Colour Wash

Identity - - CONTENTS - SANKAR VISWANATH

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.

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