However, you will suddenly find yourself designing for the future, which could range from simply forecasting five to 10 years of upcoming growth in the organisation’s chart to a more complex design concept where you are trying to reflect a visionary plan for 2030, where Abu Dhabi is aiming to become one of the top five capitals on the planet.

And simultaneously, you will find it essential to keep the traditional aspects in your designs, which are rooted in the society and are as important at government workplaces as they are everywhere else. That requires a deep understanding of the relevant culture and history and you will find yourself somewhere in the past where you are researching a monument like Al Hosn Palace in Abu Dhabi for design inspiration. The key to delivering the right design for the right institution is learning from our clients, working with them hand in hand to achieve a unique product and a corporate identity reflecting social values, cultural aspects, and finding a vision and a glimpse of the future.


Words by Laurent Haddad, design manager, RW Armstrong

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