Blue Camel discusses the challenges of fitting out OMA’s Concrete building
Officially inaugurated in March 2017, Concrete involved combining four former warehouse spaces to create a 1,250m2 events hub that can be configured into 25 different modules, with the ability to accommodate public events, exhibitions, performances, and lectures. The planning strategy for the OMA-designed cultural space focused on maximising the event area.
All the services were consolidated at one end of the building, allowing the entrance and event spaces to be situated closer to The Yard, the district’s main outdoor public square. The front façade is made using polycarbonate sheets, a translucent material that allows maximum light to be transmitted into the space, connecting the indoor and outdoor areas.
“Adapting OMA’s concept to meet local codes and engineering best practices was a challenge, as was modifying the existing structure to accommodate the complex configurations and proposed mechanisms”, explains Hisham Zaher, general manager and partner at Blue Camel.
“We worked with specialist structural consultants and engineers to design and execute the extensive acoustic requirements for the nine different configurations of the development, keeping in mind that space usage can range from a rock concert with a 150-decibel sound level, to an art gallery that only requires a sound level of 30dB.”
Blue Camel worked with specialist international lighting consultants and suppliers to design and deliver the lighting scenes with the associated automation system. Blue Camel’s structural modifications included building a new foundation, in order to shift the front façade forward, and the existing roof structures had to be cut to create multiple skylights. In addition, the existing electrical and fire-fighting infrastructure had to be modified to cater to the added loads and features.
“Resourcing and using locally available materials without compromising the approved quality and the overall look and feel was important,” Zaher adds.
The brief for Concrete dictated a design that enabled maximum flexibility, both in terms of event types, and in terms of the number of events that could take place simultaneously. In order to provide this, the OMA design team proposed four full-height walls, which would both pivot and slide, with tracks integrated into the ceiling. These walls allow the space to be transformed and divided into up to four separate event spaces, in various configurations. These walls have been sound proofed, to allow different events to take place simultaneously without any disturbances.
The installation of a full-height operable façade, which also acts as the doors to the building, blurs the boundary between the indoor and outdoor space. The majority of both new and existing utilities within the building, and the thermal insulation, have been integrated within the cavity of the U-shaped concrete wall that makes up the building’s shell.
One of the most complex areas of the building is the ceiling, which accommodates movable wall tracks, the lighting system, the skylights, AC projectors, and fire-fighting systems. All these elements are integrated into a modular ceiling, finished with perforated aluminium panels.
In order to give Concrete a strong identity, OMA proposed wrapping the existing warehouse in dark concrete, mixed with mirror pieces as aggregates. The rough concrete texture was created by the Blue Camel team and later sprayed on to the façade.
During the inauguration of Alserkal Avenue’s central events space in March this year, Rem Koolhaas, the founder of OMA, highlighted the importance of Concrete as a truly ‘Made in Dubai’ project: “The building is entirely produced in Dubai; it is not a foreign ideal, and that, I think, is significant,” he said. Read designMENA’s full interview with Koolhaas.
Concrete by Blue Camel was also highly commended at the 2017 Commercial Interior Design Awards in the Best fit-out Project of the Year category.