Before tackling any talk on the Dubai Design Week , staged from 12 to 17 November 2018, you should take a walk through the streets of the Madinat Jumeirah area , the district that runs along the Creek. Razed to the ground in the 60s to make room for the skyscrapers, it was rebuilt with the idea of showing the Dubai of the past. The result is a residential and commercial complex dotted with restaurants, hotels and luxury shops. A purely tourist district, but above all a symbol of the deep identity crisis of the city. We start from here, therefore, to understand Dubai Design Week. In the context of a city that has dismantled its traditions to project itself confusedly into the future,design and contemporary art become the tools for sculpting one’s own identity .
The protagonists of the fourth edition of the Dubai Design Week are therefore the designers of the United Arab Emirates and more generally of the countries of the Gulf and the Middle East, with a large participation of creatives coming from Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. The heart of the event is the d3, the design district that stands out on the dust plain that surrounds the city, with the Downtown Design fair, main event with 175 exhibitors from all over the world, and with about 230 events including talks, exhibitions and meetings.
Among the most incisive exhibition projects, Abwab , in Arabic “porte”, an exhibition divided into five pavilions dedicated to emerging designers coming from Amman, Kuwait City, Beirut, Dubai and the Eastern Provinces of Saudi Arabia. Designed by the Architecture + Other Things studio , the structures were covered with palm leaves and covered with desert land, in homage to the natural landscape of the region. Inside, installations that evoke the history of pearl fishing, videos that plunge through the chaotic streets of Amman, wrought iron chairs that resume ancient methods of manufacture. It tells stories and traditions, translating them into objects with contemporary aesthetics.Rawan Kashkoush, creative director of Abwab, tells what is happening in the design. «Dubai Design Week was born as a platform to give visibility to the local creative scene. The goal was immediately clear: to promote a new sense of identity through art and design. Here come players from all over the world, interested in discovering the voice of Middle Eastern design. This is why Dubai is considered the capital ». On what exactly are the characteristics of local design, Rawan says: “There are two elements that characterize our design. One is related to the functionality of objects, which must respond to specific needs. A concrete example? The silent servant. In the West it is short, but here traditional clothes are long. The second element is that of materials: here wood is very rare, so we use different raw materials . There is a need to look at our old traditions, our culture and our specificities “. A design that absorbs the desire to rediscover its roots, returning it through objects with a strong identity: “I noticed that people start to see each other in the products they have in front of them, feeling a whole new attachment to design. As marvelous as it is, it is difficult for Italian or foreign design to succeed in involving us completely. Here, this is happening. “Turning for the Dowtown Design fair, and in particular in the Downtown Editions section dedicated to the capsule collection of emerging local designers, there are many objects that reflect Rawan’s speech. There are the jars of Kutleh , a Jordanian brand that uses the surplus materials used in construction, or there is the designer Aljoud Lootah, which makes jewelry boxes with camel leather and seats made of cushions inspired by those he found in his grandmother’s house. Although they draw from the past, the objects on show are anything but nostalgic: the impression is that of being in front of the design of the future, deeply animated by the dialogue between East and West, technological as well as artisan. It is no coincidence that the Global Grad Show was held at the Dubai Design Week, an exhibition that brings together 150 projects linked to the interactions between design and technology from the best universities in the world.
To believe that Dubai is a kind of design laboratory of the future is Khalid Shafar , one of the most influential designers of the Emirate, as well as curator of “UAE Design Stories: The Next Generation from The Emirates”, a traveling exhibition that tells the work of some local designers. “The design of the UAE reflects the cultural melting pot that is breathed here. People come to Dubai from different backgrounds, helping to fuel the design scene with ideas, projects and innovations. Here you want to experiment more than in other places, simply because it is all new and to be discovered. Local design is very young, only a few years old. The Design Week audience is made up of people who are curious to discover the directions of Middle Eastern design ».