With designers, everyday life has a habit of finding its way into their work. For VSHD Design’s Rania Hamed, it was a trip to the Canadian Centre for Architecture that, in part, inspired her recent facility for Dubai’s Warehouse Gym. In Hamed’s third location for the chain, the Montreal- and Dubai-based interior architect took the vivid lines and primary hues favoured by Italian legend Ettore Sottsass (whose work had been on view at the CCA) as a starting point for the airy change rooms in the 1,230-square-metre Springs Warehouse Gym.
“We always try to design the changing room with an element of surprise,” says Hamed. In a departure from the subterranean ambiance of the exercise area, white on the upper portion of the walls and ceilings and a dado of high-gloss burgundy ceramic tile with graphic grout wrap the space, while custom natural oak benches and details bring a sense of warmth to the interior.
To meet the significant locker requirements, the designer stacked the units (each composed of two cubbies) in uniform configurations near the entrances to both the men’s and women’s facilities, then clad the built-ins with striking diagonal lines as a nod to the Memphis founder’s prints. Though numerous strategies were attempted to execute the optical illusion, in the end Hamed used a form of marquetry to insert black veneer within the laminate fronts and achieve the desired effect.
Each change room also contains five private showers fitted with frosted glass doors and partitions with deep red trim; individual bathroom stalls are nearby. Across from the latter, three circular mirrors along the linear single vanity recall illuminated features in the main gym, while brass accents provided by Italy’s Fima and pendants by Cedar & Moss enhance the vintage feel. “Everything is going back in time,” Hamed adds of the subtle references to not only Sottsass but the brutalist-inspired scheme of the main floor as well.
Currently at work on a large community sports club, the designer is keenly aware of the need for such spaces to adapt to a shifting post-pandemic reality. “We are designing in a way that has flexibility whenever required, but where social distancing does not seem like something imposed on the space,” she says. “Our approach is going to be as contactless as possible, so the doors, the hardware, everything is controlled by sensors.”
In a Dubai gym’s latest location, VSHD Design’s graphic lines and wood accents borrow from Italian design history to add a distinct vintage edge.