The Dubai-based Canadian-Jordanian designer Hamza Al Omari (right) has been awarded this year’s Middle East Emergent Designer Prize for his piece Mahad. It will be exhibited next month by Van Cleef & Arpels in d3 during Dubai Design Week – the competition is sponsored by Van Cleef & Arpels and Tashkeel in partnership with Design Days Dubai.
Mahad is a contemporary baby cradle in wood, leather and felt. It was inspired by a piece of Bedouin furniture called Al-Sameel that was traditionally used to churn goat’s milk into cheese. Omari’s design can do that as well – cheese-churning by day, child’s cradle by night.
As Hamza Omari put it: “Much like Dubai, Bedouins have always been on the move, rapidly adapting to their environment in search of the next opportunity to grow and prosper. The continuous state of movement has left Bedouins with a challenge that deeply influenced their design language. It all revolved around functionality and minimalism with a very tight definition of necessity. This approach to design resonates with my personal ethos, with form following function at its core”.
“The aim of The Middle East Emergent Designer Award is to draw attention to the region’s innovative design industry and continue to create new avenues for emerging designers in the region that will help them achieve international recognition.” said Alessandro Maffi, MD of Van Cleef & Arpels, Middle East & India. He noted that the quality of entrants for the Prize has grown each year “with participants raising the bar and amazing us with their creativity in the competition.”
In addition to the AED 30,000 that Hamza Omari received to produce his design, he also gets a five-day trip to Paris to attend courses at the L’ÉCOLE Van Cleef & Arpels, the brand’s specialist jewellery design institution. “I am excited to step out of my comfort zone and learn new talents at L’ÉCOLE Van Cleef & Arpels in Paris as it will undoubtedly add to my skill set as a designer,” said Omari.
Omari thanked the organisers for “this incredible opportunity” and for their continued support to the design community … The design industry in the region is relatively young and such initiatives give designers a much-needed boost to innovate, take risks and explore”.
Hamza Omari was born in Canada, raised in Jordan, schooled in Vancouver (a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design from Emily Carr University), and currently works as an industrial designer at the Dubai-based studio LOCI Architecture + Design. Omari’s designs have been exhibited in several galleries and shown in a number of publications, and his furniture successes include a design that was bought by a Vancouver-based manufacturer of upscale products. Omari also designed the first edition of Dubai Design Week’s Abwab pavilions for LOCI, styling them with multi wall polycarbonate panels filled with sand that acted as an intelligent skin to limit heat transfer.
Omari was also one of the four UAE-based designers in Tashkeel’s Tanween intensive development programme who showed work at Design Days Dubai 2017. His design was a rather beautiful table lamp called Zea (left), made by combining traditional craft techniques with cutting-edge rapid prototyping and parametric CAD technologies; desert sand slowly moves back and forth in the tube, alternately exposing or covering a light source filtered through a repurposed mashrabiya.
All nine shortlisted concepts will be exhibited 7 to 25 November as part of the pop-up L’ÉCOLE Van Cleef & Arpels campus at Hai d3. Ibrahim Ibrahim and Ricardas Blazukas receive runner-up prizes of AED 10,000 to produce full-size mockups; the other six semi-finalists get AED 2,000 to produce mini prototypes of their work.