More than 500 designers, architects and creative practitioners are convening at Dubai Design District this week for one of the region’s flagship design events.
Dubai Design Week, running between Tuesday and Sunday, will feature commissioned projects, installations, exhibitions, talks and workshops. While sustainability has been a focus of the event in the past, the topic has a special resonance in the run-up to Cop28, with many of the featured installations and talks touching upon design-led solutions to environmental issues.
The event’s highlight, Downtown Design, will also be holding a fund-raising initiative in support of the Gaza relief efforts. The entrance fee of Dh25 will be donated to Emirates Red Crescent, with the funds raised to be matched by the Art Dubai Group, the organising body of Downtown Design.
Here are seven highlights of this year’s Dubai Design Week.
Now in its 10th year, Downtown Design will run between Wednesday and Saturday. The event gives artists and designers the platform to present and sell their work.
More than 300 brands and designers from 40 countries are scheduled to take part this year. These include high-end Italian furniture manufacturing company Cassina. Spanish company Cosentino, meanwhile, will be presenting a Roman bath concept with Dubai interior design company Kristina Zanic Consultants.
Italian furniture production company Flexform with be making their debut with a sprawling outdoor presentation at the centre of the fair. Other participating high-end brands include Kartell, Poltrona Frau, as well as regional names Fadi Sarieddine Studio, Collectional Gallery, and Don Tanani. Four projects will also be revealed by the designer cohort of Tashkeel’s annual Tanween programme.
Abwab: Of Palm
Made entirely using parts of palm trees, Emirati architect Abdalla AlMulla’s Of Palm is one of the large-scale installations that will be unveiled and presented at Dubai Design District during Dubai Design Week. The work will come as part of the Abwab initiative, which aims to bolster cultural exchange through design and architecture.
“I was challenged to develop and create a concept that demonstrates how to use resources in a sustainable way,” AlMulla told The National in a previous interview. “Driven by the concept of scarcity and in alignment with the sustainability theme, I decided to harness an existing natural resource and to use it in a creative way to serve beyond its original purpose.”
The event will be replete with thought-provoking installations that incorporate the theme of sustainability. Among these is Urban Hadeera by Wael Al Awar and Kazuma Yamao, the architects behind waiwai. The installation is inspired by UAE vernacular architecture and produced using an eco-friendly cement alternative.
Flowing Threads by Palestinian textile designer Areen Hassan incorporates disentangled threads that reflect on individual identity and the world’s correlation with it. A wooden pavilion designed by Emirati architect AlZaina Lootah and Indian architect Sahil Rattha Singh presents a place of rumination and introspection. An oversized table tennis piece, designed by Iris Ceramica, gives several players the space to play simultaneously.
Saudi architects Meaad Hanafi and Rahaf Al-Muzaini of Sibyl Design Studio are presenting Cycle, a spinning sandboard that reflects on Saudi Arabia’s recent transformation. Mitsubishi Jisho Design from Tokyo will present Arabi-An, a UAE variation of their tea house, constructed from food-waste materials, such as grapes and tea grains. The installation’s structure was inspired by the Miura approach of Origami.
Another highlight of Dubai Design Week is the annual design competition, Urban Commissions, which invites fresh takes on outdoor furniture. The winner for this year’s competition is Ahmad Alkattan, a Syrian architect and concept designer whose bio-inclusive spaces take cues from pigeon towers in the region.
The jury panel comprises industry experts, Ahmad Bukhash, Robert Shakespeare and Cyril Zammit.
The Dubai Design District is going to be the address of several curated exhibitions. These include Rethink by Colab, a material library in Dubai. The exhibition, taking place in a zero-waste modular space, will showcase ways to rethink design and production processes. It will include materials made in the UAE and abroad.
UAE Designer Exhibition, on the other hand, gives emerging and established designers the chance to present eco-conscious products under the theme For Future Living Spaces. London’s Royal College of Art will highlight 20 projects related to sustainability that incorporate emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence.
The d3 Architecture Exhibition, titled Sustainability – Past, Present and Future, will trace the history of development of sustainable architecture in the Gulf. The exhibition is organised by Dubai Design District in collaboration with Riba Gulf Chapter.
Pop-ups and commissions
Pop-ups and commissions will encompass a significant portion of d3 during Dubai Design Week. Urban Hives by Lebanese artist and designer Nathalie Harb in partnership with BMW, will showcase how public hard-surface spaces, such as car parks, can be transformed into lush green areas.
The UNHCR – UN Refugee Agency – will present craftworks created by refugees in Made51.
A commissioned exhibition by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, Portrait of a Lady, brings three Middle Eastern female photographers to reimagine one of Malle’s best-known fragrances.
More than 50 workshops will be offered during the event. The programme, called Maker Space, will cater to developing skills across a range of design disciplines. The workshops are tailored to varying ages and levels of expertise. Highlighted workshops include glass fusing, sustainable packaging design, recycling and reforming and Palestinian motifs.