Dubai Design Week 2022: Imagining a future of circular sustainable design

Diving into the creative festival, which presented works of designers and studios working across disciplines as they attempted to Design with Impact.

by Esra LemmensPublished on : Nov 26, 2022

The eighth Dubai Design Week was curated in strategic partnership with Dubai Design District (D3) and supported by Dubai Culture. The design week took place between November 8, 2022, and November 13, 2022, in D3, the regional hub for art, design, fashion, and architecture. It fortifies Dubai's status as a UNESCO Creative City of Design and further grows the city's profile of creative industries. Like any notable Design Week, Dubai Design Week 2023’s programming focussed on designing a sustainable future across the week’s activities in a range of disciplines—by international and regional designers with its overarching theme ‘Design with Impact.’

What does 'Design With Impact' entail? Doesn’t design always make an impact due to its communicative nature? Designers were one of the first responders during the global pandemic. They understood their role better than any other industry during the disaster and with their valuable contributions made, the whole world understood a bit better that designers are no longer restricted and dictated by the confinements of the industrial age. Design protagonists deploy design not as a commercial tool executed under instruction from employers or clients, but as an ambitious eclectic agent of change.

  • Kin created bricks using discarded shells from restaurants and low-carbon lime | Dubai Design Week| STIRworld
    Kin created bricks using discarded shells from restaurants and low-carbon lime Image: Courtesy of Fadaa Space; Courtesy of Dubai Design Week
  • Hosting native plants and species, they facilitate positive interaction with humans and intentionally bring into question our relationship with nature | Dubai Design Week| STIRworld
    Hosting native plants and species, they facilitate positive interaction with humans and intentionally bring into question our relationship with nature Image: Courtesy of Fadaa Space; Courtesy of Dubai Design Week
  • The team at Fadaa Space cited, It is time to rethink our global relationship with nature, to end its exploitation, and live symbiotically | Dubai Design Week| STIRworld
    The team at Fadaa Space cited, "It is time to rethink our global relationship with nature, to end its exploitation, and live symbiotically" Image: Courtesy of Fadaa Space; Courtesy of Dubai Design Week

The numerous design weeks, expositions, installations, and fairs held across the globe every year generate an obscene amount of waste. Entire pavilions constructed of non-recyclable materials are discarded, after mere days or weeks and end up in landfills. Designers are responsible for considering the lifecycle of their creations and incorporating nature-based materials into their work, delivering more sustainable design solutions.

Designer Talin Hazbar presented a seating series composed of sea waste, including ropes dredged from the bottom of Dubai harbour, designed to benefit the Dubai Voluntary Diving team Image: Talin Hazbar

As an industry, we need to create sustainable design solutions. Design can only reach its full potential or orchestrate transformational change if designers draw from these ideas. Dubai Design Week strives to bring these ideas and talents together to engage, connect, and be inspired by artisans presenting across installations, exhibitions, talks, workshops, and the Downtown Design fair. It's time we consider products as a sum of their materials.

ANQA studio's aptly titled collection, 'The Most Sustainable Furniture,' employed plastic waste to create a series of furniture defined by its pink marbled surfaces Image: Courtesy of ANQA Studios

The commercial arm of Dubai Design Week, Downtown Design, mixed the latest from top-notch international brands with the best of the Middle East's homegrown design scene. They created a layered programme of talks and curated B2B activations to provoke fresh ideas and foster new business. The design fair created a space for dialogue that reflected Dubai's cosmopolitan soul, nurtured commercial opportunities, and fostered cross-cultural pollination.

Talin Hazbar, the Syrian-born artist, presented a series of seats made from ocean waste, sourced through collaboration with the Dubai Voluntary Diving team Image: Talin Hazbar

Post-pandemic, the Middle East's design industry has bounced back. Any signs of looming trouble are erased, with a surge in demand for luxury residences, exceptional hotels, and ultra-exclusive leisure destinations. Compared to historically recognised luxury markets that are ailing, the Middle East is a promising destination for design brands intending to grow their business. Dubai is the focal point of it all.

Dubai Design Week witnessed designers viewing investments as a way of building their legacy, with a focus on quality and originality. The product focus differs from other fairs and fosters design innovation and cross-cultural collaboration.

Sharjah-based Reem Jeghel showcased objects made using palm veneer, a material she developed using pressed palm fibres, creating a finish similar to wood veneer Image: Reem Jeghel

The UAE Designer Exhibition presented the work of 16 designers and studios working across a range of disciplines curated by Cyril Zammit. Sharjah-based Reem Jeghel showcased objects made using palm veneer, a material she developed using pressed palm fibres, creating a finish similar to wood veneer. Design is a key pillar of Dubai's strategic roadmap. We continuously support talented people and empower creativity behind the development of the creative economy. This support cements Dubai's position as a global centre for culture, an incubator for creativity, a thriving hub for talent and the global capital of the creative economy.

Dubai's strategic position is that of a crossroads city. It was an important port on the historic Silk Road trade route and later a financial hub conveniently straddling Europe and Asia. It is associated with a meeting place of cultures. However, Dubai Design Week 2022 essentially spent its energy acquainting visitors with its flourishing crop of homegrown talent. In addition to the many international participants, the fair was bursting with creatives born and raised in the Middle East, providing a peek into the region's vibrant creative scene.

  • Sara Alrayyes envisioned her project as a means to develop a valuable and creative space through upcycling old fishing nets| Dubai Design Week | STIRworld
    Sara Alrayyes envisioned her project as a means to develop a valuable and creative space through upcycling old fishing nets Image: Sara Alrayyes; Courtesy of Dubai Design Week
  • Al Gargoor is a public space made up of various furnishings made from gargoor, a formerly used fishing net, either in its native shape or with minimal alterations | Dubai Design Week | STIRworld
    Al Gargoor is a public space made up of various furnishings made from gargoor, a formerly used fishing net, either in its native shape or with minimal alterations Image: Sara Alrayyes; Courtesy of Dubai Design Week
  • The design installation aspires to leave viewers increasingly exposed to their traditional values as life develops and evolves | Dubai Design Week | STIRworld
    The design installation aspires to leave viewers increasingly exposed to their traditional values as life develops and evolves Image: Sara Alrayyes; Courtesy of Dubai Design Week

  • The project incorporates sa'af, traditional palm tree weaving and Naseej textiles, produced and crafted by local Bahrainis | Dubai Design Week | STIRworld
    The project incorporates sa'af, traditional palm tree weaving and Naseej textiles, produced and crafted by local Bahrainis Image: Sara Alrayyes; Courtesy of Dubai Design Week

A great growing development

A new generation of designers is rethinking our relationship with everyday things. By finding value in our trash, imagining a future of clean materials, and a circular economy could lead the way out of the waste age. We must face the waste problem. We can no longer ignore what happens to things when we get rid of them. Instead of thinking of objects as things that have an end life, they can have many lives. This is not just an exhibition; it is a campaign, and we must all actively participate in our future. Imagine a future where circular sustainable design could lead us out of the waste age. 

'Design for impact' should not be used as a buzzword. We still see designers that lack critical self-reflection designing for Instagram or PR purposes, and swept under the rug of design with impact. To design without purpose is unacceptable. Back in my days at the design university, designs labelled as 'nice' or 'fun' were forbidden. I am focused on the vast majority, which is more concerned with the planet and humanity.

It is crucial to stimulate a collective discussion on the foundations of circularity and sustainability in design. These principles should be applied holistically and recursively at every stage and scale throughout the design process. In doing so, designers of all disciplines can work to innovate creatively and act in parallel to the natural world, not against it. It is not just about our life as humans; it is about the life of our planet.

The Dubai Design Week 2023 was on display from 8 and 13 November 2022 in D3.

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