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Intercon: Creating flawless, usable spaces

For Intercon’s Mohammed Adib, the next project is the best project

Intercon: Creating flawless, usable spaces

In 1993, Mohammed Adib established Intercon in London as a niche design company specialising in large-scale commercial interior design. Currently, it is based in Barcelona and Dubai, undertaking special bespoke projects of various degrees of complexity and scale with a common purpose: to create flawless, usable spaces that blend beauty and aesthetics with sustainable functionality.

Under his design and management guidance, Intercon has completed over 180 projects in 15 countries and has gradually expanded its services to include architecture, product design, signage, and wayfinding.

In 2017, Adib joined Dewan Architects + Engineers as a Partner and Chief Design Officer. His main responsibilities are the protection and development of the design language as well as establishing new markets. He has directed projects in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa.

CW Property Middle East sat down with Adib on the sidelines of the 10th edition of Downtown Design, where Intercon designed its centrepiece: The Forum, a dreamy, cloud-like space — literally — to foster intimate dialogue for panels and discussions.

What has been inspiring Intercon and you personally lately?

Inspiration for Intercon or me is really the same. Lately, the design scene — especially here in the region — has changed a lot with a very wide variety of projects. In the past, it’s been driven by hospitality and residential development, but recently we’re doing a lot of projects we’ve never done before: a water park, shopping and entertainment malls in Saudi, as well as something that is very dear to us, which is refurb[ishment].

Now is the time in the Middle East when some projects are being refurbished and changing the use of a building. This is really very exciting for us, and very inspiring.

How does Intercon embody that inspiration?

For us, anything, any design is always based on the people that use it. The biggest inspiration we get is by looking at how people move through a space, and this is really what leads to any design we do. We’re always very, very human-centric. I think this is the most important part of design. You’re designing for the people that are using the space.

How do luxury and sustainability manage to co-exist? Or do you think they can’t coexist at all?

First of all, sustainability is a given in any design we do. It’s not something that we need to develop now or need to pay more attention to. However, I think that the [sustainability] problem is twofold.

One is a lot of the rating for sustainability is done in a way — a global way — which doesn’t make sense in certain areas, so I think that the rating system should be looked at more carefully to start with. Two, it’s really a cost issue, unless legislation becomes much stricter. [As it is right now], it’s the sort of legislation where you need to do the bare minimum, and clients would never go above that unless it’s a marketing thing where it will help them to sell something. So, if legislation becomes a lot stricter, the prices will go down and it becomes something more [affordable].

But having said all that, sustainability really is not [restricted to] materials or consumption or water flows. Sustainability is designing efficiently. A LEED Platinum-rated building that’s empty is the most unsustainable thing there is, and here you see it a lot, especially in refurbishment. Now, when we’re looking at buildings – you go to the back and you see corridors of three metres, which you have to pour concrete [for], have to heat, have to light – all these things. And it’s useless; two metres is perfect. Or you have a corridor height that is four metres, whereas there’s no need. The two-metre or two-and-a-half-metre corridor is more than enough.

I think that [focusing on] this is more important; designing more efficiently and more for the use that the building needs.

Can you talk about your recent collaboration with Dewan and Port de la Mer?

I’m the chief design officer of Dewan, so I’m involved in the design matters there. Port de la Mer was something very unique, actually. It’s a really nice project. The client was inspired by Montenegro, and it’s meant to be a sort of Mediterranean village. However, the car is the owner of the street [in Dubai], so it was a big challenge for us to try and develop that, primarily because a Mediterranean village is almost an organically-grown thing with narrow streets and the buildings are very close.

It’s at a walkable, human scale.

Exactly. So we did two things. First, we pushed the cars to the outside. We made all the entrances to the garages from the street around the perimeter.

Once you park underground, you can go up to your building, but any movement within the podiums or the marina is all pedestrian. Obviously, there is access to restaurants and services, but these [vehicles will be] restricted.

Then, we created the streets, really giving them back to the city.

So you can still get there by car. You need to walk two or three minutes to your building, but if you want to, you can leave your car and move around totally without it.

We started with Meraas trying out one module out of the six just to see if it would sell, and we’re just completing the sixth one now. So it was all a great success. I think it’s the new kind of product that Dubai needed: a low-rise next to the sea. The high rise next to the sea doesn’t make sense.

We also worked very closely with the orientation and views. We wanted to keep it feeling like a Mediterranean village where you feel very close to each other, yet at the same time, trying to keep the minimum distances that people require due to privacy and so on. I think that these were the two challenges and I think it turned out quite well in the design.

Do you think this is part of a push towards what’s being called the 15-minute city?

Yeah, definitely. Dubai grew [very] big and there’s too many motorways connecting hubs. With the five main centres of Dubai, they will be like that, but I think people are getting tired of traffic and travelling too much.

You really should work and live in the same area. It’s a bit too late on a master planning level, but I think it could be this way: [for example,] if you live in Dubai South, then work in Dubai South. You can go occasionally to see a friend, go to the opera or something like that, but really it should be within a contained [locality].

What do you see next for Intercon in the coming five years?

Saudi is keeping us very busy, [like] everyone else, but as I said before, we’re pushing more for refurb work in Dubai and the other emirates.

And I think this is something that we will do more and more of. We have quite a bit of experience in Europe and the rest of the world. It’s coming here now, so we have a bit of an edge on all those. Our next project is our best project.