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QELA, The Pearl, Doha, Qatar

Issue 77 February / March 2014 : Retail: Store

Lighting Design: DPA LIGHTING DESIGN Interior Architects: UXUS DESIGN

As the flagship of a new luxury brand, the QELA store, located on Doha’s Pearl islands, had an important role to play in establishing a high-end, artisan identity onto the global stage. dpa lighting design helped create a space that is part retail destination, part art gallery.

As examples of national brand building go, few countries can match the speed and success of Qatar. Over the last fifteen years, the profile of this 11,500km² adjunct to the Arabian Peninsular has rocketed on the global stage, garnering the cautious respect of both international political and business communities. This rapid rise is in part the result of a familiar process of cultural importing and adopting, be it big name architecture, world class art collections or major sporting events - notably, FIFA’s eyebrow-raising decision to make Qatar the 2022 Football World Cup hosts.

But perhaps the most impressive part of the Qatar project has been in the country’s ability to establish itself as an exporter of Arabian culture. The state-funded Al-Jazeera news network and Qatar Airways have already reached out to a global audience and now, with the launch of luxury brand QELA, high end fashion has gained a major new name.
Owned by the Qatar Luxury Group, QELA is set to open a series of boutiques across the world offering finely crafted leather goods, shoes, jewellery and made-to-measure women’s couture – all characterised by classic lines and understated Arab influences.

The first of these stores opened in September 2013 on The Pearl - the man-made archipelago just off the Qatari coastline. Strategic design consultancy Uxus was tasked with creating the boutique – a de facto flagship store that would establish QELA as a global retail presence.
As Uxus chief executive Oliver John Palmer explains, this presented an exciting challenge. “QELA was our first project in the Gulf region, which we consider to be one of the most dynamic hubs for retail design,” he says. “The project was also unique in terms of starting our work at the very inception of the brand, allowing us to design the retail experience in close parallel with the creation of the first collections – which is extremely rare in the world of couture and luxury. This presented a chance to design a completely bespoke customer experience with a one-of-a-kind service model.”

The boutique-cum-gallery is split across two levels connected by a sleek, freestanding staircase and topped by a domed ceiling whose design reflects the architecture of the region. dpa lighting design worked with Uxus to deliver a lighting scheme that blended seamlessly into the architecture of the building and enabled staff to present luxury items at their best.

For the front-of-house areas, the brief was to design a lighting solution that provided a luxurious layered lighting appearance to accentuate the high-quality finishes, architectural interiors and features, and displays. Merchandise had to stand out from the ambient effect with highly controlled accent lighting. The client proved very forward thinking and encouraged innovation in all aspects of the design – including the very latest in lighting technology. All lighting had to be very flexible, controllable, and high colour rendering, with luminaires integrated into the interior wherever possible, as dpa’s Gary Campbell explains: “The client brief included a number of criteria including state-of-the art light equipment in terms of sources, flexibility attachments and lenses, control, flexibility, and energy efficiency,” says Campbell. “QELA is part art gallery and part high-end fashion boutique. The gallery displays change every few weeks with new exhibitions and the merchandise displays also change from time to time. Therefore a lighting design was required that provided full flexibility and ease of use by the store manager, brand visual merchandising team and gallery curator.”
The boutique comprises a number of distinct spaces: a ground floor art gallery space and merchandise displays, first floor merchandise displays including high end jewellery, a VIP Salon, and fitting rooms. With the exception of the jewellery display cases and decorative fittings, all lighting is LED based and dimmable, allowing not just flexibility, but also significant energy saving qualities to the scheme.

“The boutique is on two floors, each with ceilings at 3.8m, but there is also a central atrium that is lit from the first floor ceiling, requiring a throw of nine or ten metres into the centre floor area,” says Campbell. “There are very few LED sources that can practically illuminate products from that height without looking ugly. But it also had to work from a lighting effect point view and the RCL fittings delivered what we need in terms of power intensity and the availability of narrow beams.”
The all-LED lighting by RCL includes 187 Director DR7 and 146 Director DR8 remote-controlled spotlights. Trimless Director DR7s provide much of the store’s general lighting; these are fully recessed fittings with a clever design that means no physical components protrude below the ceiling line. Elsewhere, the recently re-engineered and upgraded Director DR8 is used to spotlight many of the pieces on display. Luminaires are focused and adjusted using handheld remote controllers or RCL’s iDirect control system via iPad, which gives the store free rein for creative lighting effects, and in highlighting not only the designer clothes and luxury goods but also the works of art that adorn the boutique’s walls.

All other general, architectural, and retail display lighting is controlled through a Lutron scene set system with directional adjustment with iDirect. A number of scenes are pre-programmed as required, with both the RCL iDirect control system and the Lutron system designed to communicate with each other, so providing further flexibility.
RCL fixtures use high power CREE modules to cater for the high ceilings, with various beam angles utilised. Other LED light sources included the GE Punch modules for the same reasons. Elsewhere Xicato Artist modules are used for normal ceiling heights.

General architectural lighting includes integrated perimeter cove lighting to wash feature wall panels and curtains, and concealed uplighting to the feature dome ceiling in the atrium.

For the jewellery displays, custom designed podiums and wall cases were developed. The glass podiums contain a very slim profile at the top, housing Sub-Zero Lighting fibre-optic end fittings with 90 degree mirrors. For the wall units, again top lighting and low level uplighting is provided by fibre-optics with linear LED to wash the back panel. Light sources are 250 watts metal halide with white colour tuning and dimmer wheels. Typical illuminance values at the base surface are 8500 lux horizontal and 3500 lux vertical.

Though warm white is used throughout the store, a separately controlled, cool white spotlight is used above the jewellery consultation desk, so deliver maximum impact for the silver and diamonds pieces being viewed.

In the fitting rooms there are ceiling features over the mirrors with colour tuning white light, narrow beam pinhole accent lights from Lucent to pick out fabric textures, and with integrated mirror lighting. This is supplemented with perimeter cove lighting to wash curtains and decorative feature lighting.

With the successful launch of QELA in Doha, the Qatar Luxury Group now plans to expand the brand into Europe and has already announced Paris as the next boutique location.


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