UAE to participate in first London Design Biennale

Al Aflaj - part of a project by Cultural Engineering to encourage designers to embrace the ancient waterway system of the UAE in a modern way. To be presented at London's Design Biennale. Courtesy of  Cultural Engineering
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The UAE will be participating in next month’s inaugural edition of the London Design Biennale with a plea to contemporary designers to embrace the ancient system of waterways used in the Gulf region for new projects. Al Aflaj, the name given to the irrigation pathways used in the desert regions, are manmade channels that brought water from the Gulf’s mountainous aquifers to towns, cities, farms and villages across the deserts of Arabia.

Rashid bin Shabib, co-foudner of Brownbook magazine and Cultural Engineering, will present an exhibition of these ancient falaj systems showing them as any aspect of practical design - essentially a problem-solving practice.

Bin Shabib says he hopes visitors to the Biennale will be inspired to observe traditional methods as adaptive forms that can still be useful to modern society. “The buildings that remain from past generations, the objects and artifacts they lived by, the culture, the language, the plants, the food and the etiquette are all topics we need to explore and make relevant, because that’s what will ultimately give us and our city character”.

Al Falaj: Water Systems of the Gulf’s Oases shows how these channels could again be relevant to the UAE’s rapidly globalising cities.

* London Design Biennale runs from September 7-27 at Somerset House. www.londondesignbiennale.com