Imagine dreaming up a fantastical world for your wedding—a place where guests can be transported to an unseen universe. There is a company that can make that dream come true for couples. For Dubai and Riyadh based, Designlab Experience, no project is too over-the-top or expansive. This group of architects, designers and creatives specialize in transformative experiences through bespoke architectural design and art. The installations or immersive environments have an other-worldly quality and walk the line between realty and science fiction. The team lavishly uses floral and other organic features, grouping the celestial environment in the natural world, but there is no doubt you are in another universe. Guest tables are places by reflective pools and archways with undulating motifs, and chandeliers have a thousand lights.
The company’s home base ( Middle East) surely influenced their boundless ideas and penchance for the grand. We had a few questions for the principals of Designlab Experience, Hibah AlBakree, Marwan Maalouf, and Mootassem El Baba, to get their insights on the process of creating a unique and artful wedding experience
Can you talk about the process of working with couples to create and make their dreams wedding?
We explore the complex relationship between people, concepts, and spaces to deepen the expression and create exceptional moments.
So, when clients come to us with an idea or a brief, we ask them more about themselves and less about the type of wedding they want. Questions about their favorite movie? Their definition of love? Or even their most memorable experience? Usually, we get references from them, such as a piece of jewelry, furniture, or a dress. The references can be physical or emotional.
These things shape people and help us define their style to make the dream of their special day a reality.
How long have you been in existence and how did it all begin?
Designlab Experience started in 2006 when Hibah Al Bakree and Mootassem El Baba co-founded the business we see today.
During these 16 years together, the business has gone through many iterations, fine-tuning its offering and consistently growing its team and presence. It all began with Arabesque, a strikingly different and very much architecturally led wedding design for its time.
Today, we continue to produce weddings, which are the heart and soul of the business and have allowed us to be noticed by brands, governments, and institutions to design events, installations, and brand experiences.
How long does the process take from beginning to end ? Please talk about the process of creating these wedding spaces.
Every project has a different timeline specific to the complexity and scale of the wedding. We embrace the challenge to create a unique, inherently distinct narrative that matches our client’s personality. Every project is different because every person is different.
It begins with articulating the idea that shapes everything. Our creative practice starts with research in the areas of architecture, arts, and culture – as well as design, identifying the anchors of the concept, followed by mapping every touchpoint within the experience journey and narrative. Experimentation plays a huge role in our studio, where we habitually produce mockups and review samples until it is perfect. Throughout the process, it’s always a collaborative dialogue.
During the design process, we partner selectively with artists and collaborators who share our determination to deliver game-changing results and uncompromisingly high standards. The key here is to work in genuine harmony with the single-minded ambition to complement each other’s work and never overpower it.
Are there any ideas you would NOT do for a couple because of your ethics? Do you get some outrageous requests and if so what are they.
On the contrary, we usually challenge our clients to expand their vision and think big. No idea we receive is impossible! We are lucky to attract a lot of brave clients who tend to take risks and allow us to guide them through their imagination.
We consider outrageous requests a challenge to continually raise the bar and push our boundaries. In terms of things, we do NOT do – we never recreate the same design twice.
It seems from your imagery that you work with large spaces. Do you ever built or transform smaller spaces for clients?
At Designlab Experience, we do not limit the projects we take by the size or dimensions of a space. Designing at either scale requires equal effort, and we pride ourselves in giving the same attention to all our weddings.
We explore the creative intention behind every brief and its potential for transformation. The goal is to align ourselves with projects that will deliver the right impact, no matter the size of the space.
Was there a project that seemed impossible to complete due to a couple’s request?
Our team appreciates challenges for the opportunity they allow us to experiment and innovate.
Typically, our clients are comfortable being led by our creative advice and counsel, which enables us to build on their initial vision and develop it. Often these visions come with seemingly impossible components.
After all, each couple usually envisages their wedding to be next level. Ultimately, we help answer client briefs with the most innovative solutions that are as stunning as they are on point and budget.
Your company is composed of architects and artists? Do you oversee every aspect of the experience, including catering, since every single element of your work seems so intertwined?
We focus on environmental design and experience journey mapping, including all aspects of a wedding.
Architects, creatives, and project managers play a vital role in project execution and are involved at every step of the planning and production. Architects play a central role at Designlab Experience, and their output is an integral part of the heart and soul of the business. Architects plan, develop, and implement structural, environmental, and experiential designs.
The Creative team covers various disciplines and underpins design solutions by being inspired and inspiring thinkers. They combine strategic discipline with stunning interior styling, performance art, entertainment, and multi-sensory moments – be those culinary or experiential and, naturally, great elegance.
Finally, the team responsible for delivering our creative design work are first and foremost guardians, then the Project Managers. Guardians who strike the perfect balance between design intentions and the best interests of all parties. Project managers bring memorable experiences to life and work closely with many colleagues, partners, suppliers, and clients. As a multi-disciplinary design studio, we respect each discipline that serves the idea.
In collaboration, Designlab Experience sits at the top of the creative pyramid, and we are deeply involved with all our collaborators, be those artists, lighting designers, music composers, culinary stylists, fashion designers, florists, photographers and videographers etc.
We assemble the ideal team of talent and take charge in orchestrating the output from day one.