An exhibition at Downtown Design is dedicated to works by UAE artists that fuse modern living with an eco-conscientious approach.
The UAE Designer Exhibition features 24 individual designers and collectives, presenting their works under the theme For Future Living Spaces, reflecting on the general theme of sustainability at Downtown Design. The products include textile installations, mirrors with unconventional forms, benches inspired by palm trees and furniture pieces that break away from the traditional. Most of the works are available for sale.
The exhibition, running at Downtown Design until Saturday, is an annual platform dedicated to bolstering designers living in the UAE. This year, the exhibition is curated by Fatma Al Mahmoud, cultural planning manager at House of Wisdom and managing partner at Hamzat Wasl Studio.
“The theme is about raising awareness of the audience through design, and creating something for future generations,” Al Mahmoud says. While the exhibition is traditionally known to host emerging designers, Al Mahmoud says she also wanted to include more established names this year. “It’s a good blend between a generation who has been very active within the design field and an upcoming generation.”
Established participants include Ammar Kalo. A designer, researcher and educator, Kalo’s work is part of the permanent collection of the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. It has also been auctioned by Christie’s London as part of its Middle Eastern design auction. Kalo is presenting Lilyframe at the UAE Designer Exhibition. The bench is carved from a single piece of wood and was intended to be disassembled and flat-packed.
Diana Hawatmeh, a leading name in the local design sector, is participating as a duo with jewellery designer and artist Sheikha Al Serkal. They are presenting two rug designs. Art Deco, with its bright colour palette and geometric elements, pays tribute to the visual arts style prominent in Europe and the US in the 1920s and 1930s. The Flow, meanwhile, takes its design cues from the motions of water, with colours that pay homage to the different seasons.
Emerging names, on the other hand, include Majid Al Bastaki, who is presenting a bench drawn from the palm-rich vistas of the UAE. The design of Palm Repose features a horizontal palm trunk decked with cushions and hoisted by a black steel frame. Parallel Studios, founded in 2023 by Rund Samman, Omar Ahmad and Ali Charafeddine, is showcasing Roots, a mirror assembled from several pieces of fluid designs.
Nella Figueroa’s Avila comprises a set of cups and a water jug with designs that are reminiscent of the UAE’s natural landscape. The work is handcrafted with locally sourced materials, from ceramic to wood and marble. Threads by Areen Hassan, meanwhile, is a textile installation with an unravelled design that aims to draw a metaphorical strand between the individual and the whole.
Bespoke furniture group Dachah Studio, which was founded this year by Aisha Alyassi, is presenting several furniture pieces. This includes Kuthub Chair, which is designed with the curvature of desert dunes in mind, and The Qurs Stool, which pays tribute to several traditional elements, such as the agal headwear, as well as a baked good in the Gulf known as qurs ugaili.
A collection of lamps by Alya AlEghfeli, meanwhile, considers the local maritime heritage with aesthetics inspired by the ebb and flow of the sea. Game of Life is a floor piece by Agata Kurzela that draws its designs from the patterns of Sadu, a traditional weaving technique. The design is also informed by a cellular automaton algorithm developed by mathematician John Horton Conway in 1970, which is known as Conway’s Game of Life.
Selecting the exhibition’s participants was based on several criteria, Al Mahmoud says. It was important that the works could be produced within a specified time frame and that they take into consideration issues of sustainability. Al Mahmoud worked closely with the designers as they developed their ideas.
“We [also] push for locally produced items,” she says, adding that several designers struggled to find those with the know-how to bring the works to form.
“Most of them are produced here, but it was a struggle,” she says. “I think this is something a lot of UAE designers go through. I believe we’re still developing the production field when it comes to design and art. We’re eventually getting there with the support that we have from the government and consolidated funding.”