Bathrooms are about to get an upgrade as multipurpose, brightly-coloured and life-affirming spaces
After 15 years living in Dubai, Sankar Viswanath was already conscious of the region’s high levels of energy and drive, as well as its rate of construction and development. In 1996, through a potential project in Sharjah he met German businessman Heiner Qualmann, who was working with a Swiss architect. It was this encounter that led to Viswanath becoming familiar with the wide portfolio of design-led Swiss manufacturers working in the contract market, and sparked his curiosity. Inspired, he wanted to bring this European knowledge to the region, and so established Swiss Corporation for Design & Technology in 1997, offering a portfolio of products from 12 Swiss manufacturers.
Opening a new 232-square metre showroom in Deira, at that time the creative centre of Dubai, the company’s core offering was furniture, sanitary ware and door ironmongery for the contract interiors market. Constant motivation was provided by the eagerness that the manufacturers all felt to develop business in the region. In 1999, Swiss Corporation won the Dubai Airport Concourse 1 seating contract which was testament to the dedication, professionalism and industry presence the company had achieved in a relatively short space of time.
Over time, Swiss Corporation focused more and more on two suppliers from its portfolio – Vitra and Gilgen – and this remains the case today. Vitra, as an international design-focused brand, was already established in the region, with masters such as Charles and Ray Eames, Verner Panton, Alexander Girard and others part of its heritage. The architecture and design community were well aware of Vitra’s iconic products, so Viswanath’s aim was to expand the brand’s visibility and make its story known to a larger audience.
Vitra was hugely committed to the partnership and the business progressed rapidly. Swiss Corporation soon became the leading industry specialists in the areas of contract offices, hospitality and public spaces in the UAE. The key business focus was to build relationships with architects, specifiers and facility managers, and these connections still remain - a testament to Viswanath’s integrity and passion. Viswanath’s energy and commitment to market activations, promotions, exhibitions and relationship-building resulted in key milestone successes. His overriding aim was to make design accessible in the region – the legacy, the heritage, the solutions – in a functional yet inspiring way.
After redesigning and modernising the Deira showroom in 2012, for the next five years it was used as a decision-making space for the architecture and design community. As a backdrop to this period, Dubai was expanding geographically, architecturally and creatively. The developing city master plan caught the attention of Viswanath, in particular the Dubai Design District (d3), which was quickly becoming a hub for like-minded creatives who valued design, craftsmanship and quality.
In 2017 Swiss Corporation appointed Pallavi Dean Interiors (now ROAR) to create the interior design for the newly-acquired company headquarters – Building 8 in Dubai Design District. The Brief? To embody the principles of Vitra to improve the quality of homes, offices and public spaces through design, and to let the products shine. It’s in this new home, 20 years after founding Swiss Corporation, that Viswanath’s vision of a working showroom, which integrates the Vitra brand and design solutions into an energetic highly effective working office, has been realised.