Earth hives and a ‘brilliant Beirut’ – Dubai Design Week kicks off

Installations dotted around the beaches of Dubai and a design tent that has doubled in size are just two of the reasons to take in some of the culture that Dubai Design Week has to offer this year

“The practice of pottery making is a diminishing craft in the region. We firmly believe that sustaining the Emirati culture and identity is our duty as designers.” Latifa Saeed and Talin Hazbar are talking about their contribution to the inaugural Dubai Design Week. Their Earth Hives installation is one of a number of works that provide a contemporary context for traditional skills during this city-wide celebration of design. Consisting of more than 550 terracotta spheres, it is situated at The Beach opposite Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR).

Earth Hives is part of a programme of 12 site-specific pieces by international and local designers, artists and architects. Presented nearby, Dubai-based Aljoud Lootah draws on another historical skill with her sculptural piece, Yaroof, which takes its name from a local shore-fishing technique and consists of geometric shapes constructed from nylon rope. Here, design is both aesthetically intriguing and culturally rich.

Latifa Saeed and Talin Hazbar's Earth Hives
Latifa Saeed and Talin Hazbar's Earth Hives, inspired by the tradition of terracotta in the UAE

It’s this attention to culture and context that helps make Dubai Design Week, an Art Dubai Group initiative, so distinctive. Cyril Zammit, the company’s director of design, puts it this way: “Thanks to Dubai’s position as an international hub, the rich but under-acknowledged creative heritage of the emirate and the growing appreciation of the role of design in the modern city, Dubai Design Week has a unique opportunity to establish an inclusive landmark event that embraces and engages the imagination.”

Central to the design week is the third edition of Downtown Design, the Middle East’s only fair dedicated to original, contemporary design. The event – which has doubled in size for this year – focuses on product design with categories including furniture, lighting, kitchens and textiles. Aimed at trade professionals, it’s an opportunity for buyers and brands to do business, with stands from over 24 countries.

But the week is about much more than commerce, and with 20-plus exhibitions taking place in venues across Dubai, it acts as a wide-ranging showcase for design in the region. In Dubai Design District (d3), a series of six national pavilions are presenting new work from Jordan, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the UAE.

Sustaining the Emirati culture and identity is our duty as designers

Latifa Saeed

For the fascinating Iconic City: Brilliant Beirut, designer Rana Salam – who is Beirut-born and based – has curated an exhibition that looks at design in the city since independence (1950-2015). Focussing on the future, Global Grad Show presents 50 innovative projects by students at some of the world’s leading design schools, including Royal College of Art, MIT and Tsinghau University.

From global trends to local traditions, the lessons of the past to the possibilities of tomorrow – Dubai Design Week is a festival of design that encourages you to look twice and to think even more. 

Dubai Design Week takes place from 26-31 October, at d3 and various areas around Dubai