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Dubai Design Week - A Closer Look

ByYen Kien Hang
Dubai Design Week -  A Closer Look

With more than 230 events, successful brands, established designers and emerging young talents, this year's Dubai Design Week (DDW) proved yet again that it is one of the most important events in the world of design. From Downtown Design's limited design debut to Abwab hosting designers from Amman, Beirut, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait City, and not to mention the Global Grad Show that presented projects addressing issues on a global scale - DDW has spoilt us with an abundance of good designs to feast our eyes on. Here are some of them:

Liberty Window (T) and Tawazun Collection (B) from Nakkash.

1. Downtown Design

With over 175 brands exhibiting (including 40 regional designers), this year's edition of Downtown Design achieved a new record, expanding by over 20%. This result comes in the wake of the rapid growth that the event has experienced in recent years. This year features a new section, Downtown Editions, which showcases limited edition and bespoke design products by independent firms, brands and designers from the Middle East and other countries. 

Among them, the new collection from Wajih & Omar Nakkash (of the Nakkash furniture brand) and 'The Foundry' by Tinkah explored new narratives for 'Made in the Middle East'. The former, well known for being a company that carefully selects luxury furniture, has also been creating new and original products. For example, the 'Liberty Window' is a concept piece that comments on the people of the Middle East, a region that has been plagued with a series of economic, political and social conflicts. Also on display is the 'Tawazun (Balance)' Collection. As the name suggests, this is a series of tables that use radically different materials to create a well-balanced piece. The core design concept, focusing on the opposing factors of both heat, brass, and frigidness, marble, is reflected in aspects of the visual material affluence.

Ramel coffee cup by The Foundry.

Rounded Collection (L), TORI Lamp (R) by REJO.

'The Foundry' by UAE design studio Tinkah, on the other hand, presented their ‘Ramel’ collection of coffee cups made with a material consisting of sand and ceramics. Inspired by the ever-shifting dunes, The Foundry by Tinkah set out to develop a material that takes the characteristics of desert sand into a moldable medium. Ramel can shift into functional and aesthetic products that emerge from their environment rather than adopting their surroundings.

Saudi-based design studio Rejo (founded by Reem Olyan and Jumana Qasem) creates furniture that celebrates beauty and strength in diversity, and the different cultures around the world. Its pieces assemble different spirits in one place. Rejo's new collection consists of three pieces inspired by Yemen, India and Ndebele in South Africa. The designers are driven by creating unique pieces, mixing simplicity of abstract lines and shapes with art, they seek to make timeless and recognisable pieces, and believe that design is all about well-being. 

Host Lamp by Alya Al Eghfeli.

The Liminal Vase by Hala Al Ani (L), Insight Out by Myrtille Ronteix (R).

Tashkeel is a centre for art and design practice in Dubai. Each year, its Tanween design programme gives emerging designers the chance to design and manufacture limited editions that respond to the local environment. This year, all eyes were on four female designers: Alya Al Eghfeli, Hala Al Ani, Renad Hussein, and Myrtille Ronteix. With all the products inspired by the UAE, designed in the UAE and made in the UAE, the latest pieces for the Tanween Collection truly gave visitors a glimpse into the UAE's highly skilled craftspeople and production processes.

For example, Alya's 'Host Lamp' explores the cultural trait of hospitality, as well as the art of making and serving Arabic coffee through a contemporary lighting fixture that captures the movement of the serving ritual. Myrtille's 'Insight Out' has an extremely modern exterior that gently wraps the traditional inner handmade element. When the two outer cylinders are separated, the light switches on, revealing the inner Emirati craftsmanship. The designers have also designed a range of affordable products like 'The Liminal Vase' by Hala Al Ani and Desert Flower Coasters by Renad Hussein. 

Tie In by Abdulla Almulla (L), Silent Notes by Azza Al Qubasi (R).

Mandoos collection by Aljoud Lootah.

2.  UAE Design Stories: The Next Generation

After travelling to various International Design Weeks, this exhibition highlighting the brightest Emirati talents from across the country returned to its origins. Supported by the UAE Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development and curated by the product designer Khalid Shafar, the exhibition focuses on ten designers from the Emirates who immersed themselves in the UAE’s photographic archives to reinterpret their roots in new pieces with a contemporary flavour.

Abdulla Almulla's 'Tie In' was inspired by 'Al Areesh Al Mogasas', a palm leafed building. By creating a new version of the two main building components: palm fronds and ropes, the designer was able to create a self-assembling tool with the function to flexibly transform itself into different forms, such as a low curved seating partition. Azza Al Qubasi's 'Silent Notes' is also a quite a stunning piece. It may look like a sculpture but is, in fact, a free-standing coat hanger that is inspired by Al Tanbora, a musical instrument that was popular in the Gulf area for over 200 years that originally came from Africa, from the Nubian area between Egypt and Sudan.

Also, the now seasoned designer that is Aljoud Lootah brought a series of boxes inspired by wooden chests and decorated with brass nails that were commonly used in the past to hold a person's most valuable and precious possessions such as documents, jewellery, clothes, money and a bride's dowry. The Mandoos collection, now in leather and lined with high-quality suede, has become a new staple of luxury and elegance in one's home.

Journalist Drone by Sheida Amiri Rigi (T), Aquair by students from Tainan's National Cheng Kung University (B)Journalist Drone

3. Global Grad Show

Now in its fourth year, Global Grad Show, held in partnership with Investment Corporation of Dubai, showcased 150 forward-thinking projects from universities across the world, each selected based on its power to accelerate, change and improve lives. The show is a platform for the next generation of designers. It brings together life-changing inventions from the world's leading educational institutions, addressing global issues and trends such as climate change, mass migration, data privacy, and ageing populations.

From German university in Cairo, Product Designer student Yara Ahmed Rady hopes to help children with dyslexia learn Arabic with her design. The project, which consists of a collection of exercises, will transform conventional teaching techniques into games, offering alternative routes to literacy by applying digital tools and engaging all five senses. Aquair by Tainan's National Cheng Kung University students Wei-Yee Ong, Hsin-Ju Lin, Shih-Min Chang, and Marco Villela was created in response to the Honduras water crisis. It hopes to generate clean drinking water by harvesting fog. The collapsible structure collects water with a waterproof fabric stretched across a bamboo structure. A fan and centrifuge use gravity to draw the water vapour down a tube and into a bucket for collection.

Last but not least, in the era of fake news, Sheida Amiri Rigi from the University of Tehran seems to have come up with a solution to serve the needs of journalists in the field. Her 'Journalist Drone' is a modular dash drone that can be customised in terms of weight, size, flight capability and footage quality. In the future anticipated by this project, a solo journalist arrives at a scene and chooses the number and combination of drone modules needed to best capture the scale of the event. Viewers can then log onto a website that allows them to choose the perspective they wish to view. The drones' 360 video capability allows all users to customise their view in real time.


For more information on this year's edition of Dubai Design Week, click here.

Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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