US red oak takes the spotlight in Dubai office

The remarkable centrepiece is a 3.5-metre-high organic element suggesting a massive, ancient tree. A carpet made from recycled plastic bottles adds sound-proofing and underfoot comfort to the seating areas.

NIU, a dynamic multi-disciplinary, award-winning boutique design studio based in Dubai, recently unveiled the interiors of the new Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone Authority headquarters.

Driven by its passion for design, eye for detail, quality and perfection, the studio was tasked with designing a space that was, as per the client brief, a fresh, simple and friendly environment, with as many natural elements as possible, to welcome stakeholders into the three main floors of the office.

The design phase started in September 2020 and ended in May 2021, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Because of this, it was obvious that the design had to include specific details for the safety of guests and employees.

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.

The architects’ immediately considered nature-inspired elements and so they 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.

Floor planning

The remarkable centrepiece is a 3.5-metre-high organic element suggesting a massive, ancient tree.

According to the architects, the existing floor plan was shaped like a segment of a ring, which further increased the design challenge. Not only do the impressive, suspended floor-to-ceiling organic shaped oak elements add drama and elegance to the area, they also serve to create partitions and to divide the space whilst maintaining an open-plan concept.

In addition, the louvred oak provides visual privacy and sound absorption.

A customised seating area was also constructed at the base of the tree trunk and spread about in comfortable pebble-shaped pouffes. Solid and veneered oak louvres were used to add interest and dimension to the glass façades of the closed meeting rooms.

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 8-metre-high ceiling of the main reception and information desk makes a bold statement in white Corian.

Commenting on the decision to use American red oak, the architects said: “The particular natural colour and veins of this species were selected and incorporated into the project from the design stage. It remained a characterising element of the project, giving it a plus value highly appreciated by the customer and users of the space.”

Red oak

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 sound-proofing and underfoot comfort to the seating areas.

According to Roderick Wiles, AHEC Regional Director, the amount of red oak that was used for the project equalled 2,300 cubic feet.

“This means that 69.5 metric tonnes of CO2 were kept out of the atmosphere as part of carbon capture feature,” he added.

Red oak is the most dominant species in the US hardwood forests with distinctive grain and wood that is not always red in colour. These trees grow only naturally and almost exclusively in North America, although they can be planted elsewhere.

Forest Inventory Analysis (FIA) data shows that red oak is 18.7% of the total US hardwood growing stock. While 33.9 million cubic metres of American red oak is harvested each year, more than 32 million cubic metres is naturally growing over the same period.

Generally, the sapwood of red oaks is light brown and the heartwood is often pinkish to reddish brown. American red oaks have very good overall strength properties relative to weight. Its main uses are furniture, flooring, doors and certain construction applications.

For more information, visit You may follow AHEC on @ahec_india.



Comment here