Design goes downtown

Fibre-spun seats, updated Persian rugs and deconstructed chandeliers– welcome to the brave new world of Dubai interiors

 Dubai’s transformation from fishing port to international metropolis has inevitably been accompanied by the development of a bustling design, interior and construction industries.

Out of this flourishing industry has come a need for design fairs, where designers, architects, construction companies and suppliers can come together and meet to talk about their design philosophies, concepts and goals, as well as the practicalities of the market.

As the desert climate begins to cool down, the art and design scene starts to heat up, and one of the highlights of the season is Downtown Design, a unique platform that cultivates original design in the region, fostering quality, innovation and research, and bringing together cutting-edge and iconic brands from the worlds of furniture, lighting, textiles and new technologies.

The 2014 fair will run from 28-31 October at The Venue in Downtown Dubai, at the base of the Burj Khalifa. Vision takes a look at what to watch out for, from technology-led sculpture to up-and-coming Latvian designers.

Technology comes home

A taste for innovation drives tech-savvy lifestyles in the Emirates, and the consumer market in the UAE constantly updates itself to reflect the desire for the latest gadget on offer. “The way people live, work and travel is undergoing a radical transformation today,” says Cristina Romelli Gervasoni, Fair Director.

“This is reflected in the creations of the world’s foremost designers, and is the single-most important driver of the innovations we are witnessing worldwide.”

Domestic consumers are design-literate and are fans of internationally renowned brands such as Charles and Ray Eames and Vitra and Karim Rashid. The hospitality and commercial property sectors are also fond of designer-brand furniture and fittings for reception and lobby areas.

The taste for technology extends to the living environment, with consumers loving the latest innovations for the kitchen, bathroom and living areas – whether that be a built-in Gaggenau coffee maker or a Foster refrigeration unit.

Gateway of fresh ideas

Dubai is a commercial gateway between East and West with an international community doing business among the skyscrapers. Such a mix inevitably rubs off on design and it is a place where North American, European, Middle Eastern and Asian influences combine to create a dynamic range of styles in homes, corporate spaces and hotels. “This is a small fair, but the objective is really to position Dubai as a catalyst for design, as a global hub for design in the region and, especially, a meeting point for the design industry all over the world,” says Gervasoni.

Traditional Emirati colour schemes that once accented nomadic dwellings are now used against the backdrop of the city, where the local vernacular mixes with European influences to create a distinctive style. Chrome and nickel accents emphasise its modernity, while crafts such as woodcarving and weaving are utilised to create updated versions of traditional forms.

downtown design
The fair promises to showcase truly innovative design

Classic craftsmanship

“Original design refers to things that are beautiful and functional, things that have been created with passion and thoughtfulness, that are designed to withstand the test of time and ultimately become part of a legacy carried down from generation to generation, their value enhanced as time goes by,” says Cristina Romelli Gervasoni. “It is, therefore, the quality of materials, the attention to detail, the superior craftsmanship and the thoughtful design that distinguish an original piece from an imitation.

But, more importantly, it is the distinct feeling that each piece of original design carries the spark of inspiration that originally brought it to life. And that
can never be imitated.”

Different design themes are all executed with the same love of quality and craftsmanship and many of the design brands exhibiting at Downtown Design have a history of several hundred years of craftsmanship underpinning the company. Brands work with a team of young designers and collaborate with established names to keep ideas fresh.