Interior architect Rania Hamed has a passion for breathing new life into tired buildings. The founder of Dubai-based boutique practice VSHD Design had already shown that skill when creating the high-profile Warehouse GYM 014 Business Bay within a space of soaring volumes and awkward proportions. So when the design-led, nightclub-inspired urban fitness chain tapped the firm to envision its latest outpost in the city—set within three former retail spaces in the Dubai Design District (d3)—Hamed knew the concept had to push visual boundaries to attract the region’s discerning creative community.
Her interiors team drew their inspo from the minimalist, blocky forms and raw concrete construction of 1950s and ’60s brutalist architecture, balancing the gritty attitude of underground fight clubs with polished touches more reminiscent of a mindful wellness retreat.
Set at the main entrance of the purpose-built district with views from two main streets, the location itself is prime real estate. The designers capitalized on that line of sight with a nearly 56-ft.-long glass window that invites visitors in from The Block, an adjacent recreational facility with a skate park and basketball court. Behind that transparent façade is a long juice bar and reception desk highlighted by a custom suspended light box in gold-copper alloy. Hamed says the bar was designed as a communal space for both health club members and the outside design community. Foldable doors open to an outdoor seating area to emphasize the inviting feel.
Accommodating a juice bar, gym floor, cycling studio and circuit training facility within a compact, 6,460-sq.-ft. footprint and producing a cohesive flow within three separate spaces required masterful architectural planning. “We had to make sure that those spaces flow seamlessly in a very functional manner, whereas every type of exercise has its own unique area, but they all still open onto one another to ensure that the various users enjoy the gym’s dynamism,” explains Hamed.
To visually unify the various zones, VSHD designed the space around a central semi-transparent box, giving fitness buffs a sneak peek at the gym’s other offerings while providing just-enough privacy. From a distance, a suspended cycling podium encased in glass makes it look like pedaling cyclists are levitating. The designers also defined the various areas with customized LED lighting, which is suspended overhead to conceal the ceiling services and can be controlled by the different exercise zones.
For the main gym floor and studios, the designers chose durable materials such as locally cured concrete bricks and gold-copper alloy finishes, surfaces that are resilient to heavy use and develop a patina over time. Exposed concrete columns and an oversized street art mural spanning one wall add an urban edge.
“We were determined to refrain from using the usual materials found in most health clubs,” says Hamed. Solid bricks were modernized with polished alloy for a touch of subtle sophistication, creating modes that the designer describes as “elegant, warm and muscular.”
In the past several years workout spaces have seen a long overdue facelift. But the Warehouse GYM offers an alternative from the typical over-designed upscale fitness concept. High-end materials, a muted color palette and careful space planning produce a sanctuary for physical meditation where the human body is the most valuable machine. This is one fight club passerby can’t help but talk about.
The Warehouse GYM
VSHD Design: Rania Hamed, lead designer; Arianna Cardin and Brian Agujo, designers; Bryan Miranda, project manager