The Offices Issue

Writer

Brownbook Staff

Photographer

Ghassan Aqel & Philipp Langenheim

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Order a copy of the September/October 2015 issue here.

Ask a child what they want to do when they grow up and the answer likely won’t factor in the workplace. In an era in which we spend most of our waking hours at work – where we work has become just as important as what we’re working on.

Offices and what we do in them all day (and night) are what make the modern Middle East function. Whether you’re an artist or an accountant, the workspace layouts that are most common today are as varied as our professions: from the prosaic modular cubicles that compartmentalise workspaces, to the trendy open-plan offices and the at-home studios.

It’s the relationships we have with these physical workplaces that can alter our productivity, and that can, in turn, lead to either professional success or struggle. The right workplace can often feel like a second home – somewhere in which we socialise, succeed and perhaps even shut out other troubles. The wrong workplace, however, can become a sore place to visit, where our attendance is the result of pure necessity – to pay rent, bills and, in general, survive.

From Berlin to Beirut, this issue of Brownbook makes an appointment at four very different offices in order to examine the complexities and pleasures of modern-day office life.

In Berlin, we meet the trio of Syrian friends behind Fehras Publishing Practices who, despite a minimal budget, managed to launch their young firm in a piece of prime real estate atop a repurposed factory in Kreuzberg. ‘The space has a significant effect on the way we work and everything that has happened so far,’ says Kenan Darwich, one of the founders, on the importance of finding the right work environment.

We also visit the office of Zeina Arida – the newly appointed director of Beirut’s soon-to-open Sursock Museum – who, each day, finds herself clocking into the restored opulence of one of the city’s grandest palaces. Following the Sursock Museum, we sit down with father-daughter architect duo Farouk and Rula Yaghmour, known for their work on the UAE’s modern Spine Mosque. Based in Amman, their offices are as aesthetically appealing as the buildings they design.

Last but not least, we visit the headquarters of an altogether different set of workers – an amateur group of Emirati stamp collectors, whose enduring passion for their disappearing past time has been given a permanent space among the handsome heritage buildings of Dubai’s Al Fahidi district. In working out of passion, they are driven by one of the most admirable ethics – as one of the members tells us, ‘We want to stand out.’

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