Nature – Inspired Interiors

Award-winning boutique design studio NIU, based in Dubai, blends materiality with spatial programming to deliver a stimulating but visually appealing interior.

Nature – Inspired Interiors

American red oak brings a sense of nature to new Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone Authority Headquarters. Studio NIU was tasked with designing a space that was fresh, simple, and environment friendly with as many natural elements as possible. The challenge was to create a stimulating, but visually appealing interior around the already existing massive structural columns that could allow for visitors to maintain their social distancing and comply with flow guidelines, within the limited space.

NIU immediately considered nature-inspired elements and decided to use timber slats. Taking advice from the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), American red oak was used to create louvres to conceal the structural columns, but also to provide discreet lighting and suggest separate areas while maintaining open sightlines.

Nature – Inspired Interiors

The remarkable centerpiece is a 3.5-meter-high organic element suggesting a massive, ancient tree. Not only do the impressive, suspended floor-to-ceiling organic shaped oak elements add drama and elegance to the area, but they also serve to create partitions and divide the space whilst maintaining an open-plan concept. In addition, the louvred oak provides visual privacy and sound absorption.

A customized seating area was also constructed at the base of the tree trunk and spread about in comfortable pebble-shaped pouffes. In addition, solid and veneered oak louvers were used to add interest and dimension to the glass façades of the closed meeting rooms.

Nature – Inspired Interiors

The area is flooded with natural daylight due to the floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows on two sides. At the main entrance, the double height 8-meter-high ceiling of the main reception and information desk makes a bold statement in white Corian.
Giorgio Palermo, Founder, NIU
In our projects we pay a lot of attention to the issue of sustainability, for this reason we like to consider this material for its qualitative aspects both from an aesthetic and technical point of view. A natural material capable of creating a visual and tactile relationship with the users of the space in which it is used. From the design point of view, in this specific project it was used to create elements of organic shape to emphasize the very origin of the material in nature.

Giorgio Palermo, Founder, NIU

The particular natural color and veins of American red oak were selected and incorporated into the project since the concept design and it remained a characterizing element of the project.

To manage traffic flow and also comply with Covid-19 guidelines, the white Carrera marble floor links the main entrance to the rear door and elevators. Adding some contrast, a few of the structural columns were rendered in ceramic. In addition, NIU specified a sustainable carpet made from recycled plastic bottles, which adds soundproofing and underfoot comfort to the seating areas. The earthy ambience stretches to the mezzanine and first-floor levels where huge windows flood the interior with natural daylight. In the fifty square meter conference/multi-function room there are some chairs that replicate the slat motif, and as part of the natural ambiance, numerous plants are found. Finally, the walls are painted in shades of sky blue and green giving the whole space a very natural and calming ambiance.

Nature – Inspired Interiors

The amount of red oak that was used is around 2,300 cubic feet. This means that 69.5 metric tons of CO2 were kept out of the atmosphere as part of carbon capture feature, and with a replacement rate in the U.S. hardwood forest, through natural regeneration, of just 68 seconds,” said Roderick Wiles, AHEC Regional Director.

Nature – Inspired Interiors

American red oaks have very good overall strength properties relative to weight and so its main uses are furniture, flooring, doors, and certain construction applications.

Photo credit: Alex Jeffries Photography Group