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Dubai Design Week

11 November 2019 - 16 November 2019


The fifth edition of Dubai Design Week, which is describing itself with justification as “the largest creative festival in the Middle East”, will run 11-16 November with its most substantial programme yet – over 200 events.

As usual, the B2B show Downtown Design (in its own space at Dubai Design District, 12-15 November) provides the core of Design Week. It’s the leading fair for high-quality (aka pricey) design and design brands in the Middle East; there’s not so much for the casual visitor, but if you’re in the business of fitting out a five-star hotel or a new Palm villa, this is a must-visit …

Downtown Editions, the fair’s dedicated showcase for original work by individual designers, will focus on regional talent. Downtown Editions grew out of the now-defunct Design Days Dubai, which used to be held in the spring and tended to be somewhat unfocused. In its new incarnation there’s a bit more rigour about its role and purpose, which is defined as “to present the next generation of regional talent”. Sited within Downtown Editions are two exhibitions that focus specifically on regional design.

MADAR, an initiative supported by d3, looks to be the interesting one: it will have exhibits from designers and others that offer insights on “the different components and stakeholders that constitute the ecosystem behind the design industry as well as … the various stages of a starting a design business”.

And INSIGHT/ONSITE gives a standardised display format to a group of emergent and independent local and regional designers, in a standardized equal space format. The blurb says that this will allow the designers to get “real-time feedback on the viability of their concepts”.

The Abwab collection of architectural installations will host designers from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and India. In Abwab’s fifth edition, the selected designers are being challenged to recreate the local classrooms of their cultures through the “ways of learning” theme. So Qissa Ghar (‘Home of Stories’) by Mumbai-based Busride Design Studio will retell creation myths from cultures across India; seven artists have been invited to interpret these stories on to hand-spun natural-fibre Indian cloth.

WAL(L)TZ by Beirut based architecture and design studio T SAKHI Architects (basically the Lebanese-Polish sisters Tessa and Tara Sakhi) are giving us “an interactive wall portraying the sociopolitical barriers in society through a psychological and physiological journey for its visitors”. Must be better than that sounds.

The Eastern Provinces of Saudi Arabia, supported by Ithra, are represented by Shahad Alazzaz of Azaz Architects in a research-led project on palm frond weaving. He has collaborated with local craftspeople to develop innovative textiles, each interpreted as a process and story.

The DDW programme also features Umbra (above), a mashrabiya-inspired gateway to Dubai Design District developed by Dubai-based design studio Tinkah; a 6m high installation by Istanbul’s MAS Architecture Studio titled Barjeel, a recycling project derived from the eponymous traditional wind towers of the UAE but made from layers of reclaimed cardboard and strip lighting to create a cool space for visitors; and sweeping steel pavilion that Emirati designer and architect Abdulla AlMulla of Mula design studio has produced for the Audi Innovation Hub.

Elsewhere in d3 is Green Nexus, a site-specific installation by MAS Paints in partnership with UAE Modern – a landscaped podium that relates best practices in water security, water pollution, food security and health, all shaded by trees to provide a connection between technology and nature.

We also like the sound of the Augmented Garden by the Dubai-based architectural studio SUPERFUTUREDESIGN*, which always comes up with interesting responses to the environment. The Augmented Garden explores the perceived nervous system of plants, suggesting that they can exchange a significant amount of information by electrical stimulus. “ By giving plants a voice, SUPERFUTUREDESIGN* will encourage visitors to engage in a new dialogue, interacting with nature in an unexpected way.” Looking forward to it.

Then there’s Kabul Old City – a visual journey. Produced by Turquoise Mountain, an organisation working to protect historic buildings and heritage crafts at risk in Afghanistan, this does exactly what it says in its title: it uses virtual reality technology to create a 3D digitisation of an endangered area. This may have to be the future of our response to heritage sites.

And last but not least, there’s what we regard as the single most significant element of Dubai Design Week, the Global Grad Show. This pulls in a great selection of designs from recent graduates around the world, demonstrating that good design and clever ideas are truly international.

Dubai Design Week runs to 16 November, primarily at Dubai Design District.


11 November 2019
16 November 2019
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