Architectural Record: Mandarin Oriental Jumeira Lobby Lighting


Published in Architectural Record, August 2019

It can be daunting to try making a mark in Dubai, a city with a striking natural environment but crammed with an eclectic jumble of contemporary buildings at every scale. Yet the project team behind the Mandarin Oriental Jumeira lobby—interior design firm DESIGNWILKES, dpa lighting consultants (dpa), and luminaire producer Preciosa—met such a challenge with a visual feast for a dramatic first impression.

Meant to bring the outdoors in, the installation is a colonnade of 14 “trees” that double as sculptural artworks and functional light fixtures. DESIGNWILKES was inspired by the region’s orange blossoms but believed that incorporating living trees into the space would eventually be value-engineered into the installation of artificial ones, which would transform an elegant hotel lobby into a shopping mall– like setting. Instead, the firm devised figurative replicas of the real thing, fabricated by Preciosa in matte-champagne stainless steel and glass. Three sizes—from 16½ feet in diameter (at the widest point) by 13 feet tall to 25½ feet in diameter by 30½ feet tall—replicate layers of a forest canopy while internally lit ribbed glass, held within stainless-steel latticework, emphasizes the artificiality of the tree trunks.

Already enlisted to illuminate the hotel’s public spaces, dpa lent its technical expertise. As the client (WASL Group) and DESIGNWILKES desired a dynamic rippling-light display, dpa proposed controlling the nearly 900 light points of the “leaves” individually. “We worked with Preciosa to adjust the intensity, sequence, and speed of the light movement to create an evolving illuminated experience,” says Tim Leeding, dpa senior designer. A central control interface directs modules in the base of each tree, which in turn distribute DMX signals to their respective lamps. Handblown-glass leaves diffuse the light of these 2.1-watt warm-white LEDs, mounted at the tip of each metal branch.

Linear luminaires within suspended acoustic panels present a crisp ceiling and enhance the ambience: as in nature, light from above filters through the man-made tree canopies with a dappled effect on the floor. The team aimed to craft “something unique with a wow factor,” says DESIGNWILKES principal Jeffrey Wilkes. With the resulting enchanted forest, it appears they did.