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The Brief
Carbon was approached to design Bloomsbury’s, the first international branch for Bea’s of Bloomsbury, a London based fresh food cafe. The offer was to be a cupcake kiosk in a mall that also had a fully functioning production baking kitchen that was on full display.

With a logo, a basic material palette and the general site identified, Carbon was asked to translate and elevate the UK brand into a Luxury Cupcake offer that translated the Victorian Charm and Sophistication into a modern and sleek international brand that was scalable and affordable and instantly recognizable in the crowded UAE cupcake market.

Sited within Al Wahda Mall in Abu Dhabi, the site location was within a triple height mall atrium with shops and kiosks on all sides. The site conditions had restrictions on circulation space,
unobstructed views from existing shops, maximum heights, safety and security (day and night), and limited construction hours (non mall operation hours).

The Solution
Carbon approached the design knowing that a great customer experience starts with the right Customer Journey and an immersive customer experience… “We knew it had to be more than a simple servery counter with stools.”

Carbon’s solution was to enclose the kiosk in order to focus the attention to the branded area. A tall simple portal that allowed for framed experiences, framed views and framed functions
allowed Carbon to create a simple yet rich architectural language in the middle of a busy mall. This would allow customers to experience the Bloomsbury’s cupcakes in a true retail lead built environment.

To future proof the concept, the portal established a modular ‘Kit of Parts’ for Bloomsbury’s to adapt per site for future Roll-Outs across the Middle East. All sub-components were designed as secondary modular units to be configurable based upon the site constraint, user requirements and conditions.

Carbon, when designing the Bloomsbury’s ‘Kit of Parts’, pitched to the client that the ‘Bloomsbury’s Experience’ would be one of ‘Theater’. “We see the built environment of Bloomsbury’s to be The Stage in which the Baking and Icing of the Cupcakes will be the Performance. The Display of the Cupcakes will be the Main Feature and the coming and going of your customers will add to the drama and spectacle.

To be seen buying, to be seen eating, to be seen carrying a bag or box of Bloomsbury’s will be what creates buzz and word of mouth, but when your customers sit and enjoy a Bloomsbury’s Cupcake in your built environment, we believe they will have had and experience that they will repeat and enjoy time and time again.”

The construction process was engineered with modular portal elements that link together with integrated services, creating the stage. The supporting counter, display, storage and kitchen components get dropped in place and sprinkled with the cast of cupcakes. Whilst maintaining a sense of transparency with existing site-lines across adjacent shops and avenues in the mall.

It was crucial to maintain a tight palette of materials and colours that related closely to the offer of Bloomsbury’s; but also not detract from the colourful cupcakes. Lighting, be it natural or artificial was also carefully considered in order to enhance the sense of space, atmosphere and views through.

The Success
To see Bloomsbury in the mall has established the brand overnight in Abu Dhabi. The success of the design lies in having created a free standing object that demands presences from the approach, but has intimate, controlled spaces within an open mall environment. Overall, the kiosk stands as a dramatic theatre set for the colourful cupcakes which are the star of the show.

After launching in May 2011, cupcakes are still selling out. Daily, customers can be seen socializing intimately within seating niches of the portals, gathering in groups in larger sofa areas and enjoying a brief moment within at the touch down counter spaces.

The designers:
carbon is a London based multi-disciplinary design practice. Established by Go Sugimoto and Ahmed Ansari, the studio engages in the design of human social spaces in retail, residential, commercial, education and cultural projects. Currently the studio is working on retail projects in London, India, Dubai, residential projects across London, the Middle East and Africa with a strong focus on the integration of brand as it relates to the individual expression.

Photographer: Issa Saleh AlKindy
Designers: Carbon (
AWARDS: 2011 Commercial Interior Design Awards – Retail of the Year

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