MENA Grad Show at Dubai Design Week championed global activism in design
by Jincy IypeFeb 15, 2022
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Esra LemmensPublished on : Dec 20, 2021
For some time and since the pandemic, event organisers and exhibitors have been re-thinking current models. Trade shows have been under scrutiny and renowned for their glitzy yet excessively wasteful global footprint of human-created waste that is continually shipped around the world from one exhibition to the next. The global pandemic abruptly stopped excessive exhibitions and encouraged sustainable replacements. Both Dubai Design Week and Downtown Dubai have responded with a commitment to a responsible approach.
“Every year, the fair acts as a catalyst for growth in Dubai and the wider region’s creative community, providing an international platform for creatives to collaborate, create, network and showcase their design talents,” Mette Degn-Christensen, Director of Dubai Design Week, told Business Recorder. “Organisations and creatives are invited to take part by demonstrating their expertise, projects and innovations, collectively staging activations in the city and d3,” she adds.
"It complements the Dubai Creative Economy Strategy that aims at transforming the city into an international destination for creativity and the capital of creative economy by 2025 and doubling the contribution of creative industries to Dubai's GDP from 2.6 per cent in 2020 to five per cent in the next four years. It also seeks to more than double the number of creators based in the Emirate, from 70,000 in 2020 to 140,000 by 2025.”
Dubai Design Week and the MENA Grad Show brought together university innovators working on solutions for environmental and social challenges throughout the week. The show provides an exciting stage for the region's young talent and encourages discovery and change between academic institutions. The initiative is founded under the principles of equality, innovation and creativity as catalysts for a better world. Although smaller in size than previous years, I personally always look forward to this.
The 2040 d3 architecture exhibition showcased a futuristic window and the possible future of a Dubai that embraces people’s wellbeing and happiness. These core values are at the heart of all the Emirate’s future plans. D3 and other UAE-based architects took and enchanted visitors through a journey exploring the positive impacts of architecture on people’s quality of life. The Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan is the vision outlined by His Royal Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and includes mobility and transportation, public and recreational spaces, accessibility to infrastructure and eco-tourism. Through innovative experiences and installations, the exhibition investigated the future of the built space. It was inspired by its direct environments and cultural contexts.
French architect, Jean Nouvel, gave an insightful remote talk at Dubai Design Week about the immersive flagship of the Saudi Arabian heritage site of AlUla, where he brings to life the extraordinary Sharaan Nature Resort. His Insta-worthy resort and residence will be sculpted Nabataean style in the protected Sharaan Nature Reserve. The resort will boast 40 guest suites, three villas and 14 private pavilions. “AlUla is sacred. It holds great significance, filled with unique sites for exploration and discovery, and is therefore deserving of innovation and respectful design to enhance the wellbeing of the local community and elevate its original authenticity," said Nouvel in a statement.
Downtown Design, part of Dubai Design Week, is the region’s largest design trade show and exhibition which is also home to ‘Downtown Editions’ with collectable designs and limited edition pieces from over 20 countries, including Austria, France, Hungary, Italy and Spain. The annual event is presented in partnership with Dubai Design District (d3) and supported by Dubai Culture & Arts Authority. The year 2021 again showed an impressive wealth of design-related events, collection of programmes, installations, competitions, exhibitions, talks and workshops across various creative disciplines.
Award-winning architect Gorgio Palermo, the founder of NIU, installed the external entrance to the fair’s tent. The installation at Downtown Dubai combined cutting-edge technology with contemporary design to create an uplifting and engaging experience. The design encourages relaxation, reflection and peace. “It’s an urban archi-art space,” elaborates NIU partner Elena Gregorutti. “We sought to create an urban path, something that is a landmark, a piece of land art and a meeting place. Visitors can pass through and see the elements usually found in any city: people, trees, seating, archways. It’s somewhere that you can simply walk through, or linger in to enjoy the activities, or even just admire from a distance.
Basically, a multi-functional space that every visitor will experience and use differently as they access the Fair”. The focal point of the entrance was an oversized mosaic-clad caricature, created by artist Antonello Blandi, hand-made by Fantini Mosaici and illuminated with sustainable lighting from Artemide.
Designed by Broadway Interiors, the Lounge Bar at Downtown Design excitingly broke many rules of the function to change people's thinking and approach to F&B design. The outdoor water-facing terrace was hugely popular throughout the show. The inspiration for the new space, says Barnes, came from the host city of Downtown Design: “We wanted to create a representation of Dubai in 2021. We decided on three key pillars to build our concept around: people, sustainability and technology. Once we knew what we wanted to achieve our ideas flowed from this.”
Lulie Fisher’s The Lighthouse Café was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse. “We wanted to create an environment where the design encourages the diner to linger and socialise whilst embracing the senses (through) colour, pattern and texture.” The interiors comprised a boldly patterned and richly-coloured mosaic feature wall at the server counter. Fisher said, “Its rich colour palette complements the innovative Mediterranean-inspired dishes that The Lighthouse is so well renowned for. Against a backdrop of navy blue, a kaleidoscope of colours inspired by the fresh ingredients – watermelon, carrot, sweet potato, mint, golden honey, roasted root vegetables and red lentils – has been layered in with dramatic effect.” The central island seating is a large, mirrored, tiled and upholstered banquette. The Lulie Fisher team had a playful attitude to the design. It used its renowned colourful approach to create spontaneous retail and casual yet indulgent dining spaces.
The Forum at Downtown Design hosted a series of live interviews and discussions between leading regional and international architects, interior and product designers. Diverse topics included changing industry dynamics, behaviours and opportunities about how architecture and design truly embody authenticity and place. As one of the moderators, I was alongside an extraordinary line-up of speakers who debated everything from implementing sustainability in the real world with real clients to authentic placemaking and the future of Middle Eastern cities.
Kinoko and Kimoko launched their limited-edition collection by Monochrome, of coffee tables. The collection explored working with rigid materials to create the opposite of organic form. The collection focuses on refinement, sustainable elegance, and ‘simplicity with a soul’. The Kapok by Tasnim Tinawi collection featured an upholstered cushion draped on a curvilinear steel frame. The cushion is made from ‘desert cotton’, a sustainable fabric created from the shed flower buds of local shrubbery and ground cover. Tinawi is developing the material further and prototyping it for other applications in the upholstery industry.
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