To mark its fifth anniversary, Design Days Dubai is presenting Wasl, a first-of-its-kind retrospective of UAE design. The showcase will feature objects either designed or produced in the UAE, by Emirati or UAE-based creatives, since Design Days was launched in 2012. It’s a striking reminder of how far the country’s design scene has come over the past five years. Here are 15 of Selina Denman’s favourite pieces.
The Tribal Weave Project by Taher Asad-Bakhtiari
“Tribes are in my ancestry, and they constitute the most important influence on my family’s way of life still today,” says Taher Asad-Bakhtiari, designer of The Tribal Weave Project, which combines centuries-old weaving techniques with modern-day designs to create “art for the floor”. The pieces are made from naturally dyed hand-spun wool in Iran, by tribal women, and can take four months to produce.
Dubai Journey by Khalid Shafar
Khalid Shafar has two pieces on show in Wasl, including Dubai Journey, a one-off games board crafted from teak wood. “This is a tale of the old times when travellers would take days to journey across the deserts of the UAE – and of the carrom, a board game that was, and still is, part of that journey,” Shafar says. The designer faithfully recreated the carrom board, but transformed it into a tribute to his city.
Illusion Arm by Khalid Shafar
Launched in 2011, Shafar’s Illusion Arm is a stunning exercise in restraint. Consisting of two basic elements – a frame made from stained ash wood, and a seat of polyester rope – it proves once again that less really can be more.
Woven by Saher Oliver Samman
Born in the United Kingdom to an English mother and Palestinian father, Saher Oliver Samman has always been exposed to a range of cultural influences. He relocated to the UAE in 2013, and continues to meld a European design perspective with regional aesthetics. He has a penchant for leather, as seen in Woven, a leather hammock suspended on a wooden stand.
Constructed Feast by Tinkah
Tinkah is a Dubai-based multidisciplinary design firm founded in 2012 by Reem Al Ghaith, Kholoud Sharafi, Abeer Tahlak and Joshua Cox. For Constructed Feast, the team explored the traditional nomadic dining experience, focusing on the products that facilitate the ceremony of eating when large groups gather together.
The Little Rocker by Viktor Udzenija
Viktor Udzenija – who worked at Foster + Partners before setting up The Studio of Viktor Udzenija in Dubai, and is represented by Carpenters Workshop Gallery – made his product design debut at Design Days in 2014 with a Carrara marble version of The Little Rocker. The limited-edition piece is now on offer in a black version created from a solid piece of Nero Marquina.
Tile Table by Ivan Parati
Tile Table is the brainchild of Ivan Parati, who co-founded the multidisciplinary design collective Caravan with Emanuela Corti in 2012. The magnetic, modular coffee table consists of three elements, with a corresponding geometry that allows for almost infinite possibilities, and can be configured according to the user’s specific needs.
Emiraty Shelf by IBDAA
With a design based on a map of the UAE, the Emiraty Shelf is the piece in Wasl that most obviously proclaims its origins. It was the first design by IBDAA, a UAE-based online furniture platform founded by the interior designers Marwa Al Shamry and Christelle Bitar.
Braided Series by Latifa Saeed
The Emirati artist Latifa Saeed works across a variety of media, including fine art, graphic design, advertising, branding and product design. Her Braided Series has become something of a signature, and involves the braiding of linen cushion tubes to create organically shaped clusters.
Intrinsic Flux by Abdalla Almulla
The Emirati architect Abdalla Almulla is passionate about exploring the functionality of geometric art forms through digital methodologies – and unveiled Intrinsic Flux last year. Born out of a desire to design a tile panel that creates a continuously altering pattern across the wall, Intrinsic Flux offers a modern interpretation of geometric motifs.
[Fabric]ations by Ammar Kalo
To create the [Fabric]ations stools, Ammar Kalo collected scraps of material from tailors, textile retailers and furniture manufacturers. They’re given a new lease of life as they’re melded into the resin of these whimsical seating options. It’s a visually arresting comment on the beauty that can be achieved from upcycling unwanted materials.
Al Hoson Chair by Arty by AMN
The Arty by AMN Furniture Studio is dedicated to revisiting the past and retelling stories that are integral to the UAE’s cultural heritage. Al Hoson Chair is a case in point – the chair references the UAE’s historic forts, incorporating sand collected from the country’s desertscapes, but introduces acrylic to create a sense of modernity.
Oru Lamp by Aljoud Lootah
Aljoud Lootah launched her first full furniture collection, Oru, at last year’s Design Days. Two of the pieces have already been acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, making her the first Emirati designer to have her work incorporated into the collection of an international gallery. Like the rest of the series, this Oru Lamp was inspired by the Japanese art of origami.
Misnad by Aljoud Lootah
Also by Aljoud Lootah, Misnad is a handwoven carpet that explores the geometric patterns of traditional Sadu weaving. It’s made from wool, by artisans in Afghanistan. The name Misnad, which translates as “armrest”, highlights the multifunctionality of the piece, which is attached to a black leather bench. This can either be used as a seat, or as a back or arm rest when seated on the carpet.
Elephant by Anjali Srinivasan
“As a contemporary artist working conceptually in glass through the disciplines of glassblowing, casting, grinding and self-generated experimental techniques, the gradual disappearance of my home country India’s glass-bangle-makers saddens me,” says Anjali Srinivasan. So for the Elephant stool, Srinivasan subjected finely worked glass bangles to simultaneous forces of gravity and tension in opposing directions, at a temperature of 700°C.