Designers should work within the laws of a land yet be able to take on any challenge by thinking out of the box, says DANIEL DURING*
WE ALL complain when we are being restricted by the laws and regulations of a country, and roll our eyes in dismay when sites are complicated or difficult to work on. However, it is such limitations that can bring out the best in a designer, challenging him to think outside the box.
It is a well-known fact that our brains are most efficient and creative when working under pressure and being challenged.
In my experience, easy spaces with hardly any limitations usually result in designs that are boring and somehow lacking in imagination.
However, designers in Saudi Arabia do not seem to be utilising the opportunities presented by the challenges posed by the regulations, and scant effort is being made on designing interiors that are striking, functional and that meet the local requirements and regulations.
Most of the design efforts for cafés and restaurants with separate seating tend to focus on the ‘family’ seating area rather than the ‘single’ seating area. Relegating the singles area to be secondary – both in terms of appearance and space – to the family areas has a direct effect on the revenue that the singles area generates.
It also has a direct effect on the entire ambiance and vibe of the singles area as the average customer in this area of the café will preen himself up as much knowing that there are no women around. They will also spend less money as they don’t have to ‘show off’, and unfortunately in some cases they will also behave in an ‘ungentlemanly’ manner when there is no one to impress.
Now, what would happen if we take the ladies to the first floor, install a mashrabiya all the way along the staircase to the top, and allow them the opportunity to observe the singles on the ground floor? Not only will the singles dress and behave better knowing that they will be under scrutiny, but also the revenue from the singles area will achieve new heights.
When working on projects in a country where privacy is a top priority, designers can be as creative as they like with the use of strategically placed partitions to create a unique design and ambiance.
The use of different types and sources of lighting, incorporating different floor levels, creating private rooms, using sheers to create intimacy yet allowing glimpses of what happens behind it, will all contribute to better and more inspiring spaces.
Additionally, the use of various levels of transparency, translucency and opacity, patterns, colours and different finishes, and designing every room differently, will result in a customers’ paradise, as they are offered several environments to choose from in one venue.
The clever use of terraces is another area where designers can thrive in creativity. Ladies love sitting outdoors sipping a cup of their favourite brew; however, due to obvious restrictions of being seen in public, they are often relegated to indoor areas and the terraces are left to the singles only. This can easily be addressed by creating private gardens where ladies can see through the trees and beyond onto the street, but pedestrians passing by cannot look into the garden area.
Furthermore, by strategically placing the singles’ terrace across from the covered ladies terrace, the ladies would have to pass the singles’ terrace before entering the private gardens. Knowing that the ladies will pass would definitely have a positive effect on the look and feel of this singles’ area, as well as the behaviour of the customers inside.
It’s all about thinking outside the box, within a very small space, which can be very challenging but also very rewarding in the long term.
* Daniel During is the principal and managing director of Thomas Klein International (TKI). Headquartered in Dubai, UAE, TKI was founded in 2001 with the aim of delivering a complete range of design, consulting and management services for investors and operators in the hospitality, entertainment and leisure sectors throughout the Middle East and beyond. With additional offices in Madrid (Spain), Chicago (US) and Buenos Aires (Argentina), TKI is exposed to wide-ranging and deep information that enriches every single project.