Bigger and better: Dubai Design Week 2018 really does looks the part

Dubai Design Week is returning in November for its fourth outing with a commendably ambitious programme – the most comprehensive to date, with around 230 events including exhibitions, commissioned installations, awards and competitions, talks and workshops, tours and experiences for both design pros and the public.

Piggybacking on Design Week will be a number of associated events – the official opening of the Jameel Arts Centre on Dubai Creek, the inaugural Fikra Graphic Design Biennial in Sharjah, an expanded range of activities at Alserkal Avenue.

Once again though d3 is the host for most events and the principal supporter. Said d3’s Chief Executive Officer, Mohammad Saeed Al Shehhi: “It’s always important for us to continue to support the growth of the design industry as a whole and it is events like this that celebrate design from across the region which truly cement Dubai, and d3, as a design destination.” Last year’s edition was a great success, with 60,000 visitors to the main centre at d3 alone.

Key elements

The Middle East’s leading design trade fair, Downtown Design, is at d3 from 13-16 November with better than 175 premium brands on show. There will again be spots for Design Weeks from the region to highlight some of the Middle East’s brightest design talent; this year they include Amman, Beirut and Casablanca. The industry talks at The Forum are also repeated (and the whole programme has been beefed up).

This year there’s a new Downtown Editions area, a curated showcase for limited edition and bespoke design, capsule collections and designer collaborations. Also new is a Liveable Cities theme, this year featuring an indoor garden space by landscape designers desert INK.

At last there’s a Dubai Design Week app for iOS and Android, allowing visitors to create personalised schedules and be notified of launches and event times. Search your app store or download it via the website.

The Global Grad Show always was an inspired idea, a collection of design school graduate projects (some of them in or near production, others at a more speculative stage) from a range of colleges around the world. There were more than 1,000 submissions, double the number received last year; just 150 of those projects will be shown.

Named after the Arabic for ‘doors’, Abwab is an annually remodelled exhibition dedicated to design from the region. This year’s Abwab is staged within five dedicated pavilions designed by Architecture + Other Things, composed of natural materials including fallen twigs and timber coated in recycled newspaper pulp. Under the theme ‘Between the Lines’, commissioned designers from five communities – Amman, Beirut, Dubai, Kuwait and Eastern Saudi Arabia – will produce “design experiences”.

For 2018 there’s a new UAE Design Stories exhibition curated by Emirati product designer Khalid Shafar and promoting some of the brightest Emirati talents from across the country. The participating designers were invited to take inspiration from the historic photographic archives of the UAE.


Also new is a partnership with Facebook that promises “customised workshops and knowledge sharing activities … specially devised to celebrate the Arab creative community”.

More broadly relevant is an Institut Français exhibition of contemporary French design and savoir-faire, curated by Maud Louvrier-Clerc under the title Le French Design – How Innovation Creates History. We also like the sound of The Original Comes from Vitra, a roadshow consisting of a series of booths each of which tells the story of one of the iconic Vitra products – notably furniture, like the Eames Lounger and the Standard chair by Jean Prouvé.

Classic Eames, classic Vitra

The Mesh, another collaboration between Roudha Alshamsi and FBMI

Parametric Surfaces by SUPERFUTUREDESIGN

Tabanlioğlu Architects’ housEmotion, seen here in Milan

Design incubator Tashkeel gets an expanded presence in the form of Design+Making UAE, a space for design practice in the UAE from concept to completion. This will feature exhibition stations on Make Works UAE and the Tanween design programme, a retail pop-up of affordable products by UAE creatives, and a programme of workshops, talks and conversations.

Other local exhibits come from DRAK, the design collective based in Ras Al Khor; the College of Architecture, Art and Design at AUS, which is showing the complete design process for furniture fabricated by Ammar Kalo and a dozen of his students under the name ProtoPieces; and a site-specific installation by Dubai-based ANARCHITECT which explores circadian rhythms and our relationship with natural light.

Elsewhere the Italian laminate maker Abet Laminati has teamed up with designer Paola Navone to create a supersized stacking-box puzzle that acts as a gateway for visitors. Parametric Surfaces by Andrea Sensoli of SUPERFUTUREDESIGN is a sound-absorbing box for digitally enhanced virtual reality experiences. And Istanbul’s Tabanlioğlu Architects is bringing its housEmotion installation, an illuminated pavilion designed to ask the question ‘where is home?’ and previously seen this year at Milan and the London Design Fair.

As part of the Design for Good initiative, d3 has commissioned FBMI and Emirati designer Roudha Alshamsi to create The Mesh, a series of domed shelters inspired by traditional Afghani yurts found that will be hand woven by FBMI artisans.

Talking design

A lot of work has been done on the verbal side of Dubai Design Week 2018, with a really attractive collection of talks and panel discussions around a number of d3 locations. The Main Stage will see the big concepts like sustainability, safeguarding culture, and what the future might look like; this is where you’ll also get big(gish) names.

We especially like Daan Roosegaarde – always worth listening to: his keynote is on ‘Landscapes of the Future’ – and Karl Sharro, who has just edited The New Arab City for PLP Architecture.

There’s a second year for the UAE Modern group, this time presenting a sustainability conference titled People Planet Profits on 15 November. That promises a full day of knowledge exchange including panel discussions and keynotes on topics such as Circular Economies: adoption and adaptation, Architectural Education from the Perspective of the Future, and our Society in Motion: Communities, Resilience, Place.

And that’s not all. Audi Middle East will host a series of innovation-led discussions in the Audi Innovation Hub. Re:Urban Studio provides the setting for a series of professional masterclasses. A pop-up Making Space area gives visitors the chance to get hands-on with modelling, sculpting, weaving and sketching workshops.

Dubai Design Week runs from 12 to 17 November.

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