The experience of Dubai Design Week 2016 (DXBDW2016) was more than enough to inspire even the most jaded due to the sheer energy and enthusiasm that overtook this hot destination during October 25 - 28, 2016. For the second year running, this internationally acclaimed design festival was held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheika Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in partnership with Dubai Design District d3 and with the support of Dubai Design & Fashion Council and Dubai Culture & Arts Authority. It drew in a record breaking 40,000 international visitors who made their way to the desert capital to take in the more than 150 events spread throughout the city's venues, solidifying the fact that Dubai is truly a commanding design centre.
This is underlined by the fact that the studios of five architecture giants - Santiago Calatrava, Zaha Hadid Architects, Foster + Partners and Benoy - are opening offices in Dubai Design District d3 in 2016 in response to the expansion of the local architecture industry which is forecasted to peak at $221.7 Billion in 2017. Dubai is furthermore determined to nurture the next generation of its home-grown design talents from step one, as the establishment of DIDI - Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation -a d3-based educational institution which was formed in collaboration with Massachusetts-based, M.I.T., and N.Y.C.- based, Parsons School of Design, proves.
But back to this year's DXBDW festivities which celebrated both local as well as international design…
The central heart of DXBDW16 was once again the Dubai Design District d3 industrial complex. Here, designers opened their studios and visitors could admire artisans at work as well as a multitude of other activities, such as listen to a six-day program of educational speeches - including the keynote presentation by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava; or take part in hands-on jewellery making and typography workshops, as well as the thoroughly original Faces and Masks series of doll making workshops which were developed by VINNY especially for Dubai Design Week 2016. The Global Grad Show at d3 embraced the world by featuring a selection (curated by its creator, the writer, editor and designer, Brendan McGetrick) of the best of design to "Empower, Sustain and Connect" from the next generation –which included design students from as far away as the University of Toronto, the University of Berlin and Stanford, CA. A few items that stood out were ECAL student, Panter & Tourron's Aventure Romantique leather and rattan and steel picnic bag; the Aeo asthma medication kit which focused on symptom awareness and conscious medication dosing created by Anna-Maria Schneider from the Umea Institute of Design Norrland University Hospital and Imperial College and Royal College of Art student Luca Alessandrini's amazing, Spider Silk Violin which utilized 35 cm long silk strands.
A few other highlights we were drawn to at d3 were the outdoor installation, Hexalite, the kaleidoscopic mirage brain-child of Emirati designer, Zeinab Al Hashemi, created with Swarovski Crystals and mirrored steel, MONTROI's popup in celebration of "nomadism" showcasing the brand's hand-crafted travel bags and accessories (on display until the end of February ’17) and British designer, Tom Dixon's popup shop in collaboration with the leading UAE design dealer, Superstudio.
SYNCHRONY by Singaporean designer Kenneth Tay. A therapeutic music platform that helps parents and children with autism develop intimacy and understanding through improvised music play.
Graduation Project by Kenneth Tay.
ArtCenter College of Design.
Part of the Global Grad Show 2016.
Across the street from d3 stood the grand tent housing Downtown Design Dubai, the region's design trade fair of choice, which also introduced new brands from other international design weeks to this regional market (Addis Ababa, Barcelona, Beirut, Reykjavik and Taipei). Meanwhile the design initiative, Abwab ("doors" in Arabic), stayed local by celebrating the Menasa region's creativity and talent with designers from ALGERIA (painter, Hellal Zoubir's interactive audiovisual landscape featuring Algerian drums, Tab tab fi d'zairwatam: Drumming from Algiers to Tamanrasset), BAHRAIN, INDIA (multimedia artist duo's Thurkral & Tagra's Memoir Bar), IRAQ, PALESTINE (French-Palestinian architects Elias and Yousef Anastas' reference to traditional olive wood carvings in their amazing wood module, Mass Imperfections installation) and the UAE.
The exhibition, Iconic City: Cairo Now! City Incomplete was a jaw dropping amalgam of the works of over 64 Egyptian architects, designers, entrepreneurs and graphic artists. Curated by Cairo-based architect, researcher and writer, Mohamed Elshahed, they worked on a remarkable presentation - comprised of architecture; graphic and typeface design; product and furniture design - that highlighted Cairo's anciently-rooted but ever-changing design landscape, inspired by the varying stages of the red brick housing developments which comprise the contemporary cityscape of the ancient city.
But the festivities weren't localized; the whole of Dubai seemed to be in on the design frenzy arising from the array of imaginative installations, awe-inspiring shows and ingenious presentations and workshops held throughout the city. Design aficionados could plan a perfect day starting with a morning spent strolling through the art-lovers paradise of Alserkal Avenue - to check out BYAHE: A TYPOGRAPHIC EXPLORATION EXHIBITION by design studio Ape Creative which explored the culture and the craft of hand painted lettering on signage - before catching the inimitable collaboration, Mapping the Burj designed by Studio MrWhite and Ascension designed by Yusuke Murakami and Tangent Design & Invention Ltd, which made the world's tallest building, the Burj Kalifa come alive through mesmerizing animations once the sun went down!
This being Dubai, DXBDW16 also saw its stores getting into the design festivities. Chocoholic visitors didn't miss visiting the new factory of Chocolatier Mirzam, which opened its doors for guests to salivate as they watched the production of its Monsters & Maps chocolate bars, which were then inventively wrapped in Sheikha Wafa Hasher Al Maktoum's beautifully illustrated paper. Those watching their waistlines could head over to see Richard Yasmine - among other designers - at the o’de rose Concept Store at the ARABESQUE ARCHI-LAB exhibition, which showcased a dizzying array of jewellery, products and photography inspired by Islamic architecture. And then there was also MONOGRAM's Infographic Collection of Statistical jewellery presented at Bloomingdale's in the Dubai Mall, a beautiful collection that utilizes multidimensional visual forms that tell the story of the UAE’s development through its people.
All in all, Dubai Design Week 2016 left our heads spinning with awe-inspired marvel. We, at Yatzer, can’t wait for the next series of phenomenal events in Dubai, i.e. the upcoming Design Days Dubai (14-17 March 2017) and Dubai Art Week (13-18 March 2017), so in the meantime, join us for a roundup of some of our favourite highlights that made this design festival so special…
BYAHE: A TYPOGRAPHIC EXPLORATION EXHIBITION at Alserkal Avenue by design studio Ape Creative explored the culture and the craft of hand painted lettering on signage.