The six-day festival, spread across the city, is an aesthete's dream: are the things to put on your must-do list
Your guide to Dubai Design Week: 10 things to do, try, see and eat
Dubai Design Week kicks off on Monday, with a diverse, ambitious and multi-faceted programme of events unfolding across the city. While the six-day festival is centred around the city’s dedicated design hub, D3, there will be activations popping up from Ras Al Khor to Al Serkal and the Al Fahidi Neighbourhood.
The event is anchored by three main exhibitions: Abwab, a platform dedicated to offering insight into the region’s design scene, set across five distinctive pavilions; The Global Grad Show, a first look at 150 inventions for the future, courtesy of graduates from 100 universities around the world, including Harvard, MIT and RCA; and Downtown Design, the Middle East’s only trade fair dedicated to original, high-quality design. But there’s plenty more besides: from the public opening of the Jameel Arts Centre to furniture launches and food tours; there are workshops for children, bouquet making classes and Haitian textile designs, French ceramics from 1950s and talks on hovercrafts. Here are just some of the many highlights.
1. The power of water
In his immersive light installation, Waterlicht, Dutch artist and innovator artist Daan Roosegaarde invites you to consider the power and poetry of water. A combination of LEDs and lenses creates an ever-changing layer of light that will make you feel like you are in the midst of a virtual flood. The installation, which debuted in Holland but has travelled the world, is designed to raise awareness about rising water levels and the importance of water innovation. But it is granted with added resonance in Dubai, given how important water has been as a catalyst in connecting the city to the rest of the world, and also how key sustainability will be to the future development of the city. “Waterlicht is an inspiration for the future: can we build floating cities, how much power can we generate from the movement of water? Experience the vulnerability and the power of living with water.” Roosegaarde will also present a keynote speech, entitled Landscapes of the Future at 7pm on November 14, in D3.
Make sure to catch Waterlicht on November 11, 15 and 16, from 7pm to 10pm, at the Jaddaf Waterfront Sculpture Park at the new Jameel Arts Centre.
2. A personal guide
A new feature of this year’s Dubai Design Week is a nifty app that acts as your personal guide to the six-day festival, offering all details on the free-to-attend programme of events, installations, talks, workshops and tours happening across D3 and the wider city. There’s plenty going on, so the app is a useful way to personalise your schedule based on your particular preferences and interests. You’ll be notified of launches and must-attend events and will be able to navigate the event using an AR map. There are also benefits to be had - from exclusive discounts offered by Dubai Design Week partners and a complementary fast-track pass for Downtown Design during public opening hours.
3. Design of the time
UAE design, past and present, will be highlighted as part of Tashkeel’s programme of exhibitions, workshops and talks during Dubai Design Week. Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2018, Tashkeel was created to nurture contemporary art and design in the UAE, predominantly through its Tanween initiative, which supports emerging UAE-based designers through a nine-month development programme, enabling them to take a product inspired by the UAE from concept to completion. New creations by the latest Tanween recruits, Alya Al Eghfeli, Hala Al Ani, Renad Hussein and Myrtille Ronteix, will be debuted at Downtown Editions this week. The four limited edition furniture and lighting products are made from materials such as crystallised salts, Arabic coffee grounds, khoos (woven palm leaves) and sand, and are the fruit of a year’s worth of research, experimentation and collaboration with craftspeople and manufacturers in the UAE. In a multi-functional pop-up space in D3’s building 10, Tashkeel will have a shop offering ‘Made in Tashkeel’ products, and offer film screenings, workshops and talks for emerging designers. A separate exhibition, called Voices of Design, will revisit Tashkeel-supported works from the last five years, created by the likes of Hamza Omari, Ivan Parati, Latifa Saeed, Lujain Abulfaraj, Rand Abdul Jabbar, Salem Al Mansoori, Vikram Divecha and Zuleika Penniman.
4. Egal-itarian objects
Emirati designer Khalid Shafar has collaborated with Arte Veneziana, an Italian atelier specialising in engraving and mirror works, for his latest collection. True to form, Shafar has taken a reference that is particular to the UAE and used it as the starting point for his creations. In this instance, egals, (the woven rope bands used by Emirati men to secure their head dresses in place) have been deconstructed and converted into building blocks, to create mirrors, screens, chandeliers and an assortment of lamps. Mixed with glass, mirrored surfaces and natural stone that has been custom engraved by Arte Veneziana, the 14 pieces in the Forma collection present a unique juxtaposition of Emirati culture and Italian craftsmanship. “The egal is a part of our heritage and a universal symbol of Emirati culture – for me it was very important to ensure that this collection transcended being merely decorative objects, and instead became a functional collection and objects of cultural dialogue,” says Shafar.
5. Star play
Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, Diane von Furstenberg, Elie Saab, Paul Smith and Thom Browne are just some of the high-profile designers who have created carpets for The Rug Company over the years. So Martyn Lawrence Bullard, who will debut his second collection for the London brand in Dubai on November 12, is in good company. Bullard, who is consistently named as one of the world’s top interior designers and has authored books and presented television shows, counts the Kardashian clan, Cher, Eva Mendes, Alessandra Amrosio, and Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne among his illustrious clients. His first collection for The Rug Company consisted of three carpets, Mamounia, Mamounia Sky and Samovar, which hinted at Bullard’s diverse sources of inspiration and love for bold, uplifting patterns. Bullard will be in Dubai next week to mark the unveiling of his five new carpets for The Rug Company: Marrakech, South Ridge Pink, South Ridge Teal, Stevie Mac and Coachella. The designer is also a keynote speaker at Downtown Design on November 13, at 6pm.
6. Artful refuge
A Dh404,000 day bed will take pride of place on the terrace of the Downtown Design fair. Le Refuge is the first piece of furniture created by Franco-Italian artist Marc Ange, a former luxury car designer, who works between Paris and Los Angeles. Originally crafted from pink teakwood, perforated steel, Sunbrella fabric and a foam-based cushion, the bed is shaped to resemble a jungle-like oasis, shaded by a canopy of palm leaves. The daybeds have since been rendered in various shades, and using materials such as marble, black, yellow and blue teak, and brass and velvet. Each bed is 290 centimetres tall, 270cm wide and 300cm long. The pastel pink creation that will make an appearance in Dubai this week was named the most Instagrammed piece at Milan Design Week in 2017. Since then, it has been spotted at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles and Miami Art Basel.
7. The psychology of colour
Nestled between buildings 8 and 9 in D3, artist Liz West’s Aglow installation will consist of 169 hemispherical, ﬂuorescent-coloured acrylic bowls arranged on the ground in a hexagonal shape. West is interested in exploring how sensory phenomena can invoke psychological and physical responses that tap into our own deeply entrenched relationships to colour – which is highlighted in the way that the edges of the multi-hued bowls glow, as if charged with electricity. The bowls also offer a concave surface in which to view the architecture of surrounding buildings in a new, fluorescent-tinted light. And while it probably won’t be necessary this week, the individual basins can act as rain catchers, potentially introducing another reflective surface into the mix. The installation was created in collaboration with fashion brand Nemozena, which shows its commitment to female empowerment by supporting and showcasing the creativity of female talents around the world. Aglow was first presented at Paris Fashion Week in September and will make its Dubai debut from November 12 to 17.
8. Mechanical art
With its focus on kinetic art, MB&F’s MAD Gallery proves that creativity comes in endless forms. This year, the gallery will present two new limited edition, mechanical pieces by Apical Reform: Tornado, which, through the geometric positioning of circular metal rings, is able to capture the distinctive movement of its namesake; and Stingray, an abstract kinetic sculpture that captures the trancelike movement of a stingray in slow motion. A third piece, Schermo, will also be on display, and pays homage to the mechanical mastery of supercars – specifically the Ferrari GTO 250, Aston Martin DB5 and Lamborghini Miura 1966-1973. “Since childhood, I have been fascinated by moving objects, and that fascination grew into an appreciation of horology and kinetic design. MB&F MAD Gallery is a pioneering gallery within the kinetic world and we are thrilled to be working with them. I have admired them from afar and to get an insight into the mastery of their futuristic art works, that are still deeply rooted in traditional craftsmanship, is both eye-opening and a childhood dream come true,” says Amrish Patel, founder and principal of Apical Reform. The works will be on display from November 12 to December 30 at both AR Gallery by Apical Reform in D3 and MB&F MAD Gallery in Dubai Mall.
9. Food for thought
Dubai Design Week certainly isn’t lacking in depth or breadth. From hovercars to watchmaking to raku firing, an ancient Japanese ceramics technique, the full gamut of design will be explored during next week’s event. And that includes food. Frying Pan Adventures, which organises food and storytelling experiences in lesser known corners of Dubai’s culinary scene, is organising a comparative “food walk” where participants are invited to sample three different meals in Dubai’s colourful Karama neighbourhood. As the name of the event, Sifra: No cutlery please! suggests, the tour will explore eating etiquette across three “old world” countries, India, Ehtiopia and Sudan, looking at how these cultures view the food itself as a utensil. “We’ll tuck into a bowl of slow-cooked foul at a Sudanese gem, cleanse our palettes with Indian street food served through a window and savour an Ethiopian home-style supper with an unmistakable motherly touch,” the company promises. “We will dissect these meals as we experience them, trying to understand how differences in table setting, edible cutlery, and etiquette affect our behaviour, build a unique mood and help connect all who partake of these rituals.”
10. A house for all?
In its HousEmotion installation, which will ist outside building 11 in D3, Tabanlıoğlu Architects asks that most pertinent of questions: what does home mean? It's a recognition that, in an era of increasingly transient living, home can mean many things. As the practise puts it: “The question: ‘Where are you from?’ prompts myriad answers. The meaning of home for a person may simply be a smartphone with a full memory.” But it may also be something more fundamental to our sense of self – as seen in Tabanlıoğlu's reference to the psychoanalyst DW Winnicott and his groundbreaking work on childhood development, Home is Where We Start From. The HousEmotion pavilion starts with our most basic concept of home: a cubic form created form a series of white rods. This simple border marks the boundaries of the house, but the gaps between the rods lend a sense of semi-transparency to the structure, allowing it to meld into the wider environment. Do those demarcations even really exist? But inside, the structure feels like a shelter – it’s a space that invites visitors to rest, relax, linger and socialise. Is that what home is?
For more, visit dubaidesignweek.ae