Dubai Design Week 2020: 15 installations that reflect the way we live now

Dining pods, monoliths, pathways less taken and socially distanced seating find cultural food for thought at this year's design festival

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Like all communities across the Emirates, the creative enclave has been forced to adapt and change in conjunction with the continually shifting “new normal” as dictated by the global pandemic.

For some designers, embracing this fluidity meant sourcing materials locally; for others, it has fuelled a desire to observe and comment on the effects social distancing is having on society.

With Dubai Design Week 2020 starting on Monday, November 9, visitors will have the chance to experience a number of installations throughout Dubai Design District (d3) – plus one at Hotel Indigo in Business Bay. As these images and renderings show, the works invite visitors to ponder family, interaction, modern emotion, mystery and a gentler way to socially distance.

1. ‘Fata Morgana’ by Hozan Zangana

Awarded the 2020 Abwab Pavilion commission, an initiative that highlights works from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, Iraqi designer Hozan Zangana's Fata Morgana redefines and reimagines the way we live in an urban environment. Presenting conceptual framework for a modern-day city through an open-plan arrangement of seating components around a central origin point, the installation has pillars symbolic for each of the seven emirates.

Adapting to social distancing, the concept uses historical Middle Eastern construction techniques, and amplifies our connection with each other.

2. ‘Deterministic Path’ by Iman Ibrahim and Mahmoud Diaa

With a focus on encouraging social intervention with safe distancing, the installation consists of a modular design grid for a concept that represents several paths. Each allows for one person at a time, with panels covered by reflected mirror sheets creating several exits while avoiding crowded and open spaces.

Designed to reflect people’s lives, to help them see themselves and others, the installation encourages visitors to reflect on the fact that although we all have different characters and face different challenges, we all follow the same path to overcome a crisis.

3. ‘Points In Common’ by Studio Iregular

A collection of interactive experiences, the Points In Common project uses technology called Cursor, which brings together artificial intelligence, computer vision, optics and plenty of coding.

Aimed at creating experiences in spaces that react to the slightest movement of a finger or the blink of an eye, Cursor allows people to engage with digital public work and explore how these interactions can create meaningful connections between them.

4. ‘RE:TREAT’ by Colab

‘RE:TREAT’ by Colab, Courtesy Dubai Design Week
‘RE:TREAT’ by Colab, Courtesy Dubai Design Week

This outdoor installation repurposes construction scaffolding, old Emirati fishing nets, unused fabrics and other materials to create a public seating and playful structure at the entrance to Colab – the first purpose-built material library in the UAE.

Showing the potential of reusing discarded or waste materials, and giving them a second life, scaffolding is painted, timber offcuts are recycled and leftover fabrics are upcycled for the seating.

5. ‘Basta’ by Lujain Alatiq and Reema Almheiri

UAE and Saudi Arabian designers Reema Almheiri and Lujain Alatiq's Basta beat more than 60 submissions to win the 2020 Urban Commissions. A modular kiosk, it uses sustainable materials, allows for easy storage and an efficient display, and can be adapted to the needs of retailers while evoking the subtleties of a traditional outdoor market. Muhairy and Alatiq found inspiration in the traditional communal markets and the carpets (basat) used by traders to display their wares.

6. ‘Serres Separees’ by Mediamatic

Mediamatic Amsterdam
‘Serres Separees’ by Mediamatic, Courtesy Dubai Design Week

In French, the private dining area in restaurants and bars is called a chambre separee. And in this concept, developed by Mediamatic art centre in Amsterdam, guests dine in the Serres Separees – small, private greenhouses fit for two to four people. The installation was developed in conjunction with the Consulate-General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and lunch and dinner will be served within throughout Dubai Design Week, allowing friends and families to come together in a safe and unique setting.

A conceptual vegan menu consisting of mostly Dutch produce is provided by Molecule Bistro Royal Dubai. To make a reservation, call 052 949 2202. 

7. ‘Please Sit Here’ by American Hardwood Export Council

Emirati designers Aljoud Lootah, Khalid Shafar and Hamad Khoory joined forces with the American Hardwood Export Council to design and develop a hardwood bench for outdoor use in a public space. Please Sit Here was conceived in response to restrictions brought about by the pandemic and the need for behavioural change. The hardwood bench naturally allows for the social-distancing requirement of two metres, without the need for warning notices or self-policing.

8. ‘Pardis’ by Cosentino x Meshary Al Nasser

'Paradis' by Studio Meshary AlNassar for Cosentino. Courtesy Dubai Design Week 2020
'Paradis' by Studio Meshary AlNassar for Cosentino. Courtesy Dubai Design Week 2020

Multidisciplinary Kuwaiti studio Meshary Al Nassar partnered with global surfaces brand Cosentino to create an outdoor public installation made from an ultracompact engineered surface called Dekton. Derived from the word paradise, Pardis is an idyllic conceptual garden that serves as a sanctuary and physical manifestation of our yearning for a sense of community.

With seating, a water feature and a lighting design that transforms in the evening, it is an escape from enclosed spaces and encourages quiet contemplation.

9. ‘Earthly’ by Jumanah Rizk and Delta

Using locally sourced compressed sand and earth, as well as clay and wood, this “urban intervention” spatial installation exhibits a monolithic, raw, outdoor feel, to serve as landscaped seating while still fostering social distancing. Stacked atop a platform that alternates the ground material for a heightened experience of outdoor seating, with gravel and vegetated pockets, the installation invites visitors to grab a coffee and take a moment to reflect upon the environment.

10. ‘Desert Ribbons’ by Bishoy Girgis and Tania Ursomarzo

‘Desert Ribbons’ by Bishoy Girgis and Tania Ursomarzo, Courtesy Dubai Design Week
‘Desert Ribbons’ by Bishoy Girgis and Tania Ursomarzo, Courtesy Dubai Design Week

This urban public seating and spatial design concept explores the different seated positions of the body, along with the varied social situations that sitting creates. The design itself references regional nature, with elements such as dunes, camels and the ghaf tree, while inviting participants to consider how the way they sit might create different acts of social engagement.

With camel leather moulded to capture fluid impressions of the body in different positions, the work also showcases the uses of this natural and biodegradable material.

11. ‘Nacre’ by HagenHinderdael and Concreative

Inspired by Dubai's history of pearl diving, Nacre is designed with modular pieces that encourage engagement through a variety of compositions. Its shapes are based on the structure of the mother-of-pearl, which is known for its strength and flexibility. Constructed from 3D-printed concrete with intricate textures and integrated LED lighting, the elements can be reused as urban outdoor furniture, as they meld Dubai's cultural history and cutting edge technology.

12. ‘Shadow Box’ by Agata Kurzela Studio

‘Shadow Box’ by Agata Kurzela Studio. Couresty Dubai Design Week
‘Shadow Box’ by Agata Kurzela Studio. Couresty Dubai Design Week

This installation, in collaboration with Milad Marble Dubai, aims for visitors to rediscover stone as a dynamic material. Showing the variety of surfaces that can be created from stone, Shadow Box encourages viewers to consider texture and materiality to understand the potential of matter as ancient as the Earth itself.

13. ‘Wind of Dubai’ by Refik Anadol x Hotel Indigo, Business Bay

A multimedia artwork, Wind of Dubai turns the invisible patterns of nature in and around Dubai into a series of 3D data sculptures in this installation that's housed at Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown.

Sensors collect wind speed, direction, gust patterns and temperature before processing them through a unique algorithm, before the machine translates temperature data into a dynamic colour palette that closely resembles the surrounding landscape.

Fluid-form visuals are generated, creating a unique visual interpretation of the fluidity of interactions between the environment and the city

14. ‘Nebula’ by Wilson Associates, Vibhor Sogani and Studio Mark

‘Nebula’ by Wilson Associates + Vibhor Sogani + Studio Mark, Courtesy Dubai Design Week

This installation consists of a stage-inspired setting in which visitors are invited to walk inside from beneath the structure. Here, they will encounter several sphere-like, reflective surfaces that create an overhead kaleidoscope-effect of facial reflections. By night, lighting installations create shadows to provide a different interpretation of the kaleidoscope effect.

15. ‘The Megalith’ by Mirage x Lever

Designed by Ana Carreras, this solid aluminium sculpture serves as a modern abstract interpretation of the first known architectural structure in human history, the dolmen. Inspired by the construction of ancient sites such as Stonehenge and Dolmen, and how, even today, modern science still doesn't quite know why they were created, The Megalith serves as a paean to the mystery that continues to surround them.

Dubai Design Week runs from Monday to Saturday, November 9 to November 14, from 10am-10pm daily (until 5pm on Saturday, November 9). Visit for more information