Multidisciplinary Designer Aljoud Lootah's Newest Works Reveal The Rich Heritage Of The UAE

BY Ayesha Sohail Shehmir Shaikh / Dec 1 2019 / 09:16 AM

We speak to the founder of the eponymous Aljoud Lootah Design Studio on the powerful narratives behind her new designs

Multidisciplinary Designer Aljoud Lootah's Newest Works Reveal The Rich Heritage Of The UAE
Aljoud Lootah

Entitled the Unfolding Unity Stool, the very first piece that Aljoud Lootah designed was inspired by the arabesque eight-pointed star motif. The stool was showcased at Design Days Dubai in 2013, as part of a product design program by Tashkeel and Dubai Culture. “That’s where I had a change of heart and decided to continue with product design as a career,” reveals Lootah.

“I’m often inspired by elements from the Emirati culture and history and try to work with materials that reflect who we are and where we come from while designing them in a more contemporary context.

Mandoos collection (2018), Woven camel leather with metal hardware placed on AlAreesh Stool made of copper (2017)

Photo by 
Aasiya Jagadeesh

After graduating with a degree in graphic design, Lootah worked as a freelance designer from her home for a few years until eventually in 2015, she decided to establish her eponymous Aljoud Lootah Design Studio in Dubai Design District, specialising in bespoke VIP gifts and product designs rooted in Emirati culture and heritage.

“Dubai Design District had so much potential back then, and I was supported immensely by their management,” she says. “It managed to create this wonderful community of designers and artists which makes the area alive and this is the kind of energy I was looking to be surrounded with.”

A play on form and function, Lootah’s designs are a depiction of Emirati pride and the beauty of the UAE’s landscape. “I find it interesting to challenge a form that can be perceived as unconventional or one without a functionality but still produce the designs in a way where it would show the opposite,” she says.

“It’s all about focusing on the traditional elements and inspiration while designing them in a minimal or modern context to produce the result of a product that can be relatable in modern times - a product that still tells so much about history and culture, while being able to look aesthetically appealing, minimal and modern.” A testament to her influential work, Lootah became the first Emirati to have her work acquired by an international museum, namely the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.

Aljoud Lootah  in her Dubai Design District Studio

Photo by 
Aasiya Jagadeesh

Inspired by the patterns seen in traditional Islamic patterns and crafts, her intricately designed pieces intertwine Emirati culture with modern influences. “I usually tend to extract elements from the Emirati culture and history and design them in a contemporary context to be relevant to the modern world we are living in,” she expresses. “I believe it is important to tell stories of who we are as Emiratis through the work we produce.”  

Primarily, the designer works with a range of materials including porcelain, marble, wood and metal. “The choice of materials is a result of the type of product designed and the decision is made after careful considerations on which material would enhance the design in the best way,” she says. “I also enjoy working with camel leather as it’s a biodegradable material that can have a lovely effect on products due to its texture and durability.”

Recently, Aljoud Lootah Design Studio has launched the Takya Stool and the Takya bench. Commissioned by a client, the pieces evoke childhood memories and resonate with the designer on a personal level. The products were inspired by the Takya, which was traditionally used as a cushion at Arabic low-seating Majlises. “Both products have a special place in my heart as they bring back fun memories from my childhood,” says Lootah. “Growing up, my siblings and I would stack them one on top of the other and create houses and forts that we would play in.” 

Takya Stool 2018 Fabric, Camel leather, Ash Wood

Photo by 
Aasiya Jagadeesh

As part of the VIP gifts section, the studio has recently launched a set of rugs including the Aerial Rug and the Spathe Rug. Handwoven with wool and silk, the inspirations behind the Aerial Rug trace back to prehistoric times. “Between the water bodies and the different terrains that adorn this land, there are many stories that contributed to the development of this country,” says Lootah.

“This is where our ancestors walked, where our forefathers stayed for several sleepless nights, where our ships sailed and where the glamour of our pearls spread. Here is where we still stand today seeking to uplift this land as it is our duty and it is our homeland. This rug design tells the story of one of the charming parts of the capital, Abu Dhabi, when viewed from above. It has been carved to represent several different heights showing the beauty of our terrain and the depths of our seas to represent a piece of our nation”

The Spathe Rug takes its inspiration from date palm trees, which have become an emblem of the UAE and embedded themselves in the cultural structure of the community. “The Founding Father’s steadfast efforts over the years led to the rapid growth of agriculture across all Emirates and especially that of date palm trees,” expresses Lootah.

“This resulted in it being one of the main pillars of the national economy and a sign of civilisation causing the country’s residents to cherish these trees that have accompanied them from the very beginning of this journey.” The design of the rug resembles date palm male flowers, also referred to as Nabat flowers in the Emirati dialect. “The flowers grow and mature in a compact and orderly manner within a large sheath and their pollen is subsequently used in the pollination process to produce dates,” says Lootah. “This carpet is handwoven in pure wool where various weaving techniques are used to give dimension and additional aesthetic appeal. Its pile is hand-cut in different heights, reflecting the features of Nabat in the carpet.”

Spathe rug (2019), Wool,Commissioned by a client, hand-knotted,hand-carved and looped to create various shapes and heights

Photo by 
Aasiya Jagadeesh

For this year’s Dubai Design Week, Aljoud Lootah Design Studio have crafted ‘Mandoos Boxes’, focusing on material manipulation as the main inspiration for the designs. In traditional Emirati culture, a mandoos is a wooden chest used to store valuable possessions. “We wanted to work on a series of boxes that are all the same in terms of size, inspired by the traditional wooden mandoos,” shares Lootah.

“The new collection reflects how tweaking a single material can result in various outcomes. The main material used is camel leather, paired with some other complimenting materials such as acrylic and metal hardware.” For Abu Dhabi Art 2019, the studio unveiled a room divider inspired by a constellation, highlighting the beauty of Islamic geometry and arts as part of the Al Burda Endowment initiative. But what the designer hopes to highlight the most: “I hope to tell stories about the UAE through my designs,” she says. “To encourage the younger generation and inspire them to work on their passions.”

Mudeem boxes  launched at Downtown Design by Aljoud Lootah

Courtesy of Aljood Lootah

From the Winter 2019 issue of Harper's Bazaar Interiors