Sustainable office icon designed for the desert sands of UAE

This WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing looks at a new corporate headquarters which is both smart and sustainable, and celebrates classic furniture reissues on Fritz Hansen’s 150th anniversary

Net zero is high on the workplace agenda in the post-Covid-19 era with the next wave of office  buildings seeking to combine sustainability with smart technologies.

But before you start looking for pioneering green examples in the usual places – London, New York or San Francisco, maybe – take a look at Sharjah, the third most populous city in the United Arab Emirates.

It is here that an iconic new headquarters for the BEEAH holding group, which has business interests in waste management, energy, environmental consulting and green mobility, has been unveiled. Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, it is powered by solar, integrated with next-generation technologies, and built to realise net-zero emissions. Could its design be a blueprint to shape tomorrow’s smart, sustainable cities?

The building is among the last works of Dame Zaha Hadid, one of the most influential architects of her time, who died in 2016.  The distinct curvilinear features of the headquarters mimic the intersection of sand dunes, drawing from the desert landscape of Al Sajaa in Sharjah. The curved façade of the structure is orientated to account for the prevailing Shamal winds; exteriors are made of glass-reinforced concrete, reflecting the sun’s rays for a natural cooling effect.

‘This is a new office HQ based on a twinned strategy of sustainability and digitalisation…’

But what also catches the eye is the high degree of digital future-proofing in the building systems, from secure facial recognition check-in and a virtual concierge to smart meeting rooms and a companion app to automate day-to-day tasks. Light and temperature in smart meeting rooms are managed automatically depending on occupancy and time of day. Rooms are also equipped with collaboration tools for remote and hybrid work scenarios.

This is a new office HQ with a template based on a twinned strategy of sustainability and digitalisation. The desert sands of the UAE might seem long way from the business districts of our major cities, but the lessons are close at hand. Engineers Buro Happold and Atelier Ten worked alongside Zaha Hadid Architects to realise the project.

Never out of fashion

Office design trends may come and go, but there is one constant that never seems to be out of fashion. That is the Danish furniture of the Fritz Hansen company, which has been a classic and enduring presence throughout the development of the post-war office on both sides of the Atlantic. There are few workspaces that are not enhanced by Arne Jacobsen’s famous Series 7 or Egg chairs, for example – these are rightly revered as among the most ubiquitous objects of the modern era.

Now, to celebrate Fritz Hansen’s 150th anniversary (1872-2022), the company is reinterpreting some of its greatest designs by Jacobsen and fellow designer Poul Kjaerholm with new fabrics, colours and materials. As Wallpaper magazine reports, it is a fitting tribute to the timelessness of Fritz Hansen’s designs.

Arne Jacobsen, of course, wasn’t just a furniture designer.  As an architect, he was responsible for two of our favourite modern masterworks – the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen and St Catherine’s College, Oxford, where he designed everything from the building to the cutlery and even the species of fish in the pond.

All set for Amsterdam

Interested in the issues discussed in this WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing? Then check out our WORKTECH events calendar for 2022 to engage in the big conversation on the future of work and workplace.

Next stop for our events is  WORKTECH Amsterdam on Thursday 21 April 2022. Thought leaders from Accenture, EDGE and Unispace will be taking to the stage, and WORKTECH Academy director Jeremy Myerson will present the latest global trends in the field as hybrid working patterns emerge. Book your ticket here – limited spaces available.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our in-person, virtual and hybrid platforms. This edition is posted 6 April 2022.
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