Dubai Design Week: what not to miss

Dubai Design Week at d3 provides a really rich six days of exhibitions, installations, talks, workshops and trade fair, nearly all free to attend. It’s an impressive snapshot of the design scene in Dubai and beyond; there’s a full what’s-on directory here, but these you shouldn’t miss. And check out our chat with William Knight, head honcho at Design Week.


Downtown Design

Now in its fifth year, Downtown Design has become the lynchpin of Design Week. It’s basically a B2B trade fair, with over 150 brands from 25 countries taking stands to seek local buyers and/or sign up local dealers, but there’s a lot of real design on show – some bling, some overly commercial, some classic form-follows-function, all demonstrating the importance of design (for domestic interiors, mostly).

It opens on 14 November (6-9.30pm) for everyone; in the afternoons of 15 and 16 November it’s trade only (1.30-6pm) but in the evenings (6-9.30pm) it’s open to all again. And 17 November it’s unrestricted – 1.30-9.30pm. Entrance is free, but you have to register online here.


Keynote: Sir David Adjaye in conversation with Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi

13 November, 7pm to 8pm DXBDW Mainstage – Building 4
David Adjaye is one of the world’s most influential architects and designers. Born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents, he founded Adjaye Associates in 2000 and immediately won several prestigious commissions including the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo (2005) and the Idea Stores in London (2005). His largest project to date, the $540 million Smithsonian Institute National Museum of African American History and Culture right), opened in Washington DC last year and was named Cultural Event of the Year by the New York Times. He has a commitment to the social agenda behind architecture, and seems to specialise in buildings that somehow provide access to knowledge; both of these are sure to be explored by Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi.
This is going to be rammed; there’s no pre-registration, and seats will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Anjali Srinivasan’s ‘Quiver Vessels’ react to vibration or touch, collapsing and returning to their shape


14-18 November, 10am to 10pm

Abwab (it means ‘doors’ in Arabic) provides a snapshot of regional design talent from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Over 250 designers were considered, via a clever peer-selection process – to be considered for selection, a designer had to nominate the next designer to submit – and juried final choice. It’s housed in an interesting pavilion by Dubai-based Fahed + Architects, essentially a mound of bedsprings sourced from waste management company bee’ah; the result is light and airy, a clever contrast to the massive solidity of d3’s permanent buildings.


Folks Kitchenware for the Blind by Kevin Chiam, National University of Singapore

Global Grad Show

14-17 November, 10am to 9.30pm; and 18 November, 10am to 7pm

This now-established feature of Design Week is such a good idea, a chance for see the most innovative projects from the world’s leading design schools. This year it has more than 200 projects drawn from 91 schools, providing a overview of what the world’s young design minds are working on; it’s genuinely stimulating. In most cases there will be at least one of the designers present, making Global Grad Show the largest student gathering ever assembled. Full details here.


GraphicsRCA: Fifty Years and Beyond

14-17 November, 10am to 10pm; and 18 November, 10am to 7pm Ground Floor, Building 6

This exhibition, curated by RCA tutors Teal Triggs, Richard Doust, Jeff Willis and Adrian Shaughnessy, celebrates the graphic design course at the RCA. Tracing the history of the impact students and tutors at the RCA have had on design and the visual landscape internationally, it shows how graphic design emerged as a major force in business and culture. This expanded version of the original 2014-15 exhibition features new works by recent graduates and over 120 designers with works ranging from printed posters and books to moving images and digital projection. Not to be missed.


Mid-Century Modern

13-18 November, 10.30am to 9.30pm MCML Studio, Office 108B, Building 6

MCML Studio specialises in “exceptional and rare Mid-Century Modern antiques, meaning work by designers (mainly French) of the 1950s to the 1970s. This exhibition includes pieces by the likes of Pierre Guariche, Olivier Mourgue, Alain Richard and Jacques Pouchain, all of whom deserve to be better known.


Silent Call

14-17 November, 10am to 10pm; and 18 November, 10am to 7pm Ground Floor, Building 7

This installation designed by Khalid Shafar for Lasvit Middle East is a chandelier inspired by the mosque and featuring silhouettes of the domes of five iconic mosques in five countries – Russia, Malaysia, Germany, UAE, and Denmark. Shafar includes much reference to the number five in this work, symbolising the five daily prayer times; each dome is resized in five different sizes, and reversed for functionality and composition. A kinetic light installation moves five times a day to adapt to each country’s time zone, synchronising with the times of the five calls to prayer. It’s rather beautiful, and genuinely spiritual.



13 – 18 November, 10am to 8pm Ground Floor, Building 5; and Tashkeel, Nad Al Sheba

Poster design at its best. Weltformat is an international poster festival that has been presented in locations around the world, from Switzerland to China; the exhibition demonstrates the craftsmanship, attention to detail and clarity of vision that goes into creating new designs, but it also rams home the power of the power to communicate a strong message for commercial or other purposes. Alongside the exhibition of poster trends in Switzerland (Weltformat is primary a collective of graphic designers from Lucerne) there will be an exhibition of posters from a group of MENA designers.

Weltformat DXB is a collaboration between the Weltformat collective, Tashkeel, Cairo-based designer Engy Aly, and Mobius Design Studio’s Design House from Dubai.


Open Studios

A number of d3’s tenants are running an open house during Design Week. Three you should definitely visit:

Grimshaw 15 November, 5pm to 8pm: Office 501A, Building 7 Designer of one of the 2020 pavilions, a massive operation (500 people, seven main offices around the world) with over 200 design awards to its name

T.ZED Architects 13 and 15 November, 6pm to 10pm: Office 304A, Building 4 Local architects with a cool, stylish approach – the KOA Canvas mini-development near Al Barari (due in 2018) looks like being one of Dubai’s more interesting residential areas

Zaha Hadid Architects 13 to 18 November, 9am to 6pm: Office 503, Building 8 Sure to be much visited so the lengthy opening period is welcome. ZHA’s portfolio includes cultural, academic, sporting and infrastructure projects across six continents, including the Sheik Zayed Bridge in Abu Dhabi and The Opus (under construction) and Signature Towers (on hold, or possibly canned) developments in Dubai

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