Work cul­ture

Pallavi Dean re­thinks the con­tem­po­rary work space with her chic de­sign for Edel­man’s Abu Dhabi head­quar­ters.


Pallavi Dean re­thinks the con­tem­po­rary work space with her chic de­sign for Edel­man’s Abu Dhabi head­quar­ters

While oth­ers de­bate the virtue of open of­fice spa­ces, Dubai-based in­te­rior de­signer Pallavi Dean has forged her own in­no­va­tive path with Edel­man’s Abu Dhabi of­fice. Vi­brant and dis­tinc­tive, its de­sign is alive with a chore­og­ra­phy that fuses in­di­vid­ual impact and com­mu­nity co­he­sion.

Dean’s de­sign con­cept was mod­elled on the idea of ‘cul­tural vil­lages’, the dis­tinct lit­tle neigh­bour­hoods that help make up great cities – such as Soho and the Up­per West Side in NYC. Each neigh­bour­hood has its own unique per­son­al­ity, peo­ple and pur­pose – yet they’re all linked by a com­mon thread.

This cre­ated a frame­work in which Dean could cre­ate a bold, nu­anced space and speak to the ethos and prac­ti­cal needs of her client, a firm that also con­sists of a se­ries of dis­tinct units such as pub­lic re­la­tions, dig­i­tal and ex­pe­ri­en­tial – each with their own unique char­ac­ter­is­tics, yet in­te­grated into a greater whole.

There are many de­tails the ca­sual ob­server might over­look. “It’s the un­der­ly­ing nar­ra­tive of the de­sign – the con­cept of cul­tural vil­lages that cre­ate dis­tinct work zones. Although the work zones have their own iden­tity they are threaded to­gether by one sweep­ing ar­chi­tec­tural state­ment – the sculp­tural wooden rib­bon that runs through the en­tire floor plate. The of­fice is pep­pered with local con­text, in­clud­ing the palm stools in the one-on-one meet­ing ar­eas, which are by Emi­rati de­signer Khalid Sha­far; and the arabesque pat­tern in the lights and the car­pet, de­signed by Ce­cilia Set­ter­dahl, a local stu­dio in d3,” ex­plains Dean.

The de­sign’s most prom­i­nent fea­ture was also its chal­lenge: lin­ear­ity. The de­sign­ers solved this prob­lem by draw­ing on re­search from en­vi­ron­men­tal psy­chol­ogy.

“The con­trast be­tween the ‘com­pres­sion’ of a low, nar­row space lead­ing to the ‘ex­pan­sion’ of a high, cav­ernous space is a pow­er­ful tech­nique within in­te­rior de­sign. This oc­curs nat­u­rally with the tran­si­tion of the cor­ri­dor into the main workspace, and we am­pli­fied it by us­ing colour, light and po­si­tion­ing of the walls,” ex­plains Dean.

The sin­gle, pow­er­ful ar­chi­tec­tural ges­ture is the sculp­tural wooden canopy span­ning the length of the of­fice. It’s a sub­tle nod to the High Line lin­ear ur­ban park in New York, and the spec­tac­u­lar Sheikh Zayed bridge that vis­i­tors will cross on their way to the of­fice.

An­other key ob­jec­tive was to show­case the beau­ti­ful in­te­ri­ors of the of­fice to peo­ple pass­ing by. The of­fice oc­cu­pies a prime lo­ca­tion in the lobby of the main build­ing of twofour54 – Abu Dhabi’s ded­i­cated district for me­dia and com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies.

To achieve this, Dean’s team built three dif­fer­ent ar­eas, and then ex­panded the main wooden sculp­ture that spans the length of the of­fice, ex­tend­ing it out­side the main en­trance so that it forms a canopy.

The of­fice is also eco-friendly. More than 50% of the fur­ni­ture was reused or re-pur­posed, in­clud­ing some that came from the pre­vi­ous ten­ants; oth­ers came from local sup­pli­ers. All paints are non-VOC, and

re­cy­cled ve­neers were used for the main wooden sculp­ture that flows through­out the space. Low-en­ergy LED light­ing is used through­out, while smart ther­mostats reg­u­late the tem­per­a­ture of the space to min­imise the use of air con­di­tion­ing.

Dean’s favourite place in the of­fice is a space called ‘city loft’. “When we started the brief­ing process, the up­per man­age­ment were adamant that they would not have their own closed of­fices. Hav­ing said that, from time to time they needed their own space to work for a cou­ple of hours or host a pri­vate client meet­ing. Draw­ing on our ex­pe­ri­ence in hos­pi­tal­ity and res­i­den­tial de­sign we cre­ated a third space: a mod­ern ma­jlis with a work sta­tion along­side a for­mal lounge seat­ing area,” she ex­plains.

Dean has much to look for­ward to in the very near fu­ture and be­yond. “I’m re­ally ex­cited about a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Amer­i­can car­pet maker In­ter­face for this year’s Down­town De­sign [dur­ing Dubai De­sign Week at the end of Oc­to­ber],” she says.

“We’re cre­at­ing an in­stal­la­tion for their stand at the fair based on the con­cept of ‘meta­mor­pho­sis’. A lot of the car­pet tiles In­ter­face pro­duces are made from re­cy­cled ma­te­rial, and we wanted to cre­ate an ex­pe­ri­ence on the stand that brought this idea to life. We’re de­vel­op­ing a three-di­men­sional space that at­tacks all five senses, draw­ing heav­ily on the the­ory of ‘bio­phe­lia’.”

The de­signer is also work­ing on a new line of sta­tionery. “There’s some­thing won­der­fully tac­tile about sketch­ing in a truly beau­ti­ful pad with su­per high-qual­ity pen­cils. That’s how many of my best de­signs start out – in­clud­ing the sculp­tural wooden rib­bon in the Edel­man of­fice. I’m fig­ur­ing out how to take this to the next level.” As al­ways, we love it when she puts pen to pa­per.

Pallavi Dean

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