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Dubai Design District: An Example of Innovative Workplace Design?


6 Nov , 2017  

With the much anticipated Downtown Design coming up next week from Tuesday 14 November 2017 until Friday 17 November 2017, we’ve decided to reflect on Dubai Design District (d3) as a space that nurtures emerging local talent and provides a home for the region’s creative thinkers.

When the concept of a working and/or living design community was introduced in Dubai in 2015, it almost seemed like a far-fetched fantasy. The fact that the neighbourhood was modelled on, for example, the Miami Design District, made it seem even more utopian. It was dubbed the next world design and fashion capital, leaving Milan, London and New York behind as a distant memory.

But if there is one thing we know about Dubai, it is that the city stops at nothing in terms of innovation and development. It has proven time and time again, with its constantly evolving landmarks, that what other cities dream of, Dubai achieves without hesitation. As a result, it is no surprise that d3 is now the bustling capital for design, attracting top designers from across the world, and has positioned itself royally on the map as a magnet for international creatives.

Discover original design at Downtown Design 2017

In its fifth edition, the Downtown Design will take place at d3 and present a carefully edited roster of established and emerging brands across a range of product categories; including furniture, lighting, bathrooms, kitchens, textiles and accessories.

Entrance to the fair is free for all online registrants so register straight away!

What is it about d3 that draws international designers?

d3 is seen by many as a living example of how a design capital should be designed. The urban destination sits on the banks of the Dubai Water Canal, and is positioned like an island, set apart from the city. Ironically, its creative residents are a definitive class apart from their neighbours, which justifies its location near Business Bay. When you set foot on the concrete paving that ties the landscape together, you will not assume the role of a mere visitor. Instead, you become one with the community. You’ll be transported to a different dimension, where the passerby is dressed in high-fashion clothing, and award-winning sculptures adorn the streets.

The cluster of low-rise office buildings allows the visitor to view things at human scale, unintimidated. As every urban designer knows, walkability is key for any district to flourish. In d3, you can walk to the nearest café even in the summer, as the buildings are cleverly set close to each other to provide shade. This blurs the fine line between indoor and outdoor spaces in the district. Necip Camcigil, founder of 1Life Café in d3, says that he finds the walkability between spaces the key factor that ties the district together.

Where design, architecture and fashion converge

d3 is currently home to international retail brands like Adidas, Burberry and Chanel, which makes it the obvious place to be for the fashion-conscious. Pallavi Dean, founder of award-winning studio, Pallavi Dean Interiors, spills on why she chose d3 as her homebase, “d3 is a magnet for creatives, where clients like to visit. It is home to multi-national architecture firms and boutique firms. And more importantly, it is a creative ecosystem where all of us designers come together and feed off each other’s energy.”

Recently, top architects like Zaha Hadid, Santiago Calatrava and Norman Foster have set up their regional offices in d3, which has further made it a competitive place to work. Nadine Kanso, jewelry designer and founder of Bil Arabi says that d3 is a platform for regional designers to be exposed, regionally and locally. For her, moving to d3 was a professional step to grow further. Ben Floyd, CEO of Art Dubai Group reiterates that d3 positions Dubai as a global hub for art and designers, which forms the core of the growing art business in the UAE.

What sets d3 apart from other workplaces?

The beauty of d3 is that it is not just a workplace. After 5 pm, it transforms into a social space where music concerts and art exhibitions take centre stage. During the winter, it plays host to events like Meet d3, Sole DXB, Downtown Design and the Global Grad Show. You can grab a bite at a hippie food truck, chat with design students, or even watch a fashion show. The streets turn wild with pomp and show, with little memory of the quiet that reigned before dusk. It essentially ticks all the boxes a mixed-use workplace needs to attract the best creative talent.

What does the future fold for d3?

If retail, food and fashion don’t complete the perfect workplace equation, d3 is set to introduce residential units for its business partners. This is largely because, when d3 was conceived, the intention was to make it a destination to work, play and live.

Eventually, by 2018, the ambitious organisation intends to complete Phase II, The Creative Community completed. The concept masterplan has been designed by architecture firm, Foster+Partners, and evokes the hipster vibe of London’s Meatpacking District. A glimpse at the artists’ renders shows a variety of open pedestrian walks, co-working areas and a contemporary approach to architecture. Mohammad Al Shehhi, COO of d3 commented: “d3’s pioneering Creative Community will help to foster the growth of the UAE’s design industry by acting as a dedicated destination for all things design, fashion, art and luxury.” In order to create the perfect work/live environment, it is essential to design it in such a way that its residents feel truly at home.

The future of work no longer contains jobs where we sit at our desks all day, typing away at our computers. The way we work now is advanced and flexible. We work in cafés, co-working spaces and creative districts like d3, that make us feel at home. The elements that lead to a vibrant work atmosphere are a mixed amalgamation of retail, residences, cafés and workspaces. With the rate of innovation seen at d3, it might just become the benchmark for revolutionary workplace design in the near future.


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