Just press play

Interior design to encourage activity in children.

The link between paediatrics and interior design may not be immediately obvious, but for Sameer Al Mahmood Real Estate Investment & Development, the company behind Zenith Tower, it has proved a connection worth exploring.

In developing the mixed-use tower for City of Arabia, the company approached Dr Rajeshree Singhania, a specialist paediatrician, to help it create thoughtfully designed play and learning centre for children.

Singhania's child development expertise was paired with the skills of the company's own interior design team to develop the idea. This unusual partnership is expected to take the project through the concept stage to fit out and launch.

The play zones will occupy a 5000 ft2 space, divided into an outdoor area, an indoor space for children up to the age of 12, and a separate area for young teens.

"Play is the work of the child and its importance cannot be underestimated - play prepares children for society, emotional development and interaction,"? said Singhania.

"There are many related issues around the frequency of play; one of those being autism which is a growing concern in the UAE. Well-equipped play facilities should be far more prevalent and I would hope to see them made mandatory in residential developments in the future. This is particularly important in the Middle East as the opportunities for outdoor play are limited during the summer months."

Encouraging physical activity, even at a low-level, is one of the striking elements of the design, which is notable for its exclusion of televisions and games consoles.

Brij Mahajan, director of operations for Sameer Al Mahmood, explained that from the outset the company wanted to structure the building to target urban families.

"Part of that task was to evaluate the demographic of Dubai today,"? he said. "We realised that a huge percentage of Dubai's population is young couples and population growth and new births are high."

The company questioned how it could cater for this segment of the market and from there developed the idea of a large space catering specifically for children.

"While we are basically doing this to distinguish our project, the root cause is a desire to provide something for children in the building,"? said Mahajan.

While the concepts have been completed, Singhania and the development team are still at work specifying equipment and sourcing manufacturers. One of the key contributions the doctor has made is in defining and categorising the types of play that need to be encouraged, whether active, social or imaginative.

The target completion date for the project is the end of 2010.

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