Dubai Design Week: The Time Is Now

BY Harper's Bazaar Interiors / Oct 22 2015 / 16:14 PM

With its inaugural edition happening this October, Pratyush Sarup explores why Dubai Design Week 2015 opens a gateway of opportunities for our burgeoning design capital

Dubai Design Week: The Time Is Now
The Award winning Strattum Chair by Ammar Kalo, showcasing in the UAE pavilion
Dubai Design Week: The Time Is Now
The Zaviya coffe table by Coalesce
Dubai Design Week: The Time Is Now
Paige Smith is partnering with The Design Shop by S*uce
Dubai Design Week: The Time Is Now
Khalid Shafar's Nomad installation at London's Shubbak Festival
Dubai Design Week: The Time Is Now
LOCI's concept for the Abwab pavilions shun clichéd design codes

Why does any city need a design week? Ask London, Milan or Beijing; revered or newly cemented, their repute as leading international design capitals is built – in good measure – around calendar events designed for cultural and creative exchange.

“Dubai has long been a point of convergence of ideas,” says Cyril Zammit, head of design at Art Dubai Group, organisers of Dubai Design Week, which takes place October 26 to 31. “As we strive towards establishing our city as a global design destination, a design week offers design professionals and aficionados a tailor-made platform to explore local, regional and international design talent.”

“You simply can’t ignore Dubai,” says the UK-born starchitect Asif Khan. “From its towering skyscrapers to rejuvenation projects at community level, design has become part of the city’s urban fabric. A design week is the logical next step.” One of the many designers who will dot the city with commissioned installations for Dubai Design Week, Asif, a Cannes Lion winner known for mega-scale, technology-driven urban experiences, will unveil an observatory-inspired interactive work in the Emirate.

A specially commissioned work by Asif Khan will be unveiled at Dubai Design Week, following his Coca-Cola Beatbox for the London Olympics

Coletivo Amor de Madre from Brazil and Dubai’s own Khalid Shafar are just some of the other international and regional designers set to engage the city with never-before-seen public works. The six-day event breaks from the standard design week tradition of focusing on the national market by inviting six international design weeks to participate, positioning the Emirate as a unique centre of global discovery.

“Exchange is the key to growth”, explains Cyril. “These partner design weeks will, in turn, showcase Dubai’s local design talent at their own respective events.” Beijing Design Week will be the first to host Dubai as a guest city, from September 23 to October 1. With an eye on furthering creative exchange via design education, Dubai Design Week will also host eight internationally reputed design schools at the Global Grad Show 2015. Post-graduate students from Royal College of Arts (London), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Pratt Institute (New York City), National University Singapore, Keio Graduate School of Media Design (Tokyo), Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Daejeon, South Korea), Hong Kong Polytech and Tsinghua University (Beijing) will showcase works in the Middle East’s fastest growing design economy.

Tipping its hat to the city that spearheaded the Middle East’s design revolution, Dubai Design Week invites noted Lebanese designer Rana Salam to curate Brilliant Beirut – a study of the Levantine city through design. “Brilliant Beirut will showcase the evolution of the city from the 1950s to today, pinpointing key moments and designers that have shaped the city’s urban and creative landscape,” says Rana. Abwab – Dubai Design Week’s gateway initiative – will host some of the most path-breaking design stars from the UAE, Kuwait, Pakistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia at Dubai Design District (d3). As designers from each country set about defi ning their country’s aesthetic to a global audience under the theme of Game: The Element of Play in Culture, Dubai-based architectural firm LOCI has been entrusted with creating their purpose-built environments.

“Part of the challenge was in creating an environment that was neutral enough to let each country shine and yet remain true to Dubai’s identity without playing into the oft exploited regional design clichés,” explains Hamza Omari, industrial designer at LOCI. Playing on concepts of bio-mimicry, the designers turned to the most abundant natural regional resource, sand, juxtaposed against weather-resistant polycarbonate sheets to create a flexible, multi-panel space that will allow each curator to reconfigure their pavilion to best showcase their heritage. “We wanted to create a space where the external and the inside experience merge. We’re very excited to share the fruits of our design exploration with the world,” adds Hamad Khoory, architect and partner at LOCI.