Design must respond to the attack on cultural identity, says Indu Varanasi

Design must respond to the attack on cultural identity, says Indu Varanasi

Smart cities, Future of design

Design director at IRD Design urges creatives to be ‘sensitive’ to the context in which they are working

Over a weekend, I happened to see a photography exhibition at a museum. The period was from the early 1800s to early 1900s. Besides the technological advancement and photographs being a prerogative of the rich, something struck me profoundly about the different attire, culture, architecture, and landscape of the people and places.

Somewhere along the next 100 years of colonisation and globalisation, this variety of life seems to have been lost, ignored or decimated.

Throughout history, people, cultures and architecture has advanced, inhabitants adapted aspects and towards a common future, a common goal.

In the past, countries were defined by the extent of geographical mass under one ruler or natural barriers which created the distinction. The definition of countries or kingdoms, sultanates and empires has continuously changed.

After that, most regions of the world were colonised.

The colonial powers, by their very nature, created an atmosphere of subjugation and aspirational value.

During the World Wars, countries and their colonies that joined the war underwent great technological and scientific innovation. The world suddenly became a smaller place. Everywhere, there were people’s movements with common aspirations.

Advances like radio and television suddenly bought other unknown worlds into the known, perhaps along with an aspirational notion.

In the years after the World Wars, a new world order has emerged as a sociopolitical construct defined by economic organisation and political affiliations.

The biggest factor aiding the new world order is the internet. Reducing distances, blurring boundaries, creating hopes – the new world has no barriers.

Mass production of goods and availability of everything everywhere is leading to a new age of ‘sameness’.

Do we have a common future? Do we all want to coexist together? Do all living things survive in the same ‘conditions’?

The answer is uncertain.

At a broader level, yes; we all do live on the same planet and so have a common future.  Do we want to live together? Yes, because the world is a smaller place and we need to have peace.

But does everything need to follow the same rules, same standards of approval, same conditions? No.

Variety is the spice of life, nature is differing from place to place, different clothes, different food, and different lifestyles all contribute to variety.

Design itself feeds off our ability to adapt, adopt and infuse this variety in lifestyles, living, clothing and our way of life.

Design needs to be sensitive to the local climate instead of shaping other design models without discretion.

Architecture needs to learn that people across the world are inherently different, their needs are different, as well as the conditions they thrive in.

‘Conditions’ are geographical, cultural and emotional in nature.

Design is a socioeconomic discipline which should simplify problems towards better a living. If design — which I define here as encompassing all disciplines of architecture, structure, interiors, products, services and lighting — is a problem solver, then thinking a little more deeply about our collective future is the need of the hour.

Why does Shanghai look like New York and vice versa?

New York is a different city, with different geography, weather conditions, demographics and economy; but why does Shanghai want to look like New York.

This standard aspirational value is notional because New York created problems like congestion, traffic, noise, ghettos, crime, homelessness. And now Shanghai is also creating them. As a result, alien solutions are provided instead of solving the problems.

Do all people want to look and feel alike? No.

We are not clones or robots that are manufactured, humans are products of their genetics, their experiences and their resourcefulness.

Each part of Earth is blessed with different landscapes, flora and fauna. Not to mention different humanbeings, in shape, size, looks, mannerism and collective cultural experience.

Our buildings and spaces need to emulate this variety

When we are used to standardisation and common language being applied universally, we get spaces that look the same all over the world. We lose out on gaining and developing knowledge, which is contextual and needs adaptation.

The level of light required in one part of the world may be very different from another part. Bright atmospheres call for brighter light because the contrast between surfaces is our perception of light.

Why do all the hotels in the region look ‘beige’? I have been told several times that it represents the sand and the dunes. My response is this: ‘have you ever looked at the sands of the region?’ In actuality, there are several colors, with the Liwa sands being pink. How? Sand changes its colour with the light that falls on it. So how can we emulate this dynamic feature in our design?

Our cultural identity and the way of life in our cities is under attack; we have become so mono-cultural with the same coffee shop and restaurant chains that we forget the smells of regional food in the by lanes and identify what keeps the city on its toes.

Believe it is or not, the coffee chains will disappear when you do. It is the people who bring their cultural ethos and being into every cup of coffee that is served are the ones who need to survive to give our cities soul.

Designers are now at a threshold of articulation. We have new technology that will change the way we build with a previous cultural identity that makes us who we are.

New technology allows us to create 3D printed homes, just imagine our walls being built with cavities to provide insulation just like the previous generation built thick walls. Perhaps glass that cleans itself or buildings that heat up or cool down as a whole. Have you ever thought of every drop of water being re-used or that we can harness natural light to light up our nights.

It is an interesting phenomenon to take design to the next stage from merely emulating another alien form of building (product) to being contextual and creating new identities.

Emulating cultural identities with technology will help us mix ancient wisdom in the modern context to create an evolutionary cycle of the humanbeing and the built environment.

I urge my fellow creatives to be sensitive to the context into which they are building from the geographical and social-cultural contexts.

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Light(ing)

Light(ing)

ANCIENT CHANT TO THE SUN GOD

As you light up the heavens and earth, O Radiant Sun, so light up my Mind

– Gayatri Mantra, Rigveda 400AD

As an integral part of our existence, light is often taken for granted as we sometimes forget where it comes from if it wasn’t for fixtures and luminaires. The sun is our only source of daylight, a spectrum that is unmatched by any other, while man-made sources remain many. Man-made light should always exist alongside the sun’s natural energy.

Man’s ability to manipulate light in various ways led to numerous socio-economic changes. Hence, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that light is a driving factor for society’s rapid progress. But how do we make use of this resource in planning and design today? The mere question triggers a debate bordering beyond the components and technology of a fixture, but rather its efficiency and its efficacy.

Lighting and the Design Industry

In the industry, designers and architects can choose one of two routes. They can either call in a lighting fixture supplier who assesses the design and puts a lay on the number of required luminaires – they get paid based on the number of fixtures sold, so the more, the merrier. On the other hand, there are designers who emphasize on sensible usage rather than quantity.

Despite having two methodologies, they’re still lacking, we often forget to walk through the space while taking different aspects hand in hand. Sometimes, we forget to incorporate usage patterns, daylight factors and lighting control, which is more than just creating distinct levels of light.

Inadequate Lighting Levels – A Matter of Urgency

We desperately need to address current lighting levels, determine how much we need, and at what time and place. Studies show that our cities are over-lit and that lighting makes up over 30% of electricity consumption in buildings.

This is interfering with circadian rhythms and creating light pollution as it negatively impacts the workplace, our economy and us as humans beings.

On a larger scale, reducing light usage allows us to create a smaller carbon footprint to preserve the Earth. On a smaller scale, companies can save on building operation and manufacturing expenses, benefit from reduced waste levels, contribute to societal betterment and build harmony with nature.

Making Use of Daylight

With the proliferation of ‘daylight hour’ campaigns throughout the world, people are realizing that we should make efficient use of daylight and that it is an integral part of design.

But before we do that, we need to understand that this is no mere ‘lighting problem’. Architects and the lighting industry have a collective responsibility to address this issue and incorporate sensitivity in the design process.

The Road to Light Sensitivity

The design realm must first embrace an attitude of light sensitivity. Start by determining the amount of light needed for an activity so that people can notice and become habitual of lighting variations.

To illuminate different parts of a building like corridors or workstations, designers often use a subjective blanket lux level calculation because there aren’t any universal standards.

Multiple factors need to be taken into account – daylight conditions and how a lighting designer harnesses daylight and supplements light in the non-daylight hours. Lighting design shouldn’t be exclusive for ‘star’ buildings, it needs to be universal.

Overly lit buildings have negative effects on occupants and their surroundings, and a major cause is due to corridors being lit 24 hours a day. Instead, designers must consider solutions like windows and clear-story lighting near a daylight source, as well as away from it.

I’m not saying we get rid of well-lit corridors, because this is a necessity. Rather than promoting excessive energy consumption, designers need to carefully evaluate the amount of lighting needed at different levels.

During the day, buildings will have ambient lighting levels when no movement is detected, but this increases when there is movement in the corridor. When ambient light is available, sensor controls should be limited to motion control.

Implementing Thoughtful Solutions

All it takes is undertaking simple lighting studies and seamless elements like technological light sensors to understand and assess the amount of light required during the day versus at night. Meanwhile, movement sensors can generate data on occupancy rates, which implies that AI will play a major role in paving the way for light-sensitive solutions.

Residential design is very crucial for understanding what facilities and management occupants require. In mass developments, lighting fixtures should provide ambient light using the same bulbs to keep inventory low. Additional feature lighting should be left up to the occupants.

In purpose-built residences built for individualistic needs, designers have to make a choice between ambient light sources and feature light sources. The benefits of both should be studied carefully – lighting designers should draw a clear distinction between them to allow easy budgeting and maintenance.

Drawing the Distinction Between Target and Ambient Lighting

Target lighting only works when designers need to create a focus on an object or scene by defining its presence with the help of a shining beam. The object should be able to captivate attention, while the light enhances quality, as seen in art, color, and vistas.

On the other hand, ambient lighting has a universal aspect, like the sun. It needs to be there as a constant factor for orientation by providing a consistent blanket of light. For this, the light source, when artificial, should be discreet and subtle, yet integral to the design. By this definition, one can understand that mile-long corridors filled with downlights aren’t a necessity once ambient light is considered rightfully.

The Duality of Lighting – Public and Private Spaces

Using similar light fixtures for both public and private spaces doesn’t provide adequate results, because both places have a different context. It’s a folly of the design process; we don’t consider a distinct approach for these two different spaces and instead, merge their needs.

Designers need to be there physically i.e. walk through the space to get a better understanding of the areas’ user patterns, its circulation patterns, and spatial quality rather than only studying lux level compliance as standard practice.

The question is whether lighting can create new features in public spaces. And the answer is yes, it creates distinctive settings.

It’s an essential element of our lives, so shouldn’t we consider the need for unique aspects rather than a bland row of street lights? For example, how about relying on light fixtures at differing levels and diversifying the pattern at intersections?

Nevertheless, this is just the beginning of an intense discourse; ultimately, we need action and initiative from designers of various specialities, working together, to reach for higher sustainability goals and not just lux level standard compliance.

http://dc7.in/irdesign/

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IRD Design’s DEWA auditorium project is inspired by the ripple effect

IRD Design’s latest project, the new DEWA auditorium has a dynamic design that plays with the senses

IRD Design was assigned the auditorium project for DEWA before the structure was even built. Every place requires a different and a unique design. For the new auditorium project for DEWA, IRD Design envisioned this auditorium as a dynamic area to convey a feeling of dynamics as found in the ripple of water, and the circular pattern it represents. Indu Varanasi, architect and founder of IRD Design, says: “We wanted to create different feelings throughout the changing scenarios such as the welcome area, the waiting room, the presentation hall, and lastly the exit.” The auditorium for DEWA was assigned to the IRD Design before the structure was even built. So, the design team carried out some initial studies to ensure that the auditorium was fit for purpose.

 

Varanasi explains: “We wanted to make sure that everything is fine before starting off with the design process. Our initial analysis included, testing the sight lines and therefore we had to work closely with the architects and structural engineers to modify the balcony levels for beam clearances, the removal of columns to ensure visual sight lines which resulted in changing the concrete structure to a steel structure.”

Varanasi says: “The flooring carpet is cleverly used to differentiate the seating areas and the circulation areas. The circulation carpet is treated with a gradation of blues going into greys; the same blues are picked up in the rear of the auditorium and its ceiling. When the space is completely lit with all the internal lights, the auditorium glows in a blue tone, which gradually changes as the stage setting changes from blue to white.” Spread over the three floors the lobbies cater to various activities taking place within. Giving them more purpose besides forming hybrid zones and welcome areas. These beautiful sterile spaces create a dynamic vibrancy. The graphics chosen for the lobbies are to attune to nature and the essence of living.


Appreciated for its simplicity the lounge brings diverse elements together. Limited by the dynamics of the established architecture, such as low ceiling heights and a high narrow skylight, IRD Design utilised both in an optimum way to accentuate their design intentions. “The purpose of the lounge is to create moments of rest before or after an event. We have translated the calmness and luxury of space into a place where people can comfortably meet,” adds Varanasi.

 

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DEWA Auditorium, Dubai

Designed by IRD Design with fitout works executed by Ghantoot Group, the new DEWA Auditorium refurbishment required bringing calmness, serenity and luxury in a place limited by the dynamics of the established architecture. However, the balcony levels were modified with beam clearances, and concrete structures changed to steel.

The aim of the overall design concept was to create a different mood throughout, from the reception to the waiting and presentation area, all the way to the exit. And the inspiration was taken from the ripple effect of a drop of water, along with its circular pattern. This chosen pattern was carved into wooden slats, and circular LED lighting, set at various intensities, enhanced the dynamic element, suggesting movement.

Various carpet flooring was used to differentiate the seating and circulation areas, with a gradation of blues going into greys, and picking up again in the rear of the auditorium and the ceiling. When all the internal lights are lit, the auditorium exudes a blue glow, which gradually changes to white.

Lobbies on all three levels have laser cut screens covering the external glazing, thereby allowing daylight to filter in, while  backlit panels minimise the harshness of ceiling lights. The back of the atrium was treated in special 3D wallpaper plaster, which engages with eye movement to create different patterns. This particular feature ties up all the three levels.

Moving on to the VIP Lounge, the walls were treated with 3D laser cut mashrabiya patterns, varying in thickness, and adding a dynamic expression together with LED wallpaper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DEWA Auditorium, Dubai

Designed by IRD Design with fitout works executed by Ghantoot Group, the new DEWA Auditorium refurbishment required bringing calmness, serenity and luxury in a place limited by the dynamics of the established architecture. However, the balcony levels were modified with beam clearances, and concrete structures changed to steel.

The aim of the overall design concept was to create a different mood throughout, from the reception to the waiting and presentation area, all the way to the exit. And the inspiration was taken from the ripple effect of a drop of water, along with its circular pattern. This chosen pattern was carved into wooden slats, and circular LED lighting, set at various intensities, enhanced the dynamic element, suggesting movement.

Various carpet flooring was used to differentiate the seating and circulation areas, with a gradation of blues going into greys, and picking up again in the rear of the auditorium and the ceiling. When all the internal lights are lit, the auditorium exudes a blue glow, which gradually changes to white.

Lobbies on all three levels have laser cut screens covering the external glazing, thereby allowing daylight to filter in, while  backlit panels minimise the harshness of ceiling lights. The back of the atrium was treated in special 3D wallpaper plaster, which engages with eye movement to create different patterns. This particular feature ties up all the three levels.

Moving on to the VIP Lounge, the walls were treated with 3D laser cut mashrabiya patterns, varying in thickness, and adding a dynamic expression together with LED wallpaper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IRD uses water ripple effect to create dynamism and serenity for new DEWA Auditorium

Ir design, Indu Varanasi, DEWA Headquarters, Interior design, Interior, Auditorium, Dubai

Dubai-based IR Design has completed the interiors for the new DEWA Auditorium, using a ripple effect to create a sense of dynamism within the space.

Circular shapes are present throughout the design, including a pattern that has been carved into the wooden slats as a static element, while circular LED lights set at various intensities, accentuate the feeling of dynamism within the auditorium.

When all the house lights are on, the auditorium glows in a blue tone, with the stage setting gradually changing from blue to white light.

“Our intent was create the feeling of a changing scenario between the welcome, the waiting, the presentation and exit,” the team at IR Design said.

The carpeted flooring has been designed to differentiate the various seating and circulation areas, using a gradient of blues fading to gray.

“The auditorium was assigned to us before the structure was built,” said Indu Varanasi, founder and director of IR Design. “Our initial studies were to ensure that the auditorium was fit for purpose. This included testing the sight lines.

“We had to work closely with the architects and structural engineers to modify the balcony levels, for beam clearances, removal of columns to ensure visual sight lines which resulted in changing the concrete structure to a steel structure,” she said.

IR Design also design the VIP lounge as well as the entrance lobbies.

The walls of the VIP lounge feature 3D laser-cut Islamic patterns, set away from the wall to continue the feeling of dynamism from the auditorium. It also includes an LED wallpaper, as well as a skylight and green spaces.

“The exercise of bringing calm, serenity and luxury in a small space was an important design feature,” the team said. “The purpose of the lounge is to create a moment of rest before or after the event.

“The dynamics of the architecture was limiting due to the low ceiling heights and a high narrow skylight, we utilised both to accentuate the design intent.”

Located in the DEWA Headquarters, the entrance lobbies – also designed by IR Design – are set across three floors and lead to various activities within the space as well as being used as buffer zones.

The external glazing used in these areas cover the laser-cut screens, allowing natural daylight to seep while back-lit panels minimise the use of ceiling lights, as well as allowing a dynamic change of colour.

Indu Varanasi has recently been included in Commercial Interior Design’s list of the 50 most influential interior designers in the Middle East in 2018. See the full list here. 

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Design Consciousness

Designer Indu Varanasi comments on design consciousness and the ability to predict human reactions to interior spaces.


 

Societal consciousness

Do we, as humans, feel the need to take responsibility for our actions?

Take plastic for instance. It hurts the earth and pollutes it in ways beyond our comprehension. Yet, its ubiquitous nature is what forces us to use it and surround ourselves with it. Just look around you and you will see it everywhere – milk jugs, candy wrappers, food packaging… the list is endless. We all know it is bad and yet, what effort are we making to reduce its impact?

This thought process reflects a collective societal consciousness.

Award winning designer Indu Varanasi of i r design studio has won competitions for retail, corporate and public sector projects. She is also listed amongst the Top 50 Most Influential Designers in the region.

The designer’s consciousness

Designers too, are constantly tasked with defining the social fabric of their city through spatial allocation. We do this by learning how the inner mechanism of a city works, how people get from place to place, and where they live, work and play. These subtle inter-linkages make a difference to countless lives. At a microcosm, the inside of these built environments also plays a crucial role in shaping our lives and well being, and affecting us each day.

The word consciousness refers to our awareness of the environment. Being aware of our designs allows us to constantly strive for change and ultimately become better at what we do, and create better things. When we work consciously and anticipate the reaction, the design manifests itself in a different ways.

 


“It is important that we keep reminding ourselves that we are not designing for the virtual world, but the real one. We need to design with care for our earth as well as ourselves.”


 

Inner consciousness

In many situations, we react through our sensory organs in visible and invisible ways. We reflect these thoughts through behaviour that tries to improve the situation– if it’s too chilly, we put on something warm, and if something displeases us visually, we silently critique it.

While these behaviours are physical reactions to our surroundings, there is also a subconscious reaction to everything our senses capture – the underlying previous experiences, that gut feeling, logic, purpose, common sense or déjà vu– all of which create an impression that affects our actions.

As designers, the question we should ask ourselves is, isn’t it possible to predict and design these responses?

The answer to that is, it is possible and we do. We have the skill to design spaces for people’s well being, but this act holds us morally responsible for them as well.

 

Novo Cinemas in Dubai Festival City

 

The senses and the consciousness

In touch…

When it comes to material, we need to choose carefully based on factors like durability, resistance to abrasion, etc. Depending on the kind of space we intend to design, we need to determine which material best radiates a type of aesthetic. Moreover, the material should meet construction requirements as well. You cannot feel this through a picture, and it is important that we keep reminding ourselves that we are not designing for the virtual world, but the real one. We need to design with care for our earth as well as ourselves.

In sound…

Sound travels through space and material. Hence, designers need to be conscious about whether the space will be subject to loud sounds. The design should convey the needs of the space, the need for sound absorption, reflection, attenuation, legibility, etc. Cinemas and auditoriums, for example, require sound specialists. However, the same sound can be disruptive in an office, meeting room or restaurant. This is where the consciousness of the designer plays a role without any measurable parameters.

In smell…

Similarly, the collective sensual experience when entering a space also includes the smell. Walking into an office lobby filled with the scent of freshly brewed coffee versus one pregnant with stale air from the previous day’s food, makes all the difference to an experience. Smell can be used to entice and create experiences. Knowing its capabilities and the impact it can create is the key to good design. Just because it cannot be measured, it should not be ignored.

In sight…

Light is something so beautiful and adds life everywhere it travels. Our design should be conscious of the fact that daylight can be harnessed to create interior solutions. The introduction of LED lamps was supposed to reduce energy consumption. Instead, the energy consumption remains the same, but the number of light fixtures have increased, creating sleep disorders and ecological imbalances. If we study light levels based on need and usage patterns, we may not need so many light fittings perforating ceilings everywhere. It would also make us more conscious of the design process and the desired result, and hence give the us the ability to create better spaces.

In temperature…

Spatial temperature also falls into the category of consciousness. The ideal temperature in a room should be between 20 and 24 degrees centigrade. However settings are often found at 16 to 18 degrees and air conditioning systems located right above workstations and seating areas, which is in direct contrast with the original concept of air conditioning – to condition the air to a comfortable temperature. Temperature should never be uncomfortable or even noticeable. As a conscious designer, we need to consider locations over calculated heat loads.

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Light(ing)

Designer Indu Varanasi comments on the lack of budgets in the interiors world, and its subsequent negative effects on design processes and results.


Nothing comes for free. Everything has a price…

The old adage, ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’, rings true in the world of design as well. If something appears to be free with no monetary value attached, more than likely, there will be hidden costs which will add up in the final tally.

Having a thoroughly planned budget is absolutely necessary for any project, big or small. The budget may change during the course of the project, but it still forms the baseline. The scale, however, can vary from a very small spend for an individual, to a large, city-scale one. (Think changing curtains in a home versus building the World Expo!)

Interior architecture is complex in that it brings together several activities and integrates them within time, budget and availability. Furthermore, several disciplines, both technical and psychological, come into play. The number of light fixtures used, for example, may be a technical calculation, but the effect of the light on the user is a psychological and behavioural aspect. It is not merely a question of putting together some furniture, fabric, or paint – interior architecture impacts the lives of many. Sometimes this creative process may appear chaotic, but the project execution is a systematic process with overlapping activities.

Indu Varanasi is an award winning architect and designer. Born and brought up in India, Indu discovered her ability to fuse aesthetic design with function at an early age. She graduated from the College of Fine Arts and Architecture in Hyderabad, followed by a Master’s Degree in Design and Architecture from New Delhi’s School of Planning and Architecture, India. Since moving to Dubai in 1994, Indu has had the opportunity to work with International design practices which shaped her design philosophy and in 2004, i r design studio was formed.

i r design has since been involved with numerous interior architecture projects. Several of these have received recognition and won awards. The firm has also won design competitions for retail, corporate and public sector projects. Notable amongst these are the Time Square Mall and Amity University Dubai.

Indu has been invited to design projects in countries, such as India, Oman, Tanzania and Sudan, and has been listed among the Top 50 Most Influential Designers in the region.

Many clients seem reluctant to discuss the budget, almost as if it does not matter, and that there is no limit to their spend.

There’s no denying that interior architecture is an art, one that is magical to the user and it takes many a resource to create this magic. It is a fallacy that good design does not need to consider the budget as an important parameter. Budgeting involves being cognizant of present costs and any future upkeep.

The magnitude of a budget can range from a few hundred to millions, and this information is vital at the onset of a project. Nevertheless, during my 25 years of designing experience, very rarely have I come across a client who is willing to tell me their budget from the start. The level of funding can deeply influence a project, so we should always address this issue beforehand.

The client has a certain vision, one that is articulated using words and, at other times, using a strategy and measure of feasibility. And sometimes, it is realised through a process of discussions when all the scattered pieces of the puzzle fit together to make a sensible picture. In all the above scenarios, there will almost always be a fixed budget.

 

The pre-function lobby at Amity University Dubai

 

Always discuss the budget beforehand

When project cycles have no budgets allocated, the ‘interiors’ sector, which is one of the last stages of design, ends up with budget allocation issues. This leads to solutions that may not be appropriate for the purpose, resulting in a space that is not what the designer envisioned, nor what the client expected.

One of the reasons leading to this situation is that interior architects and designers are not informed of any budget constraints beforehand. Another reason could be that the designer hired for the project would not be made aware of the cost of the items used and implemented. And of course, there is always that element of surprise – some unexpected and unforeseen circumstance that is beyond anyone’s control. All such situations can have an impact on the schedule and pace of the project, as well as the remaining budget, leading to an unplanned end result.

Envisioning a new project and putting it together piece by piece can easily become a costly affair. Bringing architects and spatial designers together at the negotiation table puts the client at a distinct advantage – they then have all the technical knowledge and material specifications necessary to ensure that their vision is fulfilled well within the budget. Also, it saves valuable time and effort for both client and designer.

Leave it to the pros

My advice to clients would be to trust the architects and designers with their budget, and ask as many questions as possible. Most of the time, clients underestimate the cost of projects, be it retail, hospitality or residential. Doing some research on market prices and costs before venturing into the management and organisational processes of a project would be extremely beneficial for them.

Also, by trusting their designer with the budget, clients have a higher chance of meeting project goals, deadlines and expectations.

The lobby at Amity University Dubai

Advice for interior designers and architects

In any project, the element of chaos and lack of clarity would most likely be due to a lack of transparency. Most clients will tend to shop around and not know how to compare apples to apples.

While this most definitely is a problem, designers should become aware of current market trends, and be knowledgeable enough to provide cost information and budgetary estimates. This will help in providing an overall picture to the client. A systematic process of value engineering should be done by the designers, as they are equipped with the objective and creative knowledge that is required to reach a consensus between the vision of perfection and a limited budget. In this way, the client’s preferences are retained and the design philosophy is embodied.

The auditorium at Amity University in Dubai Academic City

The supplier’s contribution

Suppliers play an integral role in project execution, because it is their resources and materials that are being used to bring a vision to life. This is why it is necessary for suppliers to have complete and utter transparency with designers about their prices and services.

The entire process of design is borne of a threefold relationship. Without equal contribution from all sides, the end result will fall short of the original inspiration and vision.

In the end, what I am trying to emphasize is the importance of budgets – they don’t just fulfill the purpose of obtaining figures and numbers, but also improve the design process to make it efficient and streamlined.

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Fit-out brings a challenging paradigm to interior design

Fit-out sector, Indu Varanasi

Construction activities in the GCC seem to have gained momentum this year with several new retail, hospitality and leisure properties having been launched recently.

In addition to a host of luxury hotel projects, there has also been an increase in the mid-segment hotels, creating a whole new category of fit-out requirement, which still need to be of high quality, but with less bells and whistles.

A number of older, iconic hotels are also embarking on refurbishments, including Jumeirah Beach Hotel (pictured above), which is expected to reopen in October after an extensive renovation. Aside from the need to update properties for aesthetic reasons and to maintain their commercial value, the need to keep up with changing trends and lifestyles also play an important role.

No longer are travellers content with the conventional offerings, combined with the fact that the distinction between work and play is increasingly being blurred. All these factors influence the FF&E direction that designers and fit-out firms take while working on hospitality projects.

Sustainability is a major criterion, as developers also aim to cut energy consumption and aim for a cleaner environment.

In an ideal world, all of this should work like a dream. However, topics such as value engineering, incompatibility between design and fit-out vision, procurement problems, contractual conflicts and lack of well-trained skilled professionals can make it challenging for all those involved in the design and build process of any given project.

While our recent columnist, interior architect, Indu Varanasi, strongly feels about keeping design and build entities independent of each other, many other firms prefer to keep it under one roof to provide one-stop service to clients. It’s a highly debatable and inexhaustible topic.

Patrick Bean, head of design at LACASA iD, LACASA Architects, believes that the integration between the two components is possible, but it’s important for designers to know what a certain contractor is good at. There is no one size fits all approach to achieving good results. Similarly, contractors should be willing to be led by the designers for desired results.

Following construction, the role of interior architects and fit-out firms becomes a significant one as they try to turn these structures into not just their vision, but also that of the developer. But new construction aside, the need for refurbishment and retrofitting is an industry on its own.
Interestingly, the stakeholders are now also realising the importance of keeping the end-user at the centre of these projects.

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