NIU Studio spearheaded by Italian architects Elena Gregorutti and Giorgio Palermo is currently working on the new headquarters for the new Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone Authority. The client wanted a fresh, simple, and welcoming environment with lots of natural elements to greet stakeholders when they entered the Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone Authority Headquarters. When the project commenced in September 2020, it was obvious that the design must include details for the safety of guests and employees as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The challenge then became how to create a stimulating and visually appealing interior around the existing massive structural columns, while allowing for social distancing, capacity guidelines and flow within the limited space.

Nature-inspired elements provided the solution. Wood slats from sustainable American Hardwood create louvres to conceal the structural columns, provide discreet lighting and suggest separate areas while maintaining open sightlines. The dramatic centrepiece is a 3.5m high organic element suggesting a massive, ancient tree. Seating is constructed at the base of the tree trunk and scattered about in comfortable pebble-shaped pouffes.
In keeping with the COVID-19 guidelines for flow management, the white Carrera marble floor links the main entrance to the rear door and elevators. Carpets made from recycled plastic bottles add soundproofing and comfort.
The earthy ambience extends to the Mezzanine and first-floor levels where floor to ceiling windows flood the interior with natural daylight. Chairs in the 50sqm conference/multi-function room replicate the slat motif. Accent walls painted in shades of sky blue and green and numerous plants reinforce the natural theme.

The estimated completion date is February 2021.