Anarchitect is an award-winning architecture and interior design company based in Dubai. For the forthcoming Dubai Design Week (November 12th to 17th) it has created the Circadian Light Synthesis, an installation that explores the play of natural and artificial light. MojehMen speaks with the company’s co-founder Jonathan Ashmore
MM: Do you think interior design/design around the world, in general, is improving, or not?
JA: Architecture and interior design are becoming more accessible to the public on a whole. This is also in parallel as design is now being recognised as an industry that can seriously contribute in a positive way to a country or city’s GDP growth and development. As the industry gains more traction and becomes better understood, I believe that the level of design is improving across the globe. The internet and in particular, social media platforms like Instagram have meant that design trends and new ideas can be easily communicated and shared, this all contributes to the improvement and awareness of the importance and value of good design in daily life.
MM: How have the main considerations in designing an interior space changed over recent years?
JA: In my design practice we’ve seen overlaps between different project typologies, for example, hospitality beginning to infiltrate both residential and leisure sectors as clients become more design-savvy and therefore more design-demanding. We have been designing wellness and leisure spaces that have an ambience and social dynamics influenced by hotel lobbies. And in the residential developments, more attention and time is being spent on the experiences in the community spaces and residential amenities as residents now want a social space where they can gather, work and play as part of their modern living experience. The new generation is also more aware of the environment and cares about sustainable responsibility, so it is an important aspect to consider when designing a space. My belief is that good design has the capability to address a lot of core sustainability requirements with the choice of right materials, orientation, massing and connection with outdoor spaces, so it is not always about adding solar and wind power for example as a default solution.
MM: What would you say are the key trends in commercial interior design now?
JA: Glass is one of the materials making a strong comeback adding light and transparency to interior space with the opportunity to introduce colour. The purposeful imperfections and organic forms of hand-blown coloured glass add sophistication and maturity to an interior space and objects. I’ve seen a subtle influence of the tropics in recent design trends through statement pieces which use the highly lacquered cane and natural bamboo framed within machined metals and alloys, further challenging traditional use of these materials in interiors and furniture. While bold, pristine colours are still prominent, there appears to be a noticeable shift towards natural and earthy tones and a definitive movement towards handmade rather than machined perfection in surface finishes. On the other hand, some companies have embraced technology as the new craft. They use advanced manufacturing techniques to create textures and 3D geometric forms which play with colour consistency and rely on light and shadow to add depth to forms. They have used technology to evoke a ‘manmade’ aesthetic.
MM: Does the Middle East have its own ‘design’ feel? Or does every design follow global trends now?
JA: The Middle East design scene is in a current state of transition. Initially driven by external global influence, it’s now in a maturing stage developing its own influences. A regional design identity is beginning to develop, driven by a rich culture and heritage juxtaposed with a modern and progressive outlook and ambition.
MM: ‘Design’ has become a quality sought in many environments now. What are the signs that space has been over-designed? Do people appreciate good design?
JA: Design is a problem-solving discipline, it should always seek to improve life both aesthetically, functionally and effectively. Over-design is when there is no more room for space to naturally evolve and improve the quality of life for its users. What needs to be carefully considered during design is that space naturally transforms once it is inhabited or used over time. So an important part of the process is explaining these principles to clients and purposely allowing room within the design for them to add their own personal touches to spaces once lived in so that a character and personality can build up over time and naturally become warm, inviting and a pleasant place to spend time.
MM: The entrance design for DDW works with light. Can you explain how light can be used as a design tool like any other?
JA: Light defines a space, without light our eyes are unable to properly read a space, understand its depth or judge its scale. Light is also important to describe the texture and materiality of a surface through the contrast of shadow and highlights. Our eyes are naturally drawn to the brightest point in an interior, so with these principles and observations in mind, as a designer, you’re then you able to play and manipulate these principles to create different spatial conditions within a space. With our Dubai Design Week installation ‘Circadian Light Synthesis’ we’e exploring the relationship between natural sunlight and its effect on a physical enclosure throughout the day by carefully manipulating its effect on the interior spaces through a series of controlled apertures. The installation will simultaneously show the effects of a synthesised artificial light on the interior space of a pavilion to draw people’s attention to the effects of light on our natural body-clocks and circadian rhythm.
MM: Why focus on the human circadian rhythm for this piece?
JA: Human circadian rhythms are at the heart of our lives – they define our everyday. The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of our brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. A huge array of biological processes within the human body, and indeed in all forms of life on Earth, cycle according to a 24-hour clock. Additionally, Dubai and the Middle East have an especially very strong relationship with the sunlight – it defines how we work, how we spend our free time, how we communicate, how we travel. We decided to focus on our circadian rhythms to address how we are disrupting these natural rhythms every day with the blue light emanating from our computer screens, our mobile phones and often within our offices and retail spaces we visit. The installation brings us back to our roots and our human nature while exploring the latest technological advancements in lighting design, which reduce the use of blue light and enhance our wellbeing.