Going To Press

As the first retail outlet to open in DIFC; the challenges for newly-launched digital print solutions company, Spectrum, were multifarious. From the outset the store’s locale was uppermost in the company’s minds when conceiving the interior design concept.

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By  Charlotte Butterfield Published  March 2, 2006

|~|Sectrum-body-2.jpg|~||~|As the first retail outlet to open in DIFC; the challenges for newly-launched digital print solutions company, Spectrum, were multifarious. From the outset the store’s locale was uppermost in the company’s minds when conceiving the interior design concept. Alfred Thamasian from Aim Group designed the space, he explains: “The brief we were given was to create a high end retail outlet that complemented the prestige of its location in the DIFC.”

The irony is that the surrounding DIFC has become such an integral part of the design, and yet managing director, Marcus Doo, only decided on the location by accident. He explains: “The concept of Spectrum was conceived on 28 May 2005, and by the 30th I had to have found the premises. When I first started looking, I didn’t even know DIFC did retail outlets, I thought they were just offices. I knew I wanted to be near Sheikh Zayed Road, and we needed to be in a Free Zone, and when I see what’s happening in this area, with Business Bay being developed too, I can’t imagine a better-placed location.”

Much inspiration for the interior design of the shop was gleaned from the design of the whole complex, as integrating the outlet was key. Glass, steel and black marble are major components in the whole building so were also used in Spectrum. Doo says: “We tried to bring the mall into the interior of the shop, to create a feeling of fluidity. We chose black marble table bases, chrome table stands and glass tops to echo the materials used in the rest of The Gate building. Coupled with high quality light granite tiles, birch coloured wood, and a thick band of black wood running around the shop, there is a definite feeling of continuity.”

The actual business model provided the basics of the design. “I knew I wanted the company to have a retail presence in addition to providing a commercial service. Most printing companies you go in, and are faced with a counter where you have to queue to be served, but I wanted this to be a relaxing experience for the clients.” Hence the tables, chairs, coffee station, WiFi and lap top stations at the front of the shop to create a business class lounge effect.

The logistics of the business led the design stages from the conception. There were numerous technological and safety considerations that meant a free reign with the design was impossible. Principally, there is no escaping the fact that a two-tonne Xerox machine takes centre stage! “The machinery is a work of art itself and it makes a statement,” Doo explains, “To be realistic, there is no way that we could hide the machine, so it stands to reason that it would form the focal point of the design. It is the only one of its kind in the region and one of only 550 in the world, so why would we want to hide it even if we could?” Thamasian adds: “We had a real challenge – the worst part was that we had to put the machine in first and then work around it.”

||**|||~|Spectrum-body1.jpg|~||~|The Xerox machine weighs two tonnes and stands on four feet, so there was no way that it could rest on a normal ceramic floor, so a special concrete base was laid under the machine. There could be no vibration or settlement, which is why the concrete base was so important. Then Italian granite 60x60 tiles were laid around it. It was necessary to have a thin grouting so that when trolleys were pushed around with reams of paper on it, the flooring provided a very smooth surface.

The actual printing press is controlled by a sunstation connected by fibre optic chanelling under the floor. Spectrum brought together Xerox, Dubai Holdings and the interior design team for a project implementation meeting at the beginning of the fit-out to discuss the whole shop network. Thamasian then drew up plans layer by layer from the floor up, incorporating everything that Dubai Holdings had stipulated, such as a state-of-the-art sprinkler system, and the AC unit – this was a special consideration, the machine is sensitive to humidity and temperature, and when you have a gaping shop front this is quite difficult to overcome.

The machine also produces hot air and condensation so these were added challenges, they had to get rid of both efficiently and quickly, without impacting on the design too much. Xerox had to receive certified proof from an independent party that certain design aspects were in place before they allowed the shipment of the machine to occur. These specifications included the floor loading, air sampling tests, and a vibration spec.

Certain materials had to be fire-retardant too. “It was an interesting process going through the fit out process — finalising the power and access issues that I had never even considered before.” Doo says. “We also wanted to future-proof the outlet, so we installed spare data points coming in through the walls, floors and ceilings.”

In line with having a technology-led design, Thamasian chose to make the design very hi-tech, with wall-mounted plasma screens, to create a constant dynamic with moving images and sound. The thought was to create an environment that is constantly changing. He opted for bright white walls and made the logo very colourful, and so once the logo was wall-mounted it created a good accent piece against the stark white walls. Doo adds: “I wanted to retain elements with the ITP brand, our mother company [and publisher of Commercial Interior Design Magazine] such as the use of white and the parquet.”

Similarly, there is a mix of yellow and white lights — classic ITP lighting. Doo explains: “The lighting is a constantly evolving process, we originally installed spots along the walls all along the room, then decided to put in another row of spots down the centre of the room, you need to live in a space for a while to realise what is needed.”
In this particular project though, Doo had a very accurate indication of what the final design would look like thanks to the design software, 3D Max, Version 9, Thamasian employed. He enthuses: “This software is fantastic, a real designer’s dream as it helps the client visualise exactly what the finished product will look like. It will put a stop to any misunderstandings between designer and client as the finished visuals are the exact replica of the 3D design. It helps all ideas come into reality and for you to actually see if certain ideas will work, or what could be better.” Doo adds: “It enabled us to visualise what it would look like and remarkably the finished design was near enough identical to his original design.” ||**||

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