Dubai Design Week, a celebration of emerging talents
Dubai - Established brands as well as emerging regional and international designers took centre stage in Dubai in a celebration of cutting-edge design and ideas. Dubai Design Week, organised by Dubai Design District (D3), amounted to an “open museum” of design, attracting a record number of visitors.
“With more than 150 events across the city, the second Dubai Design Week had almost doubled in size, attracting 40,000 visitors, a 75% increase compared to last year,” said Cyril Zammit, director of the late-October event.
Downtown Design, a trade show for professionals, also doubled its registrations to 12,500 visitors.
Downtown Design Fair Director Rue Kothari said the strategy was to provide a high-quality experience by combining local, regional and international brands presenting top-quality, original products from furniture and lighting to textiles and accessories.
Abwab, Arabic for “doors”, an exhibition exploring design narratives within the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia featured pavilions from Algeria, Bahrain, India, Iraq, the Palestinian territories and the United Arab Emirates revolving around the theme The Human Senses.
Curated by Algerian artist Hellal Zoubir, the Algiers pavilion combined the skills of Mourad Krinah, Walid Bouchouchi and Souad Delmi Bouras in graphics and interiors.
The interactive experience consisted of graphic surfaces displaying representations of sounds created through an arrangement of uniquely designed percussion instruments that compose a vibrant audio landscape. Users became musicians, performing improvised beats as a soundtrack guided audiences through a sensory experience.
Bahrain presented collaborative works by designers Maitham al- Mubarak and Othman Khunji aimed at renewing the dormant craft of pottery by generating a customisation process that was very interactive.
The Indian pavilion drew large crowds with its theme Memory Bar, a collaboration of New Delhi-based design duo Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra. Visitors could write a memory on paper, shred it and watch it made into a colourful tile, which would be displayed on the pavilion wall and become part of a travelling exhibition
The Iraqi pavilion, titled Excavations, was a collaborative endeavour between Eindhoven-based designer Hozan Zangana and UAE-based architect and designer Rand Abdul Jabbar and looked at the country as an amalgamation of overlapping civilisations, identities, languages and traditions. The pavilion showcased an exploration of the multilayered histories embedded within a shared geography, uncovering, drawing inspiration from and reinterpreting its artefacts.
Under the label Mass Imperfections, the Palestinian pavilion exposed craft industry from the Bethlehem region centred on its centuries-old olive wood carving tradition. The pivot of the pavilion was a fabricated form of olive wood elements that were small with respect to the structure they composed.
Curators Elias Anastas and Yousef Anastas, French-Palestinian brothers who are both architects and designers, explored the plight of olive wood carvers who are victims of a globalised world and mass tourism industry in which their skills are overlooked.
The UAE pavilion, called Afaaq Al Mustaqbal, drew inspiration from the cafeteria to highlight the many layers of this cultural phenomenon. Cafeterias are ubiquitous and have become an integral element of the Emirati cultural experience. The pavilion combined the talents of designers Salem al-Mansoori, Tarik Zaharna and Ric Hernandez and was curated by Salem al-Qassimi and Maryam al-Qassimi of Fikra Design Studio.
The Dubai Design Week’s Iconic City exhibition, Cairo NOW! City Incomplete, curated by Cairo-based architect Mohamed Elshahed, gathered for the first time under one roof more than 65 Egyptian architects, designers, entrepreneurs and graphic artists, presenting a grass-roots account of the city’s design landscape.
Cairo’s young designers take the city as their muse and as the source of their creativity. Despite the lack of a market place or an infrastructure supporting creative industries, they turn the city’s trash into new products and revive fading traditions with a contemporary edge.
“The aim was to include different perspectives and viewpoints and offer opportunities for new, especially young, designers who are creating original and authentic work which reflected the Egyptian reality,” Elshahed said.
The city’s designers reflect on the condition of incompletion in their creations and, in Elshahed’s view, “they fill in the gaps”.
“The potential is very high in Egypt and fresh and original work is being created but there is lack of support from the government and the corporate sector,” said Elshahed.
The exhibition, whose title was inspired by the infamous visual impression of Cairo’s red brick housing stock in varying stages of completion, drew visitors who admired innovations in the fields of product, furniture, graphic and typeface design as well as architecture.
Elshahed said: “The way forward for these young designers is to look for international exposure, which may eventually translate into breakthroughs and patronage at home.”