Government Offices

  • Type: Government

  • Size: 2500 m2

  • Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE

  • Year: 2023

Located in a heritage building under a dramatic undulating roof, the project is organised over an irregular footprint. While the original brief called for a set of open workspaces, private offices, workshop areas and a boardroom, the project later grew more than three-fold to accommodate the increase in the customer’s staff. The final design included several additional offices and meeting areas, a library, two prayer rooms and a large light-flooded exhibition space.

Once ambitions outgrew the available space, we expanded vertically, and worked in three dimensions, adding platforms interconnected by a set of complex staircases, which terminate at the flood-lit exhibition level.

The new volume near the entrance, made of mild steel, creates a connection to the exhibition level, with a meeting lounge and male prayer room, accessible through an alternative stair flight where the staircase splits.

Rediscovering the building’s architectural qualities, its genius loci, was at the core of this concept. We focused on the clarity of space, previously underutilised due to an awkward shape, poor AC, damaged finishes, and suboptimal acoustic performance. We retained the existing walls, including the original cylindrical volumes. Outdated materials were removed and systems reconditioned.

Executive areas use switchable glass glazing for internal partitions, transparent or opaque based on requirements.

The usage of super-thin LED light strings spanning up to 17m allowed illumination of areas where recess lights in walls, floors or ceilings was impossible.

The imposing volume, concealing a ladies’ prayer room and an office, is echoed by a smaller cube perched on its top – proportioned to be half the size and half of the opacity through the use of suspended aluminum chains. As our challenge, we took upon ourselves to completely conceal the air-conditioning outlets – no grilles are visible, with the exception of the existing free-standing totems on the exhibition level that were retained to avoid wasteful rework, but were refinished in a minimalist timber grid.

For the washrooms, we divided the space diagonally with free-standing vanities. The vanity mirrors, produced locally, combine a complex of translucent, reflective, and matt surfaces within a single pane.

To reflect the organisation’s mission, forward-looking yet rooted in Emirati heritage, we used contrasting materials: rough plaster, widespread in traditional architecture, and woven palm mats known as safeefah, paired with sleek and patinated steel. We produced locally when possible. Cushions were woven by Emirati artisans, using a technique called sadu.

The project won the Dezeen Award in 2023 for the best office, the Identity Magazine Award, and the iF Award in 2024. Additionally, it was a runner-up for the Frame Design Award for Governmental Interior of the Year.

    Photography:

    Sebastian B├Âttcher

    Team / Partners:

    Seed (MEP), Nathan Savage Lighting Design (Lighting design)