UAE interior design market seeing post-Covid boom, say architects

UAE interior design market seeing post-Covid boom, say architects

Posted on 15 September 2021

Rebound is being fuelled by some of Dubai’s highest property sales in 12 years and rising property and rental prices

With a glut of new projects on the drawing board, Dubai-based interior designers and architects say they are enjoying a post-pandemic boom.

From a master plan for a new hydroponic farm to an HQ for an investment bank, new offices for international law firms, boutique hotels, executive offices and ultra-luxurious residences, the design sector is on a roll, according to industry players.

Fuelled by some of Dubai’s highest property sales in 12 years and rising property and rental prices, there is a buoyancy in the market that has set the design sector on a steep upwards trajectory.

The rebound comes after Dubai has established itself as the design capital of the region, with Dubai Design Week and its trade fair Downtown Design bringing key players in the industry together each year in November.

With ongoing regional hotel projects from Pakistan to Morocco, offices in Saudi Arabia, luxury residential villas and mid-market apartment blocks, award-winning Dubai-based designer Pallavi Dean is in the process of expanding her successful practice.

“It’s no exaggeration to say the interior design market is going gangbusters. I haven’t seen this much frenzied demand for ID and architecture services since 2014 – the last big boom. So, we’re hiring people on a weekly basis. Competitors are poaching our staff, which is fair enough – there’s a war for talent and it’s a free market,” said the founder of ROAR.

“Many of the RIBA regional practices are very busy, with activity picking up in the market as the region looks forwards. Governments are all now thinking about how they can best serve their citizens and attract visitors with fresh projects that are true to the Gulf’s spirit,” said Andy Shaw, chair of Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Gulf Chapter and co-founder of AMA, which recently completed the futuristic Harbour Master’s building in the new Dubai Harbour (pictured above).

Joakim De Rham, the designer behind Swiss Bureau Interior Design & Build, agreed, saying: “Dubai has managed the Covid crisis very well, which reassured many companies to continue their expansion plans. Many companies are also moving to Dubai as they recognise the benefit and potential of this city.

“We were in a kind of fog last year, but since the beginning of 2021 we have started to have better visibility on the market and now the sky is blue,” added De Rham.

Swiss Bureau is currently working on projects regionwide, mainly for high-profile international firms, including Richemont/Cartier in Dubai, Azem and Roche in Riyadh, and Britishvolt in Abu Dhabi.

“Expo 2020 will definitely attract attention to Dubai and what this city can offer. The energies will be very positive! So different industries should benefit from it in the long term,” said De Rham.

British architect Jennie Binchy, director of Binchy & Binchy is also seeing a significant pick up in business. She said: “We are working on a flagship architectural project for Mercedes-Benz and a masterplan for a new hydroponic farm, [as well as] several private villas and a multi-storey building in Sharjah.

“We can certainly feel positive energy and entrepreneurial adrenaline flowing through this city again, though there is a definite change in tack this year. We are finding a slower and more considered approach in signing up new projects. Safety, security and wellness are at the forefront of client considerations. Private residential projects are taking up an even more significant portion of our workflow.”

Raj Sanotra, CEO of KCA International, is equally bullish about the market, saying: “The term ‘business as usual’ has never been more apt at KCA. Despite the ramifications of the pandemic, we have been extremely busy in the Middle East and Far East. This has resulted in new projects, including boutique hotels, HQ buildings and high-end residences.”


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