Fans of the Dubai Design Week will recognize the D3 complex as the home of the exhibitions, design studios and retail experiences that give the fledgling event its grand character. But how do businesses that have nothing to do with design fare inside the district?

Take the Warehouse Gym, for example. The recent project by VSHD Design responded to that question by taking its surroundings into account, producing a space that could be mistaken for a Design Week exhibition. ‘We were determined to refrain from using the usual materials found in most health clubs,’ explained Rania Hamed, VSHD’s lead designer. Her team found inspiration in brutalism and underground fight clubs, and went for concrete bricks combined with gold-copper alloy, to make it look ‘current, yet warm and muscular.’

Inside the 600 sq-m layout, the facility includes a gym floor, a juice bar, a cycling studio and a circuit training factory. To add some visual separation to areas that are bound together by the use of similar materials, the design firm used bespoke LED suspended lights that can be controlled in each different exercise zone.

The Warehouse Gym manages to communicate something many over-designed fitness centres seem to forget

The reception-cum-juice-bar is behind a 17-meter-long glass façade across one of the main D3 streets – from a promotional point of view, it's the gym’s gateway drug. ‘We planned it as a meeting point for the design community, where non-member scan stop by and grab a healthy smoothie while experiencing the ambience of the gym,’ Hamed said.

In the past four years, we’ve seen workout spaces get a material upgrade and a dignified facelift, particularly with the rise of facilities inside high-end members’ clubs – you can read more about that trend here. But the Warehouse Gym manages to communicate something many over-designed fitness centres seem to forget: unlike other types of hospitality spaces, the gymnasium is a place for physical meditation and the human body its most important machine. With this project, VSHD was able to combine narrative beauty and material restraint in a way that feels both commercially savvy and respectfully timeless.

The Warehouse Gym is one of the five nominees in the Health Club of the Year section at the Frame Awards 2019. At the time of publication, it was leading the Public Vote in its category, with a score of 7.30. Want to vote for your favorite project in this and other award sections? Cast your vote here – you have until 18 February to do so.