This striking visual in Dubai Silicon Oasis is the headquarters of Axiom Telecom, a leading telecommunication company in the United Arab Emirates. Its grandiose presence is quite befitting the brand identity of this telecom retailer. Italian architects, Marco Mangili Associati, had the much needed audacity to place this abstract mass of concrete, steel and black glass in the land of Islamic traditional architecture. Not one hint of mashrabiya or arches on site, which is quite liberating!
Its composition also has got sharp angles on plan, section and elevation. It has tucked-in walls that create the illusion of a suspended but balanced building. The leaning walls create a ‘restless’ shape which is impressively sculptural from afar. The weathered steel cladding, visible in burnt orange, acts as a connecting element between the concrete fragments. Furthermore, the structural ingenuity of this headquarters is on full display, which gives it raw authenticity. The exaggerated size of the three-story high blocks as compared to the human scale gives respect to the tech giant that is Axiom Telecom.
The architects emphasize that besides the design brief from the client, they also added four elements: impact, presence, recognizability and synthesia, crucial measures in design. What’s synthesia in architecture? It’s a relatively new term to most, borrowed from medicine. It is where one aspect stimulates, inspires or feeds into another aspect in design, creating synthesis, a wholesome interconnected composition. The smooth transitions between themes, textures, angles, patterns and spaces in this establishment have truly achieved synthesia.
The building has three main areas. The first and foremost being the primary use of the building, which is production and logistics operations. There is also an area dedicated to operational and managerial offices and conference facilities. Believe it or not, the third area entails a restaurant, lounge bar, gym and spa, in case it is unclear that humans use the building. However, the seamless interconnection between the operational and relational spaces make the complex so easy to maneuver.
The interiors are impeccable with high ceilings, clear site lines and somber ambiance. At certain times of day, the unconventional openings on the façade create an amazing play of light and shadow indoors. The spatial design caters to innovative minds, spark creativity and create a utopia for young techies. With the vertical, horizontal and diagonal elements of varying textures, the spatial layout may come off as haphazard but intriguing at the same time.
Commendably, this establishment has met quite a number of green building requirements. In line with Axiom Telecom’s commitment to minimize its environmental impact, the establishment’s design has achieved silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating. This is achieved by its eco-friendly materials and sustainable finishes. Also to note, a multitude of energy conservation measures were integrated into its construction process.
It has a main garden with a variety of plants, surrounded with water mirrors and lights. Fun fact: the building rises to preserve this garden which spills to the outside. The courtyard also entails an appealing mix of stone and wood surfaces. These bring earth tones and the outdoor character indoors. Its expansive glazing and open plan spaces allow for natural light and adequate ventilation.
Sometimes you’ve got to design with your chest and deal with the criticism later. Regardless, here comes the criticism: As have most iconic buildings coming up in the UAE, the Axiom Headquarters seem to pay no respect to it’s context. To be frank, it comes off as a foreign object. The architects themselves term it as “A stone that comes from far away.” This outlandish approach in design is often mistook for landmark architecture. The headquarters seem to tread a thin line between being iconic and out of place. However, in this case, it is carried out with remarkable finesse.
Architects / Project Managers: Marco Mangili Associati
Client: Axiom Telecom L.L.C.
Completion Year: 2018
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Area: 34,000 sqm
Contractor: China Railway 18th Bureau Group
Project Team: Andrea Ronzoni (Project coordinator and project advisor) – Pasquale Aversario, Barbara Michielutti (Interior design) – Josef Kamelger, Giorgio Visentin, Adele Trimigno (Team) – Consultants: Pslab and Telmotor Spa (lighting consultant) – NEB (AOR, structural and mechanical) – Dynamic Design DMCC (PMO)
Photographer: Tushar Naik