Dubai Design Week 2017, a regional design and creative hub

In only three editions, Dubai Design Week has grown to equal in stature its sister event Art Week.
December 17, 2017
Benedict Floyd, CEO and co-founder of Art Dubai Group

Dubai - With more than 200 events offered, a record 60,000 visitors attend­ed Dubai Design Week’s third edition in the Dubai Design District, an impressive 50% increase from last year’s attend­ance.

About 150 exhibitors showcased at Downtown Design, which serves as the design industry’s regional meeting point and a platform to explore the latest trends in con­temporary design. More than 70 exhibitors were new to the event and the region.

The Global Grad Show displayed more than 200 projects from 92 universities. Events, pop-ups, talks, workshops and installa­tions, as well as sponsored design awards, made Dubai Design Week memorable for the design commu­nity, students and the public.

“In only three editions, Dubai Design Week has grown to equal in stature its sister event Art Week and plays a similar role in establishing Dubai as the region’s capital for culture and creativity,” said Benedict Floyd, CEO and co-founder of Art Dubai Group.

The event’s focus on local and regional talent was evident throughout the content and col­lections.

Abdulla BelJafla, an Emirati jewellery designer, showcased his latest collection. It was the third year that his 7-year-old company, Gafla, has participated. The event provided “a good opportunity to interact with many international designers and get their feedback. It is like an exchange of cultures, which I enjoy very much,” BelJafla said.

He said he was inspired by tra­ditional Arabic jewellery, which he translates to something lighter using pearl, diamonds and natu­ral gemstones. The collection was showcased in a remarkable custom-made geometric matrix structure, aptly named “Specular.” It was designed by award-winning Emirati architect Abdalla Almulla.

Emirati multidisciplinary de­signer Aljoud Lootah’s Al Areesh collection of furniture and lighting products pays homage to the tradi­tional structure of Emirati summer houses and majlises of yore, where the gaps in the walls allowed for ventilation. The designs play with light and shadows in the collection that encompasses a room divider, a coffee table, a stool and a table lamp.

One of the major highlights of Dubai Design Week was Abwab — meaning “doors” in Arabic — showcasing contemporary design objects drawn from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (Menasa). Abwab this year was in a custom-made pavilion in the heart of the Dubai Design District. The pavilion drew widespread praise for its form created out of locally sourced materials — the porous skin of the structure was composed of bedsprings borrowed from environmental management company Bee’ah.

“We used to tackle the Menasa region in six individual pavilions with six dedicated countries. We found that was too limiting,” said Rawan Kashkoush, creative di­rector of Abwab. “So we decided to come up with a mechanism to access as many designers and as many countries as possible.”

More than 250 designers across three regions were reached through an innovative peer-se­lection process. To be considered for selection, each designer was required to nominate another de­signer to submit works. Out of these, the editorial board selected 47 designers from 15 countries, essentially tripling the number of countries represented.

“What is really interesting about the works is that they are in es­sence reflections of the cultures and the design pulse of each of these places. Some designers used historic traditions and craft, while other used local material and pro­duction methods,” said Kashk­oush.

Jacob 15 by Yacob Sughair from Jordan featured a low table in the shape of a Marie biscuit — the pop­ular childhood symbol invoking nostalgia, delight and humour.

Dubai-based design studio LOCI re-envisioned the mashrabiya — traditional Islamic window ele­ment with its characteristic lattice­work — as room dividers, creating a semi-permeable membrane using multi-wall polycarbonate sheets to contain desert sands.

The iconic Unit’e by architect-designer Ilyas Meftah from Mo­rocco is a cube-shaped lamp com­prising a fine metal lace that takes up to 1,500 hours of highly skilled work at the Meftah workshop “combining contemporary design, Islamic art and ancient Moroccan knowhow,” the designer said. “Our dream is to share Moroccan exper­tise around the world and push the limits of traditional tools to make artwork like that.”

Another highlight of Dubai De­sign Week was Iconic City, which this year featured Casablanca. Cu­rated by Salma Lahlou and titled “Iconic City: Loading… Casa,” the exhibition is a deep dive into the century-old mutations of a city built on two fundamental axes — commerce and immigration — and functioned as a laboratory of ar­chitecture and urbanism.

The show was categorised into Transhumance, Mutation, Coun­ter-culture, Amnesiac memory and Hedonism. The city’s mul­ticultural ethos and creative en­ergy were explored through an immersive approach using film, soundscape, wall drawings, pho­tography, textile sculptures and archival pictures and records. The result was a truly immersive expe­rience.

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