Dubai’s strategic position as a hub city – first as a major port along the historic Silk Road trade route, then as a financial center straddling Europe and Asia – means that it has long been associated as a meeting place of cultures. However, Dubai Design Week 2022, which opened this week, has largely devoted its energy to familiarizing visitors with its own thriving culture of local talent. In addition to the many international attendees, the fair was packed with creators born and raised in the Middle East, providing insight into the region’s vibrant creative scene.
The exhibition took place at two sites: the Downtown Design show, which has more than 200 exhibitors from 30 countries, and the d3 Design District, the purpose-built creative district which, throughout the week, was brought to life by installations from local and international brands – largely with a focus on sustainability.
For example, an interactive pavilion by Stella McCartney demonstrated the development process from prototype to product of the brand’s mycelium-based vegan leather. Or “From Dunes and Trees” by the United Arab Emirates-based ARDH, a circular structure made of bricks made from desert sand and date seeds, the result of the studio’s research into local low-impact materials.
“The younger generation of designers have been very inventive in their approach to sustainability,” said Kate Barry, director of Dubai Design Week. “There are so many bright young minds in this region working to develop a more sustainable future. So, by organizing this Design Week, it was important for us to highlight their work.
Dubai Design Week 2022: highlights
UAE Designers Fair
The most notable exhibit in the Downtown Design tent was the UAE Designers Exhibition, which showcased several emerging independent design studios based in the UAE. Curated by Cyril Zammit and installed in a stand designed by Fatima Al Zaabi and Noora Al Awar of Studio D.04, the exhibition included 20 original works.
Like the rest of the festival, it focused on sustainability. For example, designer Talin Hazbar presented a series of seats made from marine litter, including ropes dredged from the bottom of Dubai Harbour, which was designed to benefit the Dubai Voluntary Diving team. Meanwhile, studio ANQA’s collection, aptly titled ‘The Most Sustainable Furniture’, has used plastic waste to create a series of furniture pieces defined by its pink marbled surface.
Terminal G by Iwan Maktabi
Third-generation Lebanese rug maker Iwan Maktabi’s Terminal G collection enlisted several Gulf designers to design a collection inspired by regional narratives. For example, Kuwaiti designer Aseel Al Yaqoub’s “Water Memory” – which resembles the reflection of a plastic deck chair in a tiled swimming pool – is a representation of the domestic ritual of gathering around a body of water, in l This occurrence pays homage to Al Yaqoub’s grandfather, who was often found sitting next to the family pool. Or UAE-born graphic designers Afra and Sheikha Bin Dhaher’s “Taghrouda,” a beautifully rendered topographical depiction of ancient camel routes through the Arabian desert.
Gaar by Nareg Krikorian
Lebanese-Armenian designer Nareg Krikorian introduced Gaar, a collection of leather furniture originally designed for his master’s thesis at Central Saint Martins. In making the fetish-inspired chairs and stools, Krikorian used a type of stitching typically used in the construction of handbags, but here enlarged to create an exaggerated looping effect along the “seams” of the furniture. Krikorian’s vast knowledge of leatherworking comes from his family, which for several generations has specialized in the craft. In fact, her mother’s personal brand, Jasmin’s Line, was located directly across from hers.
Modu method by Omar Al Gurg
Modular furniture from up-and-coming brand Modu Method was a star of Downtown Design. Dubai-born designer Omar Al Gurg, who studied architecture at Queen’s University Belfast before returning to the United Arab Emirates, presented his brand new collection of 1960s-inspired ‘Chill Pill’ rugs, along with its “Nu” series of stackable modules that can be combined to form anything from storage to Space Age-style coffee tables. Also on display was his bentwood “Kelly” system, a hybrid desk and shelving unit that can be cleverly arranged in a number of different ways, which Al Gurg says was designed to suit small living spaces.
Saudade by Styled Habitat
Interior design studio Styled Habitat has opened the doors to its d3 neighborhood offices to showcase its latest exhibition, Saudade, a creative imagination of a private home. “Foremost was the idea of depicting a timeline of someone’s life, of a person who has inhabited a space over the years,” says creative director Rabah Saeid. “Each element, be it textiles, wallpaper or even paint, is a true testament to the influence of design in different eras. The interior is also a testament to the quality and good craftsmanship of selected items that would stand the test of time.
Dubai Design Week 2022 runs until November 13, 2022
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