dpa in Dubai, UAE

Pic: Alex Jeffries Photography Group

Since establishing its Dubai studio in 2004, dpa lighting consultants has steadily grown its portfolio in the Middle East, with a number of high-profile cases to add to an already impressive array of projects; from the Palm Jumeirah Masterplan in 2006, to Abu Dhabi’s New York University in 2008, the Capital Gate and Central Market in 2012 and the Founder’s Memorial – The Constellation, unveiled last year.

This portfolio has been extended further in the past eighteen months, with the addition of five new projects in and around Dubai.

Of these new projects, perhaps the most notable is the beautiful Mandarin Oriental Jumeira – a newly constructed, 5-star resort-style hotel located on Dubai’s Arabian Gulf shoreline.

Over a period of four years, dpa worked in close collaboration with the client and owner, WASL Group, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and architects DAR to design the lighting solutions for all public front of house areas of the hotel, both internally and externally.

Interior design for the guest rooms, public areas and ballroom facilities was undertaken by Design Wilkes, while Silverfox Studios provided the interior design for the Spa and Fitness Centre and the specialty restaurants, The Bay, Tasca and Netsu. Landscape design came courtesy of 40North and Cracknells.

dpa worked with all parties from initial conception stages, ensuring that the lighting design is cohesive throughout the hotel, as well as integrated within the interior design and architecture. By following the project through the construction stages and maintaining a regular presence on site, dpa ensured that the designs were fully understood, and coordinated with the various contractors, suppliers, consultants and site teams.

Whilst all spaces are special in their own way, the most impactful moments within the hotel occur in the Main Lobby and the Netsu Restaurant.

The Main Lobby is essential in creating a lasting first impression for arriving guests; at twelve metres tall, it provided a challenge to ensure that the lighting was sufficient to adequately illuminate the space during daylight hours, with the dimming range to provide subtlety and ambience after dark.

A discreet system was designed and specified, featuring high output linear downlights from iGuzzini. The System 53 allowed all of the downlighting components to be integrated within a series of elegant, recessed shadow lines, orientated to match the rhythm of the architecture and the ceiling. The beam angles and positions of the downlights were designed to provide emphasis along the central spine of the space, and at seating groups. Wall washers and more ambient downlighting were also incorporated within the same system.

At ground level, there is a colonnade of fourteen ‘Light Trees’, designed by Design Wilkes and Preciosa, while dpa provided technical and aesthetic input. The Trees feature approximately 900 individually addressed LED light points, illuminating hand-blown glass leaves. The leaves are programmed to produce dynamic ripples of light, individually varying their brightness to create differing effects. 

The colonnade is arranged to lead the eye along the central water feature, and through to the landscaped, beach-adjacent courtyard and lap pool.

Additional illumination in the Main Lobby comes courtesy of LED Linear, whose XooLine Hydra White provides linear grazing uplight, while GenLED’s Neonflex adds concealed linear details around the water features. Elsewhere, VANN decorative wall and floor lamps are complemented by further illumination from Linea Light’s Archicove, KKDC’s Tana 504 S Line, iGuzzini’s Laser Blade and LightGraphix’s LD spotlights.

Within Netsu, a signature restaurant on the ground level, Silverfox Studios produced an industrial aesthetic, with a combination of rugged and natural materials.

The brief was to create a theatrical dining experience, and to use the central open Robata kitchen as a ‘stage’. In response to this, dpa implemented a series of suspended lighting trusses, mounted with Vision’s linear RGBW floodlights and projectors with variable beam angles and focusing. These projectors were used to provide warm white intensity at the points where food is displayed and served, and create dramatic coloured accents around the space. 

The linear floodlights mounted on top of the trusses provide a coloured wash of light to the MEP service at high level, accentuating the height and industrial aesthetic of the space. This is further emphasised by ETC’s Source Four Mini LED fixtures, while additional general illumination is provided by GenLED’s recessed ceiling downlights and linear LED tape.

Elsewhere, dpa worked with Dubai Municipality to create two remarkable exhibits at the Al Shindagha Museum: The Perfume House, and The Story of the Creek. 

Located within the dynamic and ever-evolving Shindagha district, the museum is a new addition to Dubai’s renowned cultural quarter, and both The Perfume House and the Story of the Creek represents a valuable insights into Dubai’s historic and contemporary story, alongside wider Emirati culture, social rituals and heritage.

The Perfume House sees a re-appropriation of its building, consisting of one main covered gallery with smaller galleries and an external courtyard, which helps to trace and define the narrative of scent and perfume making through the ages.

Individual galleries tell the story of the region’s complex and personal relationship with scent and perfume, whilst detailing the geopolitical and demographic impact associated with the inevitable trade routes that developed and strengthened over time.

The Story of the Creek, meanwhile, consists of main galleries and an interactive cinema experience, that helps to retell the story of Dubai Creek and its most important asset, it’s people.

For both locations, exhibition designers GSM Project developed a blend of traditional and contemporary, unique, interactive and immersive spaces that delight the senses while delivering a strong educational and heritage message.

dpa responded to this brief through the development of a robust yet flexible lighting concept that enabled all aspects of the museum experience to develop at an individual level. Traditional exhibits such as vessels and stonework, maps and chandlery were illuminated to enhance their tactile and material qualities, while more contemporary exhibits – such as interactive screens and models, history and scent stations – demanded a less intensive approach to illumination.

As impressive as the exhibitions are, the building itself acts as a canvas upon which the exhibition is cast. Extensive use of existing architectural features have been highlighted to enhance the contemporary exhibition against the more traditional building fabric, whilst still revealing colour, contrast, form and texture. This helps to complement and reinforce the sense of heritage within the building. 

A combination of Felio Sylvania Beacon Muse track lighting, alongside LightGraphix and iGuzzini downlights, provides the main illumination in the exhibition spaces. This is complemented by the addition of iGuzzini’s Lightup Orbit uplights, and LED Linear’s VarioLED profile lighting.

Technology has formed a significant part of the realisation of this project; a sophisticated, dedicated architectural lighting control system forms the backbone of the scheme, ensuring the correct operation of the system whilst delivering flexibility, along with costs and environmental benefits. Conservation also played a major role when it came to illuminating certain spaces and artefacts within the exhibition. dpa worked closely with the curators to deliver precise amounts of illumination to specific sensitive exhibits.

Following its work at the Al Shindagha Museum, dpa lighting consultants was invited to design the exhibition lighting for the newest gallery space in Alserkal Avenue.

Ishara Art Foundation is a non-profit contemporary art space centred on South Asia, established by Smita Prabhakar, collector and UAE resident, and curated by specialist in South Asian art, Nada Raza. The current exhibition, Altered Inheritances, is a collection of work from artist Shilpa Gupta and Zarina.

dpa worked closely with the foundation team, and architect Rahoul Sing from RLDA Architecture, to conceptualise and develop a flexible and modern lighting scheme for the two floors of the gallery. As the art pieces and gallery layout will change from time to time, the lighting needed to be flexible in design to allow for all eventualities, yet at the same time be uncluttered, elegant and identifiably different from other galleries.

A carefully considered arrangement of recessed track under the mezzanine level allows for multiple luminaire mounting positions, together with Erco’s versatile Pollux spotlights and Logotec projectors, with interchangeable lenses and local dimming potentiometers, so that every art piece can be correctly addressed.

For the atrium space, the ambient and iconic lighting is created by three diminishing custom-made squares, suspended from the structural ceiling. Developed alongside No Grey Area (NGA), each square is fitted with the manufacturer’s Fusion Flex linear LED, creating an unbroken line of light. This is seamlessly combined with Erco track, giving the ability to arrange any configuration of spotlights, allowing the gallery to tailor the ambient and direct lighting exactly as required by the exhibiting artists.

More recently, in January of this year, dpa completed lighting for the new Lutetia of Paris beauty clinic, located in Dubai Festival City. dpa worked closely with interior designers Kinnersley Kent Design (KKD) to develop the lighting concept for both the landscape and the clinic interiors.

A sense of opulence is inherent within the design; the narrative for the clinic suggests calm elegance and the use of high specification materials such as wood, leather and natural stone, lends itself well to this aesthetic.

Lutetia of Paris has a private underground car park, so privacy and discretion were always paramount within the design. Concealed illumination from LED Linear’s VarioLED Flex range, whenever possible, helps to define the high level of detail given to each area, while lighting to the waiting areas for both male and female customers lends an air of calm within the dynamic DFC environment. Meanwhile the corridor spaces contain concealed and integrated lighting within grey leather clad walls. 

Treatment and waiting/consultation rooms exist side by side and differ in character, creating an incredible challenge for lighting such defined spaces.

Le Barbier and Le Salon offer unparalleled levels of luxury and service within the personal grooming markets. This is highlighted in the individual stations, each fitted with integrated lighting in the mirrors, helping to maintain the high levels of privacy required.

Le Barbier follows a traditional ‘masculine’ material palette of dark metal, stone and glass, while Le Salon counters this with rich hues of gold panelling and pastel pink leather walls.

The VIP area follows through on this theme, as dark blue leather-clad walls offset against natural white stone and rich metallic accents. Lighting enhances the sense of luxury and quality through high levels of integration and detailing.

The use of Lutron’s sophisticated control systems for each area further adds to the feeling of quality through selective use of dimming and scene-set technology.

Shortly after the completion of Lutetia of Paris, Zabeel House was opened in the Greens & Views area of Dubai. Located in one of the city’s more diverse residential areas, Zabeel House carefully reflects its position, appearing as an urban oasis with a fresh, contemporary take on relaxed, informal luxury. This is accentuated by the lighting, which serves to both amplify and distil the best attributes of its surroundings.

On entering, the large lobby acts as a transitional space, helping to promote the high energy and vibrancy of this new development and its clientele. Spaces are functional with an emphasis on quirky objects such as oversized ants, vintage cameras and giant folded paper aeroplane structures.

The lobby space diffuses into the main bar, decked out with lush greenery that creates dappled and diffuse hiding spaces, and the Social Club dining area, designed to appear vibrant by day, and more opulent during the hours of darkness. Here, decorative lighting elements are complemented by a combination of iGuzzini’s Palco LV spotlights and Led C4’s Multidir Surface downlights, providing subtle illumination while adding a vibrancy to the greenery.

Guestrooms and corridors are treated simply, with focus maintained on quality of materials and textures, while the Business Centre offers a sophisticated and flexible environment in which network and conference go hand in hand. Softer illuminated spaces rub shoulders with large-scale glass-clad meeting rooms offering a more functional approach to light.

The gym, Health Club and treatment rooms are all versed in the same narrative, employing natural wood tones that contrast and complement with the more robust materials of wire mesh, breeze block and brick.

Lah Lah, the edgy Pan-Asian kitchen/bar brings this design language to its logical conclusion. Lush greenery again helps to break up the playful use of semi-industrial materials, while the lighting, controlled via a Dynalight control system, responds through varied states during the day and night, helping to create a vibrant space that is equally adept at hosting raucous after work drinks, relaxed dining or long, lazy lunches.

Speaking of the new projects, and dpa’s ongoing work in the Middle East, Nick Hoggett, Director of dpa lighting consultants’ Dubai studio, said: “dpa’s work in the Middle East goes back to 1976, working in collaboration with Howard Brandston on the Sheraton Hotel on The Creek in Dubai, and we have been active in the region ever since.

“We established a studio in Dubai in 2004 because of the level of work we were being asked to undertake there, and this has been incredibly successful for the practice as a whole, attracting numerous commissions covering a wide variety of project types. Work in Dubai remains exciting, and in recent times has seen a number of cultural projects come into the practice, as well as all the normal impressive hotels, retail and commercial developments, which adds a nice balance.

“Residential work is also significant, with both locals and ex-Pats wanting their properties to have high quality, well thought out lighting solutions, responding to the architecture and the family needs.

“Besides Dubai, the rest of the UAE and the whole region has a lot of interesting developments, some small and some incredibly huge and ambitious, which is very exciting for the future of dpa, both in Dubai, but also our Edinburgh, London and Oxfordshire studios, which are all also active with Middle East projects.”