With a plethora of new and varied projects on the drawing board, Dubai-based interior designers and architects are enjoying a post-pandemic boom.
From a master plan for a new hydroponic farm to an HQ for an investment bank, new offices for international law firms, boutique hotels, executive offices and ultra-luxurious residences, the design sector is on a roll. Fuelled by some of Dubai’s highest property sales in 12 years and rising property and rental prices, there is a buoyancy in the market that has set the design sector on a steep upwards trajectory.
Demand for ultra-luxurious properties is increasing, and as COVID restrictions are eased, the economic upswing is generating new jobs whilst all the stops are being pulled out to accommodate the Expo 2020 opening in just two months’ time.
Over the past decade, Dubai has established its self as the design capital of the region and each year during November at d3, Dubai Design Week and its trade fair Downtown Design, brings key players in the industry together:
Pallavi Dean, founder of Roar.
With ongoing regional hotel projects from Pakistan to Morocco, offices in Saudi Arabia, luxury residential villas and mid-market apartment blocks, award-winning Dubai-based designer Pallavi Dean is in the process of expanding her successful practice. "It's no exaggeration to say the interior design market is going gangbusters! I haven't seen this much frenzied demand for ID and architecture services since 2014 – the last big boom. So, we're hiring people on a weekly basis. Competitors are poaching our staff, which is fair enough – there's a war for talent and it's a free market!” says Dean, the founder of Roar.
Niche Community Hub by Pallavi Dean.
Andy Shaw, Chair of RIBA Gulf Chapter and Co-founder of AMA.
According to architect Andy Shaw, Chair of Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Gulf Chapter and Co-founder of AMA, who recently completed the futuristic Harbour Master’s building in the new Dubai Harbour: “Many of the RIBA regional practices are very busy, with activity picking up in the market as the region looks forwards. Governments are all now thinking about how they can best serve their citizens and attract visitors with fresh projects that are true to the Gulf’s spirit,” he says.
Harbour Master’s building by AMA.
Joakim De Rham, CEO and Co-founder of Swiss Bureau.
Joakim De Rham, the award-winning designer and CEO/Co-founder of Swiss Bureau Interior Design agrees: “Dubai has managed the Covid crisis very well, which reassured many companies to continue their expansion plans. Many companies are also moving to Dubai as they recognise the benefit and potential of this city.”
“We were in a kind of fog last year, but since the beginning of 2021 we have started to have better visibility on the market and now the sky is blue,” says De Rham.
Galadari Boardroom by Swiss Bureau.
Swiss Bureau is currently working on impressive projects regionwide, mainly for high-profile international firms, including Richemont/Cartier in the desirable new ICD Brookfield Place in Dubai, Azem and Roche in Riyadh, and Britishvolt in Abu Dhabi. The design and fit-out studio is also designing a bank HQ, retail banks, a health clinic, co-working spaces and residential villas – to list but a handful and De Rahm is confident that the upswing will continue over the next few years. "Expo 2020 Dubai will definitely attract attention to Dubai and what this city can offer. The energies will be very positive! So different industries should benefit from it in the long term," he says.
Jennie Binchy, Director of Binchy & Binchy.
British architect Jennie Binchy, Director of Binchy & Binchy is also seeing a significant pick up in business: “We are working on a flagship architectural project for Mercedes-Benz and a masterplan for a new hydroponic farm, [as well as] several private villas and a multi-storey building in Sharjah. “We can certainly feel positive energy and entrepreneurial adrenaline flowing through this city again, though there is a definite change in tack this year. We are finding a slower and more considered approach in signing up new projects. Safety, security and wellness are at the forefront of client considerations. Private residential projects are taking up an even more significant portion of our workflow,”
Villa AF Abu Dhabi by Binchy & Binchy.
Raj Sanotra, CEO of KCA International.
Raj Sanotra, CEO of KCA International, headed by Khuan Chew, is equally bullish about the market: “The term ‘business as usual’ has never been more apt at KCA. Despite the ramifications of the pandemic, we have been extremely busy in the Middle East and Far East. This has resulted in new projects, including boutique hotels, HQ buildings and high-end residences.”