designed: 2015 by ramzi makram-ebeid

“Ramzi is one of the few precious designers who understands the relevance of every small detail and works to ensure the bigger theme of a design. I have worked with Ramzi on multiple projects, not only his ideas are always different and original but he is consistently exceeding my expectation in giving the project more time and effort.”

Hanan Abdel Meguid – Kamilzer CEO

When Hanan Abdel Meguid asked me to design her office space in the GREEK campus in downtown Cairo for her new start-up Kamelizer, I was ecstatic.  As I have known Hanan for over 20 years and worked with her as a designer before, I knew that I was going to receive all the creative freedom and trust I yearn for.

Hanan came up with a beautifully designed business card and logo, and more importantly, a concept.  She wanted to create a converted loft feel mixed with vernacular inspirations from around North Africa and the Arab world.   The office, like her camel icon, was a representation of her love and work in the region.  Mixed with the converted loft feel, the office was meant to be impressive, laid back, and of course, conducive to work.

The highlight of the office is the new loft. Thanks to the meticulous and extremely well versed structural engineer, Eng. Ayman Saad and a super patient, flexible and dedicated contracting team, Mazura Contracting, we were able to have a structure with no obtrusive columns in the middle.  Rather, the engineer distributed the weight to 4 corner columns that carried the soundly second level.

The loft divided the space into a downstairs public area, and an upstairs private office for the team.  The public area is further divided into four areas:  informal meeting area (the large sofa), formal meeting area (the large meeting table), kitchenette and storage.  Meanwhile, the upstairs is solely for Hanan and her team, with no distractions and an awesome view of the campus greenery and the informal meeting area below.

For the look and feel, I wanted to focus on natural materials and try to salvage the space as much as possible.  So, I insisted on reviving the old mosaic flooring (it was covered by unpleasant hdf when I first saw it), as well as breathe life back into the super cool, but super battered, original metal windows facing the garden.

To bring in the vernacular vibe of Kamelizers business card, I took its beautiful designs and used them as cut-outs on an oversized frosted glass back lit writing board and mirrored them on the doors and stair rail on the other side.  Hanan was dying for a brick wall, so we chose to clad the wall behind the frosted glass with local bricks.  Thanks to a brilliant contractor, we were able to make the brick wall look like an existing element and the light behind the glass, added a little drama to the space.

For the stairs, I was inspired by old Islamic rail-less staircases found in Old Cairo.  Though Hanan was concerned initially, she was comforted by the handrail against the wall, inspired by David Chipperfield’s iconic handrails.  Below the staircase, I created loads of storage space with push to open doors. I continued the doors alongside the wall to hide the kitchenette.  Though the kitchenette is beautiful with its minimal lines and natural materials, I wanted the people in the meeting to focus on each other, the plasma TV (that uses an arm so that those on the sofa can also watch) and the massive brainstorming wall.  Moreover, I liked the idea of mirrored walls with different materials along the two main sides of the space.

For the furniture design, each piece had to serve both design and function. I created two identical tables (though the office table is slightly smaller then the meeting) for drama.  Initially, the legs were inspired from the metal support structures we were going to have for the loft.  Though the structure changed, I decided to keep the legs as they worked perfectly with the vernacular cut outs and in lays found on both main walls.  The large planks of solid wood added richness and warmth to the space, while the gold legs added shine.  The sofa is simple mid-century and fits well with period of the building.  We chose a dark red to complement the dark red mosaic border on the floor and the brick walls.  For the upstairs, the flooring is also a dark red.  For the work chairs, we went to Williams and were able to use natural Egyptian leather for all.  I wanted tan leather, as it is both elegant and earthy, and also rarely used in Egypt.

Lighting was extremely important for Hanan. I wanted to give her flexibility, so selected both direct and indirect lighting.  The indirect lighting really makes the space sleek, while the direct pendants and spots provide the needed lux for working.  We chose to keep one of the original AUC brass pendants over the informal meeting area.  This pendant was actually one of the main reasons we used brass throughout the space.  Using a mixture of exposed spots and Caravanserai pendants, both work stations have strong lighting.

One of the final elements introduced to the space, literally weeks before finishing, was Hanan’s idea of exposed pipes and wooden strips below the 2nd level.  To make the pipes functional, I color-coded them according to their functions, while tying them in to the color scheme of the space.  For example, the gold pipes supply electricity to pendants, while the red pipe attaches the plasma to the Ubiq’s on the upstairs workstation.

This project was one of my most difficult ones, due to structural problems mainly. However, I was lucky to work in a real team situation.  The client trusted me as a designer, appreciated everyone involved efforts and demanded (always with a smile) the best.  The structural engineer took our seemingly impossible demands and made them possible.  And, the contract team was right beside us the entire time, finding solutions and jumping hurdles to meet our expectations.

Contracting by: Mazura