UAE-BASED Adel Al Mojil Consulting Engineers (AK Design), an award-winning multi-disciplinary architectural and interior design practice, says 2014 has been a year of large-scale projects for the company.
The firm’s projects portfolio encompasses two large residential schemes: the 5,150-sq-m Salboukh Residential Compound in Saudi Arabia and the 66,650-sq-m Atria residential twin high-rise towers at Business Bay in Dubai, UAE, which it won in a competition for architecture and interiors. Additionally, the company has been working on a 22,000-sq-m prestigious governmental project in the UAE, as well as an 11,000-sq-m project for Rotana in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Some of the other projects completed this year include two innovation centres for General Electric, a new pre-school for Little Gems International, and several commercial fit-outs, including a new office for Autodesk with a Leed (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-driven brief.
“Large-scale projects have given us the opportunity to enjoy working big and thinking big whilst staying committed to our design house principles and continuing to carry out the bespoke projects that AK Design is widely recognised for,” says Agata Kurzela, head of interiors.
Kurzela and her team has delivered a diverse range of projects for global giants such as General Electric and Autodesk, local governmental bodies, projects for the Engineer’s Office, world-renowned hotel brands, boutique projects for the likes of Christian Dior and The Chaloub Group, and various other private companies throughout the region.
“We strive to form and maintain strong relationships with our suppliers and sub-consultants, all of whom have a shared objective to meet, exceed and deliver on our clients’ vision,” says Kurzela.
AK Design maintains a considered and thoughtful approach to each project. “We approach all the environments we create with a design-led, strategic direction regardless of the sector or genre. We work closely with our clients to produce an interior language that enhances their brand’s values and engages the user time and again. We always aim to deliver beautiful, functional, human-centric solutions for every typology.
“Each year, we continue to hone our approach and strength in design through three key perspectives: narrative, innovation and education,” says Kurzela.
Commenting on some of its recent projects, Kurzela says: “We continually strive to use materials and details for all our projects in a resourceful and sustainably responsible way. Following on from the success of the GE Innovation Centre in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia – which we recently completed – we had the opportunity to be involved in GE’s Masdar Ecomagination Centre which won the 2014 Middle East and North Africa (Mena) Interior Design and Architecture Award for ‘Best Corporate Space: Small’ at this year’s Index exhibition in Dubai.
“It is a mixture of exhibition and meeting spaces, for showcasing projects as well as presenting future ideas. Like a dancing ribbon, floors turn into walls and the sinuous space is intended to create opportunities for collaboration and inspiration.
“In line with Masdar’s guidelines, the specification focuses on recycled, recyclable and renewable materials. We challenged ourselves to create free-flowing, free-standing curved walls that were perforated with Arabic-inspired patterns. We specified GRG (glassfibre reinforced gypsum) for, as well as being made of all natural materials that adhered to the green guidelines, it maximised the sinuous look we were trying to achieve. We worked closely with the subcontractor who created the moulds, and kept the panels hollow to reduce the overall load.”
At the GE Innovation Centre in Saudi Arabia, the design team created an “Innovation Walkway”: 55 linear m of uninterrupted pivoting doors screening workshop spaces behind. The doors were fitted with frameless low-energy LED (light-emitting diodes) screens that were programmed with GE’s graphics continuously running the full length of the walkway. It also developed an innovative hinge so the cables remain unhindered when the door is in use.
“In the recently completed Autodesk offices, the client’s brief was to follow the company’s global standards of sustainability and aim towards achieving the highest Leed certification possible. Every material, detail and function was scrutinised at each stage of the project to align with their green principles,” says Kurzela.
“We open a discourse with our clients, colleagues and suppliers – ‘Educate and be Educated’.
“We believe that interior design has the power to directly influence the motivation, performance and health of an individual and therefore directly enhance the productivity and innovation of the company as a whole.
“Both GE projects gave us fantastic opportunities to further explore workspace theories, creating a variety of spaces for collaboration, debate and individual work – a majlis, a tea room, laboratories, auditoriums and training rooms, semi-private soft seating booths, closed offices, open workstations, and moveable meeting pods. We also created a curiously named ‘Lateral Thinking Room’ – a place to challenge the mind in thought and perception, both through conversation, and the surrounding environment in which to converse in.
“Throughout the GE Innovation Centre, we introduced personal, lockable pedestals with a handle for easy manoeuvring. We wanted to ensure the user felt a sense of detachment from the single workstation and embraced the centre in its entirety as one big functional, innovative workspace.”
The Little Gems International pre-school, gave the company the opportunity to see how the world could look from a child’s perspective. “Working together with educational specialists from the UK and the Gems teachers in Dubai, we realised the importance of a home aesthetic on the young mind, and refrained from using primary colours, cartoon graphics and over-stimulation. The nearly-complete pre-school won the 2014 Mena Interior Design and Architecture Award in the Cultural/Institutional/Educational) category this year.”
Drawing on the relationship of the practical and the artistic, a simple story line is generated for all AK Design’s projects. A narrative is created by identifying the driving theory for the function of a space, which in turn challenges and informs the design.
“The exterior environment, local context
and heritage naturally play a part in influencing the story lines. Children, for example, are excited and perplexed by a simple sight, a sound, a tree, a bird’s song. They have a reverent sense of awe and amazement in the world. This concept generated a narrative for Little Gems International Pre-School of treasure boxes cushioned within a calm interior of natural finishes.
“GE Innovation Centre was inspired by GE’s Blueprint campaign, an all-encompassing view of the natural environment and its challenges. We overlaid Ecomagination-inspired ideas as diagrams of water droplets and leaf motifs on to the space.
“Our residential projects follow a similar but more subdued, thought-provoking narrative: rambling, cascading apartments with deep terraces, reminiscent of traditional Islamic architecture. We explore the notion of an ‘Arabic village in the sky’. Facades and geometric ceilings are inspired by Arabic patterns which, in turn, inform the interior finishes; our work is truly contemporary and yet rooted in local context.
“Grounding our projects with meaning and integrity provides clients – often non-designers – with a tangible solution and enables our interior designers to carve a logical and intelligent path for each project. As a recognised leader in our field, we believe that “good” design is the rational and timeless way in which we shape the space around us, whilst linking the design to the region and adding enjoyment to the end users,” Kurzela concludes.