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.