Late last year, the largest creative festival in the Middle East returned for its fifth edition, covering a range of disciplines, including architecture, interior, product design and multimedia. Not only does the festival provide an accessible meeting point for the global design community, but it also acts as a catalyst for the growth of the creative community in Dubai and the UAE.
Key components include the region’s leading design fair, Downtown Design; the Global Grad Show, which brings together projects from 100 of the most innovative universities across the world; Abwab, a curated and interactive project containing original design from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia; and an extensive programme of talks and workshop that included names like designer Christian Louboutin and editor of online design magazine Dezeen, Marcus Fairs.
Our pick of top installations and brands:
Qissa Ghar by The Busride Design Studio
Abwab’s India pavilion illustrated the country’s pluralistic culture. Designed by Mumbai-based The Busride Design Studio, Qissa Ghar, which translates to ‘Home of Stories’, brought a compelling blend of diverse religions and cultures to create a retelling of age-old creation myths. Seven contemporary artists interpreted these elements on khadi to create moments of connection between the vast network of stories that populate the pavilion.
The Maze by NYXO Visionary Design
The Maze was a dynamic installation that explored the domains of interactive surfaces with a sculptural quality. NYXO created a multi-effect surface of metal-skin for the interface, which was constantly rearranged by visitors — a mechanism allowed rotation around the centre of each modular panel (the plate could be taken out, rotated and re-inserted, transforming the wall into a 3D dynamic puzzle). The use of gleaming metal components highlight the three-dimensional nature of the installation.
Tanween: The professional development programme by Tashkeel is open to emerging designers and artisans in the UAE. Abdalla Almulla, Lana El Samman and Yara Habib produced three limited-edition products — Traces of Time, Mokaعab and Katta — as part of the 2019 design programme. Traces of Time is a timepiece that explores the formation of sand dunes and allows users to experience the natural phenomenon. A built-in timer moves light across the timepiece, gradually illuminating each of the six profiles as the day progresses, using two different colours to represent day and night. Mokaعab spotlights the centuries-old skill of weaving dried palm fronds (khoos). And Katta, a screen-divider with 400 pieces — made with individually hand-woven wooden panels and a variety of materials, including aluminium, corian and faux suede — is inspired by the traditional patterns and crafts of the UAE. Each individual panel rotates and pays special attention to the shapes, symmetry and rhythm found in Al Sadu, an embroidery form by the Bedouin people.
KALO’s Carabus collection: It is the result of conflating concepts of traditional craft with processes of advanced robotic fabrication. The aim is to address issues like tacit material knowledge and craftsmanship through a contemporary lens. Carabus highlights both machine and handcraft using robotically-formed copper as well as camel leather and walnut wood. The forms and textures are loosely inspired by beetles
DesignKraft: Established in 2017 by Sidarth Menon, the company creates design-led furniture, lighting and objects. It was founded as a platform for people to express their individuality through design, by marrying the freedom and creativity of design studios with the capabilities of a full-scale joinery and fabrication facility. They are known for their design-led approach, use of noble materials and taking risks.
Esha Gupta is an interior designer and founder of Design Pataki Studio in Mumbai.