Outdoor opulence: Award-winning integration at The Palm, Dubai
Winner of Best Integrated Home (£100,000 - £250,000) at last year’s CEDIA Awards, Charlotte Ashley visits a villa that perfectly blends modern styling with technology innovation.
Nestled on the outskirts of Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, sitting across from the iconic Atlantis resort, is villa 28. By all appearances the home is like many in the area – defined by unabashed luxury and contemporary architecture – but at a flick of a switch, the villa’s outdoor space transforms thanks to inventive integration work by local installer Archimedia.
“This is the part of the installation that has received the most attention,” says Calvin Keelan, operations manager at integrator Archimedia, holding a small remote in the villa’s garden. At the touch of a button an 85-in TV slowly comes out of the ground filling the outdoor area with pop music. “He was very specific about this part of the project. He wanted a large TV outside, but he didn’t want to see it when it wasn’t in use,” recalls Keelan, designer of the system.
Originally the homeowner, a long-term client of the local integrator, wanted a TV with a marble finish to complement the space, but weight restrictions meant instead the integrator had to use timber cladding matching the front of the house. The control interface is concealed under the grass, with sound delivered via six Bower and Wilkins AM1s, with three positioned on each side of the TV in the nearby bushes, housed in cabinetry filled with high density foam to minimise resonance. The homeowner plans to switch to a Pro Audio system in the near future to get the outdoor sound to really “pump,” with ambitions later down the line to make the sound “pop-up” too. “The next thing he’s talking about is doing the same thing but for speakers now, so we might put some in that follow the same concept, and appear out from the ground when you want them to,” says Keelan.
The TV – unique in Palm Jumeriah – serves as the focal point to the back of the villa, surrounded by a large, shallow infinity pool and entertaining area. Here, the client can watch films from the pool or play music during outside gatherings, against the backdrop of the blue of the Arabian Gulf and the imposing pink structure of the Atlantis Hotel, one of the most famous landmarks in the region.
Archimedia had to coordinate various parties (including the fabricator, supplier, main contractor, MEP contractor and landscape designer) to deliver the system, as well work to receive authority approval from the local housing developer. Changing the cladding was not the only issue presented by the TV installation, as original plans proved to be too large-scale. “The original design was to have an underground chamber with a manhole so you could go in and access it from underneath, but the cost was just phenomenal,” says Keelan. “We ended up adjusting the design so it’s basically a box within a box, comprised of the lift (from Inca) and a box that sits underneath it.” The lift’s housing was constructed from 6mm treated steel to ensure both the mechanism and TV were protected. He adds: “Thankfully the beach is there as putting this in was extremely challenging.”
“The original design was to have an underground chamber with a manhole so you could go in and access the TV from underneath, but the cost was just phenomenal.”
Cranes and manpower were essential for transporting the system from the beach to the villa, and making it possible to remove the lift should it require any future maintenance. “We had to build a box around the lift housing and allow for the removal of the lid, which underneath we could then screw ‘eye’ bolts into to allow for a crane to be able to lift the lid out of the surrounding box. “Although time-consuming (totalling around 12 hours for design, four hours of programming and 20 hours for installation), the project’s success has meant requests for outdoor TVs among Archimedia’s client base in the UAE are on the rise; “It’s becoming popular now that we did this one successfully.”
A Ruckus wireless network and multiple access points were additionally deployed both indoors and outdoors to ensure the Wi-Fi signal was as strong as possible for the homeowner and his family when at the beach. Elsewhere discreetly dotted around the exterior of the property are small Avigalon 1.0 and 2.0 megapixel CCTV cameras connected to a Mobotix door entry system, integrated with Savant so the client can answer the phone from his iPad or another device. Feeds also stream to a hut located outside the property from which security staff can monitor the home.
Step inside and the contemporary styling of the villa – accentuated by neutral furnishings, dark wood grains and large modern paintings and sculptures – is complemented by the latest AV systems, spanning two media rooms and a home cinema. “Having split Lutron & Nevo (not integrated) before in his previous home, the homeowner was seeking a fully integrated system,” says Keelan. Lutron lighting – a mix of dimmed circuits and DALI-controlled units – and temperature control features throughout the home, integrated with Savant to meet the homeowner’s request for a “simple system” that he could easily change and expand. “He is also an avid Apple and Sonos user so Savant was the obvious choice,” states Keelan. The homeowner adds: “The Savant 7.0 functionality of being able to create my own scenes to be triggered at certain times means I don’t need to call each time I want a change done, which is terrific.”
“He is an avid Apple and Sonos user so Savant was the obvious choice.”
Inside the client was again keen for the technology to be used but rarely seen, opting for speakers placed behind the fabric in his indoor TV rooms, one downstairs (55-in) accompanied by a Bowers & Wilkins Panorama sound bar and one upstairs (65-in). Four Amina AIW350E invisible speakers are also deployed in his downstairs living areas for music. “We chose products that were invisible or could be entirely concealed in cabinetry ceilings, so in-wall speakers with paintable grills along with plastered-in speakers were specified,” comments Keelan. When hosting get-togethers in the main living room, the homeowner will also call on Archimedia to borrow a pair of floor-standing loudspeakers, with Bang & Olufsen a particular favourite. Sonos is also now integrated with the wider Savant system – a smooth integration the homeowner can easily navigate according to Keelan.
Framed by a huge window overlooking the water, the main living space features floor-to-ceiling blinds to which the integrator added the ability to control each individual panel of the 12 separately. “The height of the blinds and where the motors are located didn’t allow for quick commissioning. It was a headache to do, but we got there in the end,” says Keelan. Table lights are also connected to the lighting system allowing them to be turned on or off via the keypad.
Upstairs a pair of Bowers & Wilkins in-ceiling speakers provide sound in homeowner’s study, with in-wall speakers deployed in the media room – positioned in the cabinet to try and optimise sound from the Samsung TV in a “challenging space.” Here MEMs and dual layers of blinds also feature, programmed so that during the day the homeowner has access to both sheer and blackout options, with the blackout blinds coming up in the evening so he can enjoy the view of Dubai at night. On the second floor is a dedicated kid’s play area, featuring a 55-in TV and in-ceiling speakers.
In the basement, the client’s “den,” features a gym and spa area and a home cinema. In the cinema room, styled with reclining leather seats and soft cushioned flooring, is a 103-in Panasonic screen Archimedia had specifically sourced for the client and a Bang & Olufsen sound system. “The display was the last new unit available in the entire region that we could find,” notes Keelan.
The homeowner’s preference for a Bang & Olufsen system proved particularly problematic for the Archimedia team when integrating the previously installed system with Savant. “It was especially difficult to integrate because it was the first time we’d done it,” says Keelan. Access panels had to be installed around the room to get connections working and the two systems talking to each other. “It took about a week to get it working as we were integrating an old B&O system working on its proprietary Masterlink communication BUS with Savant that speaks IP.” He adds: “We consulted and subcontracted the local B&O dealer to get it completed.”
Delivered on time for €260,000 (£230,000), this Palm Jumeirah Villa is an on-going project for homeowner that’s certain to continue to push convention. But for now, he is very satisfied with the new way to control his home; “I wanted a discreet solution and that’s what I got – it’s perfect.”
• Apple TV 2G digital media receivers
• Avigilon micro dome and PTZ cameras
• Amina AIW4X/AIW350E invisible speakers
• Bowers & Wilkins panorama sound bar, centre speaker AM-1 weatherproof speakers, in-wall speakers and in-ceiling speakers
• Integra 5.2 and 7.2 Ch AV receiver
• Lutron 3-button & 8-button keypads, 2-zone & 4-zone switching modules and control interfaces
• Mobotix IP video door station
• Samsung TVs (55-, 65-, 85-in)
• Savant AV matrix switcher, intercom server, stream preamp, SmartControl 8, 4-channel inputs & output cards, HDMI over fibre receivers and 16-channel digital power amplifier
• Techlogiks system racks and accessories