Public Spaces: Designing for the community

Downtown Design

Public Spaces: Designing for the community

Downtown Design talks to Managing Partner of award-winning design firm 4Space Interior Design, Firas Alsahin about the process, considerations and challenges of designing public spaces.

4Space Interior Design is a dynamic and multitalented interior design firm that holds customer service and quality at its core. The firm has consistently provided innovative design solutions in various sectors including hospitality, retail and commercial spaces. Established in 1999; 4Space has grown to be a multi-award winning design firm recently receiving the BIZ 2016 Recognition award in Washington DC for Entrepreneurial Companies.

As Interior Design Architect and Managing Partner of the firm Firas works with up-and-coming local talent as well as global brands to design comprehensive environments with an effective commercial purpose.

DD: Tell us a little bit about the type of projects you undertake

F@4S: Our portfolio at 4Space is multispectral, in that, we have left our footprint in various sectors involving architecture and design.

The firm has designed and managed properties within the commercial, retail, F&B and hospitality sectors, as well as living spaces.Our objective in undertaking any new project, is always to design a space that will resonate with the environment it is located.

DD: How does the design process for public spaces differ from private spaces?

F@4S: Public spaces, including schools and academic centers, lounges, parks and recreation, public transportation, restaurants, retail stores and shopping malls or sports arenas, take into consideration the flow of people and their work, their interaction with the space and with each other, and accepted sentiment at large. 


4Space 1

DD: What considerations do you need to take into account when designing for public spaces?

F@4S: The design should be pleasing, playful and sometimes unique to attract larger groups of people. An interesting and well-designed space is not only entertaining to the public, but will also ensure regular visits and adequate use.

When it comes to how it’s used, the design should take into consideration the purpose of the space, social factors, culture and heritage, mobility and most importantly, how contemporary the space is in today’s world.

DD: How do you build a sense of community when designing for public spaces?

F@4S: Communities are formed when like-minded individuals come together to share their views and ideologies, that ethos would then need to be reflected in the design of that space.

This could be done by bringing people together through story-telling, through lines, colours, elements, shapes and so on, to makes it more thematic and unique. For example, when people hear about a new theme park or a new mall with stone-age theme or displays from the Jurassic era, they would want to live the experience and socialize with people with the same interest.

4Space 2

DD: In countries like the UAE the weather plays a huge role in determining the use of public spaces in the summer months, how do you as a designer ensure that the space is accessible in much warmer months?

F@4S: Although climatic conditions are a challenging for any designer, a public space has to be useful and accessible all year round and has to be designed as such. To accommodate the heat of the summer months in countries like the UAE, the most obvious requirement is to provide as much shade as possible.

Modern canopies made with glass, polycarbonate, printed and durable fabric or sun-shades that blend and play up the strengths of the building or space will have a huge influence on making the space available in oppressive heat, as well as provide an aesthetic facade.

We at 4Space were inspired to come up with an innovative solution to provide outdoor cooling solutions. Although it is still in its conceptual stages, we believe that it could be incumbent in outdoor spaces in the near future.

DD: What area do you find most challenging to design in public areas?

F@4S: I think that the biggest challenge often we face is in restaurants which permit smoking.

The challenge lies not only in designing the space but also in being sensitive to the needs of people who do and do not smoke, and ensuring a positive and satisfactory dining experience for all.

Designing an enclosure for a smoking area should be creative and mesh well with the other design elements of the restaurant, such as its interior design, theme, atmosphere and ambiance.

4Space 3

DD: Why is it difficult and what are the solutions to overcome its design challenges?

F@4S: Constraints in smoking areas in restaurants, such as ‘Total smoking area not exceeding 50% of the total indoor dining space’ and ‘Occupant density not exceeding 1% for 20ft sq. mt.’ make designing such a space even more challenging but interesting for 4Space.

A good designer should consider the tone of the restaurant, and design the enclosed area without affecting the whole look and feel. Working with the elements at hand as well as emphasizing the technical and regulatory requirements to create a space that relates well to the rest of the structure is key.

DD: What would your dream project be and why

F@4S: I have a vision to create a mobile outdoor cooling element that uses solar energy to generate electricity. Any surpluses in electricity generated could be used to power lights as well. The unit will comprise a platform with A/C diffusors and canopies with mounted solar cells that will generate electricity.

The platform will be designed in such a way as to provide cooled air from the floors. Since this is a mobile unit, it can be distributed in outdoor spaces and provide adequate cooling in the hot summers of Dubai.


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