P. Martin Dufresne, U+A Architects

Tripping the light fantastic

Design principal P. Martin Dufresne, U+A Architects, installs a Lasvit glass art installation in Capital Gate’s main lobby, Abu Dhabi

UAE: Design principal P. Martin Dufresne celebrates his fifth anniversary at U+A Architects in Dubai this year. The company opened an office in the UAE in 2007 and carries out the architecture and interior design of many large developments in the region including residential, commercial and shopping malls.

Its latest project is the interiors of the ground floor lobby at Capital Gate in Abu Dhabi.

Dufresne was the first person to draw up the architectural concept for the design in 2006 and last year was asked by ADNEC to design the interiors of the lobby. “Having conceived the tower it was imperative that I should take on the challenge,” he said.

“My first consideration was that the interior design needed to adhere to the tower’s architectural concept, which is essentially inspired by a ship’s hull splitting waves.

“The sea and maritime transportation bear an essential role in the development of the UAE and I wanted to celebrate this in its design. Similarly when it was time to conceptualise the lobby space, I needed to stay with this notion. Consequently the space itself was conceived with an under-water theme in mind.”

Dufresne said fluidity and dynamism complemented this idea throughout the space. He did this through a large installation, such as the morphed beverage bar and curved bench.

He also wanted to introduce a visual focus point as guests enter the lobby. This was achieved by placing a huge glass art installation in the middle of the double height space. Designed and manufactured by Lasvit, the installation, named ‘the wave’, is a stunning response to the overall concept of the interior and is now the centrepiece of the lobby.

“The Capital Gate lobby is one of my favourite project’s to date. Unlike so many rushed projects in the region, this one was executed with an evident sense of pride. Everyone involved dedicated their efforts to deliver a unique design that reflects this mind-set. This is quite a refreshing occurrence in this region,” he added.

Talking about the industry in the current climate across the Middle East, Dufresne said that during the construction boom, most trades were flooded with designers and builders that jumped onboard to make a quick buck.

“Quality of construction suffered at the expense of the developers, which in most cases did not have the necessary experience to remedy the attitude,” he explained. “Now though, we find ourselves struggling to find work but when work does find its way to our tables, we take notice that most of the survivors of the crisis are still with us due to their good practices and the dedication to their trades.

“We could now dare say that our region compares more suitably to construction ethics of the west. Let’s hope this will last and guarantee better quality of construction.”

He added in response to the construction industry’s downturn designers need to adjust their approach towards clients, claiming that companies need to be more flexible in terms of their services if they want to continue ensuring satisfaction from the ‘ever more demanding clients’.

“We must also be very creative and consider alternative methods in regards to our own business and how we run the office. This is an important notion for the new designer. He/she must embrace the demands to ensure competitiveness in this difficult market,” he said.