Dubai Design Week 2021: must-see exhibitions, pop-ups and installations

More than 200 events are expected to take place as part of the annual event, which starts on November 8

Exhibitions, pop-ups, installations, talks and workshops will take place at the Dubai Design District (d3). Photo: Dubai Design Week
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Dubai Design Week (DXBDW2021) is set to begin next Monday with a rich programme that spans design, architecture, art, crafts and technology.

Until Saturday, November 13, a number of exhibitions, pop-ups, installations, talks and workshops will take place at the Dubai Design District (d3). This year’s highlights include an in-person showcase of more than 130 international and regional brands at Downtown Design, architecturally-focused presentations such as 2040: d3 Architecture Exhibition, the Abwab commission and a vast selection of workshops for visitors to learn arts and crafts skills.

Here are some highlights from the programme to look out for during the week.

2040: d3 Architecture Exhibition

The annual architecture exhibition returns to bring together architecture firms, studios and architects from Dubai and the region around unifying themes. The four main themes follow the goals of Dubai’s 2040 Urban Master Plan in the realms of mobility and transportation, public and recreational spaces, accessibility to infrastructure and eco-tourism.

Featured architects include Beyrac Architects, Dabbagh Architects, RMJM Dubai, Tariq Khayyat Design Partners, as well as participants from the American University of Sharjah, Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation, Mobility in Chain, AESG, FUTURE\CITY, desert INK Architects, X Architects and Grimshaw Architects.

Dabbagh Architects for 2040: d3 Architecture Exhibition. Photo: Dubai Design Week

“The exhibition will be an opportunity to see ideas and concepts on the sustainable future of our city, Dubai, from some of the brightest minds in the field,” says Khadija Al Bastaki, executive director of d3.

She says that visitors can witness a “multimedia journey” of how Dubai could look in 20 years, from developments in transportation, public spaces and tourist sites. It will also consider “how architecture can contribute to enhancing happiness, well-being and quality of life in a sustainable manner".

“We hope the architecture festival will spark conversations about the future of sustainable cities, which is now more important than ever before as the world population grows and plans of megacities are being set. Our world’s population is set to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, so it is vital to rethink the building of the past and carefully plan and consider our future living spaces, particularly in light of climate change,” she says.


Also in the vein of this architectural focus is Abwab, a key feature of every Dubai Design Week. The commission programme presents proposals from architects in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.

This year's Abwab commission has been awarded to Ahmed El Sharabassy for his proposal on regenerative architecture and restorative design. Photo: Dubai Design Week

This year, the jury selected Dubai architect Ahmed El Sharabassy for his proposal Nature in Motion. El Sharabassy’s winning idea responded to the theme of this year’s programme, which sought proposals for regenerative architecture and restorative design.

The architect’s pavilion attempts to bridge the gap between nature and the urban environment. Taking inspiration from Dubai’s geography and its environment, the project wants to draw the highly urbanised city back to nature.

Curving like a sand wave, the pavilion has been made from sustainable materials such as bamboo and fabric. It can serve a variety of purposes, from a public space to a shelter.

Tanween at Downtown Design

As part of Downtown Design, art studio Tashkeel will unveil the products that have resulted from its Tanween design programme. The six designers involved in the programme from 2020 and 2021 have been working on a range of limited edition pieces, from lighting to furniture, all manufactured in the UAE.

A designer working at Tashkeel's Tanween factory. Photo: Tashkeel

Among the design pieces include Taht Al Ghaf lights by Khawla Al Balooshi; the Sehra cabinet by Eman Shafiq; and an ottoman and bag from the Seeds series by Nuhayr Zein.

The designers will also be featured in talks for DXBDW2021 to discuss their creative process and their experience in producing these pieces in the UAE.

Art installations

DXBDW2021 would not be complete without its public art installations, which engage and enlighten audiences throughout the event. A total of 15 installations will be spread throughout d3, including a towering, shimmering glass work titled The Shape of Light by conceptual art studio Shuster + Moseley that will cast eye-catching geometric prismatic forms.

'Horizon of Day and Night' by Shuster + Moseley, a conceptual art studio that will be showcasing its work at Dubai Design Week 2021. Photo: Roman Scott

Also playing with light is Context Reflections by Anarchitect in collaboration with Cosentino, wherein visitors can see an “optical phenomenon” caused by a low-tech installation made from carbon-neutral materials.

There’s also an architectural installation by Ana Carreras named Athenaeum, which digs into the recent discoveries about the old town of Mleiha in Sharjah, along with a work on the environmental preservation titled Morphing Nature by Kristina Zanic Design Studio, which is participating in Dubai Design Week for the first time.

In addition, The WAW Machine by Emirati creatives Iman Al Midfa and Hessa Ali Alechla intends to spread motivation and good cheer with an automated vending machine that produces messages of kindness.

Making Space

Ever wanted to learn about jewellery-making, embroidery, wood painting and recycled art? The Making Space programme features more than 80 workshops for all skills and interests, from making your own tote to constructing origami pieces. The activities will take place across Dubai.

Highlights include a wheel throwing workshop by The Mud House Studio, creating egg cup holders with woodturning techniques from StuDIYo Lab, a meditation and abstract art session with Tilika D’souza and Monisha Gurkar, plus a number of workshops centred on recycling, including turning plastic into fabric, taught by NYU Abu Dhabi's Plastic Recycling Research Lab, and an eco paper-making worship that will turn scrap paper into new pages, taught by Quarter Moon Studio and Juhi Chaand.

Dubai Design Week takes place from Monday to Saturday, November 8 to 13, at the Dubai Design District (d3). More information is on

Updated: November 04, 2021, 4:17 AM