On Reflection: Dubai Design Week

BY Harper's Bazaar Interiors / Nov 29 2015 / 04:00 AM

The inaugural edition of Dubai Design Week delivered on its promise of establishing the emirate as an emerging design capital

On Reflection: Dubai Design Week
Love Project by Estudio Guto Requena
On Reflection: Dubai Design Week
Visitors play traditional games in Abwab's Kingdom of Saudi Arabia pavilion
On Reflection: Dubai Design Week
The Abwab pavilions invited interaction with modernised games sensitive to Middle Eastern culture
On Reflection: Dubai Design Week
Abwab's Kingdom of Saudi Arabia pavilion

Since it was first announced, Dubai Design Week had the world watching. Could Dubai pull it off? Could this city of glass and steel show some soul? And what did the regional creative class have to offer the global design community? It looks as if Dubai delivered and the world sat up and took notice. Here, Bazaar Interiors reviews the city-wide installations that caught everyone’s eye...

The Installations

Set in locations that heightened their impact, 12 original works by regional and international designers of note lent new vitality to the emirate, during Dubai Design Week, from October 26 to 31. The Al Fahidi District was abuzz with the thrill of Sao-Paulo-based Coletivo Amor de Madre’s digital portal, A Place to Departure, designed by Edson Pavoni, João Souza, Pagu Senna, Diego Spinola and Raphael Fagundes. This wood and glass window allowed people to interact remotely with each other by touch, despite their distance. Stretching the concept of digital interaction, the installation questioned our concepts of intimacy. In the same spirit, the Deconstruction Zone by Henrique Stabile brought communities together as they indulged in creating their own spaces with a series of furniture pieces designed to be used as building blocks.

Dubai Design District was home to the hi-tech, with Guto Requena presenting us with our deepest memories in 3D form. The Brazilian architect is known for works that intersect memory, digital culture and poetic narratives. Participants in the Love Project were hooked onto sensors as they talked about their deepest love stories. Data drawn from their changing emotions was processed on specially developed software and expressed through a 3D printer creating stunning mandals, as unique as each love story.

Emirati designer Aljoud Lootah presented the region’s rich fishing culture in a new light. Four octagons made of 1,000 metres of bright blue rope and weaves, reminiscent of the traditional fishing nets that provided a vital source of livelihood to the people of yore, formed Yaroof. “The location was very important for this project,” says Aljoud, commenting on the sand at JBR’s The Beach, where Yaroof was based. “To me, it is a poetic reminder of where we come from and how far we have come as a nation.”

Love Project by Estudio Guto Requena

A Place to Departure by Coletivo Amor de Madre

The Spirit of the Game

Set across the walkways of Dubai Design District, the Abwab pavilions fostered a sense of community as Jordan, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates invited the world to interact with their cultures, under the theme of Games: The Element of Play in Culture.

The UAE pavilion curated by the collective Mobius Design tackled elements of play and transitory experience, hoping to leave an everlasting impression. “Every project exhibited at the UAE Pavilion is a reinterpretation of a memory, of a game, of something we held as children in a playground while imagining stories and running with make-believe friends,” explains curator Hadeyeh Badri. Be it handcrafted silhouette stories, sensory experiences through amplified sounds of a universal game, or digital reflections that jog our memories, the UAE pavilion exemplified a harmony between the past and the future that is unique to Dubai.

Sisters Basma and Noura Bouzo, co-founders of Saudi Design Week, brought the Saudi Arabian pavilion alive, updating the rather humble game of Umm Tis, which uses sand and stone, to UM TS3 for the digital world. “Given that Saudi Arabia is considered one of the top gaming countries in the world, the Abwab theme invited a lot of discussion and research,” says Basma. “Our concept reconnects designers and the audience to a physical embodiment of Saudi culture and highlights the universality of games in human history.”

“Pakistani people are incredibly friendly, open-hearted, and simple,” says the curator of the Pakistan pavilion, Salman Jawed. “We wanted to portray the lighter side of Pakistan, where everyone plays together, not to win or to lose, but just to have fun.” Saluting the country’s diverse society, thoughts, and attitudes, the designers created a courtyard where people could gather, share life experiences and play multiple games simultaneously. The visitors’ seamless interaction with the games that were native to Pakistan made this pavilion truly special and popular throughout the week.

While the curated games inside created talking points, the structure of the pavilions was notable for its regionally sensitive, eco-conscious design. By filling tubular polycarbonate sheets with sand, Dubai-based architects LOCI created a structure that not only insulated the pavilion from the climate, but had a fluid and almost 3D aesthetic. They were “slivers of our sand dunes,” as one visitor noted. 

Shine Bright like Beirut

There is a version of the Levantine city – one of chaos and uncertainty – that we are fed by the global media. Beirut’s design doyenne Rana Salam showed us another side, full of joy, character and pizzazz—  Pratyush Sarup

The full article features in the November/December issue of Harper’s Bazaar Interiors, out now