Dubai’s leading landscape architecture practice, desert INK, made their highly anticipated move to D3 in November 2015. In their typically-alternative approach to landscape design, desert INK rose to the challenge in designing their new home and in doing so, have mastered that enigmatic feeling of being in the outdoors, indoors.
We’re all familiar with the proven benefits of being close to nature, and desert INK have applied their landscape knowledge to capitalise upon these benefits in an office environment. Vegetation is a key element in the office and provides a proximity to nature which inspires creativity, collaboration and a relaxed atmosphere for staff and visitors alike. Avoiding the ‘afterthought’ planters found in so many commercial environments, large planters are cleverly integrated into benches and the amphitheatre seating area.
The centre piece of the office is a 6 metre long polished concrete ‘collaboration desk’. This is the heart of the office, functioning as drawing desk, dining table and board room rolled into one. The surrounding spaces are finished with innovative touches which foster collaboration: frosted glass with whiteboard markers, material sample drawers, and hanging cork boards for pinning inspirational images. The desk is illuminated with functional LED strip lights which zig-zag their way throughout the functional spaces of the studio. Elsewhere, in the team lawn and pantry, warm light and brass pendants provide a relaxed ambience where the staff eat, socialise and watch TV.
The ‘team lawn’ is another key area for desert INK team gatherings. An amphitheatre of seating steps climb one wall, into which a mature tree has been recessed. Fabricated from reclaimed timber, these cascading boxes feature openable lids with hidden storage space for each team member. With a huge flat-screen hidden behind doors in a timber clad wall, the area’s informal layout and aesthetic has proven a hit for presentations. Working informally in this manner has encouraged participation and interaction, improving the team’s presentation skills along the way.
The concept for the urban and recycled material palette was more than purely aesthetic, its intention was threefold: to provide the feeling of durability found in robust exterior landscapes; to meet the low-budget requirements of a start-up business; and to showcase the design team’s innovative approach to everyday materials. desert INK were keen to push the low cost concept as far as possible by using reclaimed timber, unfinished concrete, exposed brickwork, and chipboard. Recognising that this aesthetic has had a lot of traction in recent times, the design added some bespoke finishes to such as CNC furniture, projected lighting patterns, saloon doors and copper conduits for the lighting. The resulting effect is rough and raw but extremely warm and inviting.
The office’s integral flexibility has allowed the team to grow from 8 to 14 staff in the space of 9 months. With a construction budget less than 400,000 AED for a space of 300m2, their work has already attracted much interest for their unique approach to low cost ‘outdoor’ offices.