Dubai’s design crosses borders

Beijing Design Week (BJDW) is a few days away from lifting the curtain on a bold collection of pieces by contemporary Chinese and international designers and artists

Beijing Design Week is a city-wide event, which first hit Beijing’s design scene in 2009. Set to feature hundreds of exhibitions and public events all offering an expansive overview of China's design landscape, now – thanks to a collaboration with Dubai Design Week – Beijing will also feature Dubai as a guest city.

Talented Emirati designer Moza Almatrooshi will highligt Dubai's creative talent through a specially curated show – called Wasl, Arabic for connection.

The Dubai strand of the event, which runs form 23 September until 7 October, will be hosted in Beijing’s historic Dashilar Alley. There Almatrooshi found a resemblance to Dubai’s own Al Fahidi neighbourhood, thanks to what she describes as its ‘human centred layout’ and the use of courtyards, a central element in Emirati traditional houses. It’s a location that has influenced how the collection of works was drawn together.

“It’s based on notions of what is there and what was endangered because of the boom of the city, and how the designers respond to these changes” explained Almatrooshi. “I just hope that that is the message highlighted in the exhibition.

“It’s a subtle call to look at what is going on here, to look at what is going on there and ask how we can connect based on similarities.”

Beijing Design Week
An installation by UAE design platform Architecture + Other Things at Beijing Design Week

Almatrooshi has used her role as curator to showcase the work of Emirati designers on a global stage. Her selection ranges through designers who are well established through to those who are just emerging with work that is more experimental.

“I wanted to send a message out to designers in the UAE to let them know that their work can have a wider audience then they think. The statements they make in their work can speak of something larger and can carry their voices, not just here, but also somewhere else.”

As this is Dubai’s first participation in BJDW, Almatrooshi was careful to select works that demonstrate the range and scope of the design work happening in the UAE. It was a tough task, made more challenging by the huge potential audience, which could be as high as five million visitors across the whole event.

“It’s an attempt to connect with the Chinese and international communities without knowing if their responses are going to be how I imagined them,” she said. “That was the really exciting part for me, because if I knew what the outcome was going to be it wouldn’t really be a challenge.”

It’s based on notions of what is there and what was endangered because of the boom of the city, and how the designers respond to these changes

Moza Almatrooshi., Curator, Wasl

Once the exhibition’s time at BJDW is complete the pieces could find themselves on tour in select locations around the world as Cyril Zammit, head of design at Art Dubai Group, the organisation behind Dubai Design Week, looks to build the global profile of UAE design. It’s a process he feels will help the local industry mature and grow.

“The designers will benefit from the exposure and learn how their work is perceived elsewhere,” said Zammit. “It’s an exchange that is always positive.”

While the exhibition will benefit the designers involved Zammit also believes it will help draw a focus to Dubai’s design industry as a whole. The exhibition will showcase the fact that not only is Dubai a place to meet, but also a place where production of high-quality design pieces takes place.

“We have a brilliant and growing design industry and Dubai is a perfect place for all professionals to meet. Design crossing borders is what Dubai is all about, it offers a point of convergence where you meet the world and the world meets here,” he said.

“We have plenty of great talents here, they just need a bit more visibility.”