Words: Lauren Wahed JWT Senior Editor
As you watch the Alchemy showcase video, your eyes are drawn upward, where a glass amoeba entity is adjacent to the villaʼs exterior. It seems to be digesting the building—engulfing the brickwork. Enter inside the main lobby, where industrial inspired columns ooze hungrily down the hall. Ahead, a dramatically shaped concrete structure, inscribed with the agencyʼs acronym.
The introduction to JWT Cairoʼs agency in Zamalek radiates a belle-époque grandeur, which is both contemporary and functional. Alchemy, a reputable design team based in Cairo, began with a brief & spun their notion, “state of becoming,” to emphasize the nature of the advertising industry—especially in terms of interior layouts, which arguably provide a considerable degree of creative freedom and an ongoing process of creation. To that end, elevating the mundane through an artful interior, is a specialty of Chief Designers, Karim Mekhtigian & Mohamed Fares. In the case of JWTʼs new home, they worked metaphorically, creating structural channels to translate the workflow of all the departments. According to Fares, “The building was designed with a dimensional, geometric facade, and we wanted the interior to echo that, so people would have a sense of the buildingʼs geometry from within as well.” The design had to have an interactive layer. Designer, Eman Hussein notes, “So everything would be refined by the dynamic notion of becoming.” To add the contemporary-stylised edge, Fares explained that he created a structural forest of concrete beams, in juxtaposition to the belle- époque brick building and cityscape it resides in. Such thematic details are important in the work of Alchemy, Designer Hussein says: “We do not want to just clad walls in a material or textile, but to bring architecture into the building.” And vice versa. As Mekhtigian explains, the design also wanted to reveal the evocative interior to outside viewers, which made effective lighting especially important. “We wanted the framework visible at all times in the day & night, so it would reveal contrasts between the different design elements in the space.” A whimsical effect was also adopted by the Alchemy Design team, when converting Zamalekʼs historic gem into a multi-use villa. The lobby lounge features glass walls that are left open for large gatherings or closed to create intimate areas. The spaces are then gently illuminated on all sides, providing a textured translucence, casting a warm brown-amber glow. Such details exemplify Alchemyʼs intent. “My aim was to design a contemporary interior, that would stimulate imagination with a fresh, updated language, but be wrapped with a glow of nostalgia,” says Mekhtigian. “Cool and contrasting, that evokes Cairoʼs organized chaos.”