Into the Future with Dubai Design Week

November 1st, 2016

Dubai Design Week showcases ideas and art that is pleasing to the eye and futuristic. Soniya Kirpalani has all the insights on the innovative extravaganza…


Bhaye by Ape Creative

Every Autumn, as the mercury levels drop, Dubai puts out an extensive program for innovation, art and design students and aficionados to experience and understand design from and within Dubai. Held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice Chairman of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, supported by Dubai Culture and by the Dubai Design and Fashion Council (DDFC), the driving forces for development of Dubai into a global creative economy, both Design Week and Downtown Design Week have swiftly ensconced itself as one of the finest destination for design in the region.


Cities, Galleria Mall, Grafitti apple by Bull and Stein

Due credit has to be given to the regional talent, who along with the organization are consciously designing interactive exhibits and experiences that offer inclusive activities for their audiences. Careful curation, design education, cultural walks, design tours also offer audiences of every age rare experiences, an opportunity for skill development and knowledge resource through several touch points. This ambitious podium is also where talent meets trade, through a high-quality design trade fair at Downtown Design. This aspect of creative commercialization offers it a serious edge, even though it is only in its 3rd edition. Slowly but surely DW + DDW are now recognized as one of the leading international design events, with strong focus on showcasing new regional talents, with the aim of fostering the region’s premiere creative economy.
What makes Design Weeks more inclusive, is the offsite events. Opening up the host city as a platform for visual extempore exploration, Design Week and Downtown Design Week creates an urban environment, where people can move from D3 through the city’s purpose built design shows and spaces, that provide information on how art, design can touch lives. Opening up dialogue and discussing local challenges, socio-cultural and politically-related issues Dubai Design Week has swiftly emerged as a platform for communication within Dubai’s multi-cultural-plural communities. Going beyond the iconic ‘big, bling and behemoth cement skylines’ Dubai is making the city accessible to both designers and the local communities.

Abwab is a series of six pavilions built to showcase the work of exciting designers, studios and curators from six different countries across MENASA region. Abwab means ‘Doors’ in Arabic and acts as direct portal to the region’s design talent. A curator from each participating country, leads a design contest under one unifying theme; the winners is invited to showcase this at the Design Week. The theme this season was The Human Senses. My visual exploration led me through exploring the ABWAB/Jordan Pavilion’s untitled swing project by and ABWAB/ India Pavilion audience-interactive where audiences were invited to make their personal memory into a tile and then assemble it into a library of memories.


A surface by a hypothetical office

It was ABWAB/ Bahrain that tweaked my interest through highlighting its deep-rooted connection legacy of pottery. The island’s history, right from its archaeological excavations through industrial age has promoted the hybrid clay production of clay. Maitham Al Mubarak and Othman Khunji, continue this trajectory through collaboration, seeking to transform clay into a more accessible and malleable material. Renewing this dormant craft through the customisation process, they invited their audiences to use of clay, manipulating basic and necessary shapes, pushing their creativity into developing new forms- redefining what is norm.


The Future Cafeteria

ABWAB/ UAE also took on a very interesting glocal theme. Spotlighting the very essence of the word "coffee shop” ABWAB UAE revealed how these humble places of self-served experiences, which were originally built to economise time and costs, have swiftly become places that offer very unique representative of their culture and food. Coffee shops are somewhat integral to Emirati cultural experience, the city is filled with region’s cafeteria that offer a mélange of diverse and dissipate experiences, tastes, visuals. Bringing together all these to form a multicultural singularity that can effectively reveal the multiple layers of UAE’s cultural phenomena is a giant task. ABWAB UAE Team showcased this visible cultural concoction with aplomb, which struck a chord with most Dubaites.

Though D3 and Dubai Design District are ground zero for hosting most of the events, they evangelize the rest of Dubai’s art institutions and unique locations and deliver unique offsite events and experiences. Carefully selecting Dubai’s site specific locations, to offer natural hubs where the art/design is fostered and conceived, they then consciously stir dialogue which leads to communication between the creators and the audiences. And this is what makes Design Week more interesting than Art or Fashion Week as it gives it an edge by tapping into Dubai’s curiosity. Every season Dubai Design Week uses this careful approach to ensure an interactive and inclusive experience, where talent fearless explores their creativity, even in shared spaces.

RAS AL KHOR, is a place, which has until now been off the normal Dubaite’s radar. It was a clear and conscious effort by a few local designers, artists, architects, to foster and highlight the local industry which was swiftly disappearing. Khalid Shafar, Khulood Thani, Nadine Kanso and Tarik al Zaharna came together with a mission of renewing Ras Al Khor Industrial Area (which was one of Dubai’s oldest production areas). Stirring awareness, creating new footfalls, channelling great energy, they have been evolving it into a creative district, centred on design research, innovation and material exploration. Hosting experiences, panel discussions and one-on-one interactions they cover important challenges and issues- from Dubai’s consumptions to the Migratory Birds, with design trends, traditional crafts, technology and sustainability at its core.

If you wanted to see the talent of local designers, then head for Tashkeel. This is an initiative committed to facilitating art, design, creative experimentation and cross cultural dialogue. It offers local artists fellowships, workshops and training. During the Week, Tashkeel showcased the works of Amer Aldour (a limited edition of furniture and lighting products) Talin Hazbar, Zuleika Penniman, Studio Muju. All these designers have been a part of their program which tapped into the diversity of the cultural skills and resources, to select talented designers who created design products that exemplify UAE’s inherent design sensibilities under Tanween (Tashkeel’s product label).

Burj Khalifa
Every night at 6.45 p.m. right after the sun set, the Burj Khalifa turned into a Canvas, presenting Light 2 installations from Studio Mr.White and Japan’s leading talent Yusuke Murakami + Tangent. Every day, every 30 minutes this light experience evolves from coloured bubbles of light to neo-cubist shapes that reflect Murakami’s clear signature which innovatively mimics magna, crystals deep sea creatures, the city’s lights, its mountains and stars. It was pure visual mesmerisation.


Burj Khalifa, StudioMrWhite - Hani Abyad

Fashion got its own headcount through hosted at purpose built spaces

1971 Design Space: DE.FASH.STRUCTION
A show that showcased UAE's rich cultural heritage through the medium of contemporary fashion, employing techniques of deconstruction in their newly commissioned garments, especially developed for the design week. This installation will be exhibited until December 26th, head down to The Flag Island Sharjah for a peek.

S*uce’s The Design Shop continues to create its very unique mobile design shopping experience at d3, featuring a carefully edited selection of design pieces from a host of regional and international designers, is an exclusive collaboration with LA based installation artist, Paige Smith.

Ensuring commerce is at the heart of the week; supportive of globally established talents and leading design brands, the Downtown Design Dubai was designed to showcase and create sales. Top local galleries like Nakkash, international design brands like Germany's Hacker Kitchens and Rolf-Benz, Precosia, Italy's Kartell, Denmark's Georg Jenson unveil unique pieces and build creative exclusive experiences tapping into the deep regional pockets.


Bend Goods - Betty Stackable Chair

Kartell @ Galeries Lafayette proved that an interesting mesh of two historical and renowned French Italian brand can truly lend to each other. Kartell showcased a few iconic pieces of product and industrial design, from its private collection, exclusively at Galeries Lafayette; some of these pieces were available for sale only during Dubai Design Week.


Installations, Through the Lens, Emanuela Corti & Ivan

Nakkash Gallery’s Origami Tribute
Nakkash is noted for being a gallery at the cornerstone of Dubai’s artistic evolution. They paid a tribute to the art of Origami, which is believed to have emerged during the 6th century, through a spectacular Origami installation focusing on the art of transformation.


Beirut Design Week, Tamara Barrage

The region’s leaders have clearly understood that design and innovation is going to drive the country ahead. Hosting the Global Grad Show, they have always won critical acclaim for capturing pulse of the emerging designers. This year, it was the largest such grad show, with close to 50 universities participating, 145 design students who attended; the energy is palpable. One of the more interesting exhibits was that of American University in Dubai, who partnered with Swedish wood, exploring the links between Scandinavian wood culture and Arabic design. Exchanging ideas, design, they developed furniture, decorations adapted to Arab traditions and culture which was showcased at their campus.


Trenc Water Saver by Marc Garcia Jane, Barcelona Tech

D3 also was an enabler; providing the finest design education through leading global education giants, at nominal prices, they made a big attempt to facilitate design education. Free talks, designer led engagement and interactive participation also stirred design understanding in the audiences, which is critical, as now Design Week and D3 have a large task ahead of building commercial capacity to sustain this phenomenal regional talent.

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