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Heinemann abu dhabi

Project type: Duty Free Shop


Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE


Time: 2015


Status: Design

The inspiration for the design of this large duty-free shop in Abu Dhabi’s Midfield Terminal was the falcon, a bird of prey that is in many respects a symbol of the United Arab Emirates, evoking the country’s historic traditions while also alluding to its rapid cultural modernisation. The new Heinemann Duty Free Shop in Abu Dhabi is an upmarket, well-appointed retail environment with a visually engaging design that draws its inspiration from the elegant bird.


The design of the space captures the spirit of the still popular tradition of falconry, expressing in its design both the sleek elegance and bold agility of the creature. Falconry is an art that marries beauty and precision in which the grace of the watchful bird transitions from one moment to the next into the highly-efficient strike of the hunter. Each feather, its shape, direction and layering, serves a purpose, working in unison as the bird dives from above.


The design of the new space reflects this tension, juxtaposing beauty in the form of soft, elegant forms against a precision-cut layered sculpture whose aesthetic patterning recalls the falcon’s plumage. Sweeping lines encircle the store, reaching around the visitor to create an open and inviting atmosphere. These soft lines recur in the furniture and shelving and communicate a sense of gentle, graceful movement.


In a grand gesture at the centre of the store, the ‘falcon’ swoops into the space from above in the form of a dynamic suspended sculpture. Its individual overlapping elements tumbled downwards in a flutter of light and reflections, recalling the feathers of a falcon. This sculptural element is the signature element of the store, both in terms of its colour and materials.

The sales floor is organized around a single circulatory loop around the central sculpture. The space is populated by a series of Gondolas, designed to be modular in assembly, grouped in a series of islands around the loop. Each module is tailored to a specific purpose, resulting in specialised configurations that do not recur elsewhere in the shop. Shelves and multimedia screens surround the sales floor, creating a constantly changing and engaging background for the visitor.


Seen from the main terminal area, the Martini promotion stand situated midway between the beginning and end of the loop is the most visually striking element. The stand mirrors the typology of the central falcon sculpture, drawing attention to the multifunctional merchandising stand with complete with formula 1 car. The bar and display cases are clustered as small islands, creating an open space between them to explore the store and its wares.


The humidor and wine cabinet on the other hand offer a place of retreat, with a spacious hospitality area set aside from the main sales floor where one can stay and relax. Natural, darker materials contrast with the contemporary digital technology of the main shop, creating a comfortable but exclusive space with a more personal character.


The falcon sculpture is the store’s ‘wow factor’, an illuminated ceiling structure that circles above and dives into the space. It is the central feature of the store and denotes the special display areas. The structure itself is constructed of six folded aluminium elements, precision-cut to create the create the complex sculptural form. Four finishes are employed to mimic the mimic the patterning of a falcon’s wing in flight. While part of the structure is fixed to arcing beams above, concealed from view, the portions that reach into the space are self-supporting, holding each other through connectors between the six elements. This system gives the appearance of a lightweight, dynamic structure, speckled with light, but its construction is an engineering masterpiece.


The ambient lighting above the sculpture shifts, reflecting through the perforated panels and creating a movement, or a rustling above. Directional lighting mounted within the voids of the sculpture itself focus light on the individual sales areas.