x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 October 2017

A celebration of design: Highlights from this year's Dubai Design Week

The official programme for this year's edition of Dubai Design Week has been unveiled

A rendering of the Abwab Pavilion. Courtesy Fahed + Architects
A rendering of the Abwab Pavilion. Courtesy Fahed + Architects

A pavilion crafted from discarded mattress springs; trainers made from algae; a talk by one of the world’s most influential architects; and a snapshot of Casablanca through various design mediums. The programme for this year’s Dubai Design Week has been unveiled – and will consist of more than 200 events and activities across the city.

Taking place from November 13 to 18, DXBDW will be anchored by Downtown Design, a trade show featuring products by 150 brands, while a glimpse into the future will be supplied by the Global Grad Show, which will present works from leading design schools around the globe. Curated by author and designer Brendan McGetrick, the Global Grad Show will feature over 200 projects, presented under the themes connect, empower and sustain.

The range will be immense, and include football boots made from recycled plastic bottles, prefabricated homes fashioned from discarded building materials, a travel jacket with an inbuilt pillow, a walking stick that turns into a tent, and a solar-powered toy that doubles as a night light.

Casablanca is the subject of the Iconic City series this year. Courtesy Zineb Arraki
Casablanca is the subject of the Iconic City series this year. Courtesy Zineb Arraki

An important feature of previous DXBDWs, the Abwab exhibition will once again highlight the work of designers from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. “Abwab is different this year; we felt it was too limited in the past, in terms of the number of designers we were bringing on board,” explains Rawan Kashkoush, head of programming for DXBDW.

Instead of the old model of having six countries represented in six separate pavilions, Abwab will this year be housed in a single pavilion, with a rather singular design. Fahed & Architects was invited to partner with Bee’ah, Sharjah’s environmental and waste-management company, to create a pavilion from materials that would otherwise be discarded as waste. Fahed & Architects discovered that Bee’ah receives about 100 mattresses a day, so it decided to use the coils from those mattresses to create a structure of unexpected delicacy.

“We also needed to come up with a new mechanism to invite designers to take part in Abwab,” Kashkoush says. “We launched ‘design dominoes’, where we invited alumni from Abwab and other designers from the region, and said when you submit a design, you are required to nominate another designer, too. What we saw was this great urgency to support, and a real sense of community.”

Hundreds of nominations came flooding in, and a panel whittled this down to 46 objects, some of which are new commissions, and many by designers that nobody has ever heard of, Kashkoush says. “There are a lot of new faces, new thoughts, new ideas.”

Jules Mas’s All PET Shoe football boots made from recycled plastic bottles. Courtesy Jules Mae
Jules Mas’s All PET Shoe football boots made from recycled plastic bottles. Courtesy Jules Mae

In terms of high-profile speakers, this year’s big hitter is architect and designer David Adjaye, who will be engaging in a public talk with Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi on November 13. And the event’s annual Iconic City series will this year focus on Casablanca, in an exhibition curated by Salma Lahlou called Loading… Casa. “We’ve selected Casablanca because we were looking for a place that’s industrious, not gimmicky – not that Marrakech perception of Morocco,” Kashkoush says. “It’s a real city that is always evolving and the title, Loading… Casa, highlights this impossible state of transition that the city is always in.

“Salma Lahlou commissioned a sound designer, filmmaker, architect, photographer and graphic designer, who are creating works to create the experience of Casablanca in a space. It’s not about showcasing design; it’s about using design to showcase Casablanca. It’s nothing we’ve seen before – and you’ll have these different elements woven together to reflect the Casablanca experience,” she adds.

Quiver Vessel by Anjali Srinivasan, one of the products that will be showcased. Courtesy Anjali Srinivasan
Quiver Vessel by Anjali Srinivasan, one of the products that will be showcased. Courtesy Anjali Srinivasan

All the current evidence suggests that this year’s DXBDW will feature all the old favourites, but polished and repackaged in increasingly sophisticated ways. “By their nature, design weeks need to reflect the infrastructure and community that exists around them,” says William Knight, DDW’s head of design.

“In Dubai, the design culture, community and industry is growing hugely and changing very rapidly. What I’m interested in, I suppose, is quality as well as quantity. As much as anything, I think there’s a big job to do in terms of reinforcing that quality. And we must also give confidence to young designers, and open their eyes to fresh thinking.

“A lot of that is about space, so creating spaces such as D3 and being able to make them as accessible as possible – that’s a big part of what we do during a design week,” Knight adds. “It’s also about providing platforms to absorb design from outside and offer access to the local design community.”

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