Dubai Design Week, the Middle East's leading design platform returned from 7-12 November 2023 at Dubai Design District (d3). Showcasing the work of more than 500 established and emerging designers from the region and beyond, this year’s program included a diverse program of exhibitions, installations, talks and workshops, as well as the leading fair for contemporary and quality design, Downtown Design. 

Featuring a range of design disciplines, including architecture, product design, interiors and multimedia, the festival welcomed designers from across the globe coming together to exchange ideas and demonstrate the positive impact that can be fostered through design.

The unmissable highlights from Dubai Design Week 2023 included: 

ABWAB: ‘Of Palm’ by Abdalla Almulla

Abwab translates as ‘doors’ in Arabic, and is an annual headline feature, serving as a platform to highlight creative talent and stimulate cultural exchange, Abwab is thematically remodelled each year to reflect and respond to timely global and regional contexts. 

The 2023 commission by Emirati architect and founder of MULA design studio, Abdalla Almulla, was titled ‘Of Palm’ and inspired from the indigenous Palm tree. His architectural concept was rooted in the idea of scarcity, prompting him to explore the creative potential of harnessing an existing natural resource for purposes beyond its original intent. His practice is driven by creative energy, constantly in flux and leading into the unknown; where methodologies are perceived as a sequence of theoretical and visual design explorations within a focused subject, using patterns and geometry as regulators in setting design guidelines. Abdalla studied a subject’s attributes to develop them through a preliminary study of concepts and prototyping, creating a feedback loop to learn, repeat and advance.

UAE DESIGNER EXHIBITION: Mirrorigami: Dayereh by Ali Bahmani

Supported by Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, an annual platform for the local creative community, the UAE Designer Exhibition showcases emerging creative talent and budding designers in a curated feature situated within the Downtown Design fair, with the aim of enhancing visibility for young UAE designers, widening their networks and providing commercial opportunity. 

Mirrorigami by artist Ali Bahmani was part of this group exhibition and an exploration of the captivating art of origami transformed into reflective mirror art installations. The project brought together traditional Persian mirror-works, known as "Aina-Kari," and the intricate craft of hand-folding metal sheets, resulting in contemporary interpretations of timeless designs. The core of Mirrorigami lay in its capacity to invite visitors into a deeper exploration of their reflections, a dialogue between the self and the surrounding cultural environment. This introspective journey provoked viewers to consider their role within our modern society, and how their presence harmoniously merges with the artwork's essence.

INSTALLATION: Breeze Houses by Alya Ola Abbas

'Breeze Houses' by Alya Ola Abbas artfully embodied the iconic Al-Barjeel Tower, invited visitors to experience its gentle breeze, while incorporating translucent curtains mirroring the wind's movement, and audio recordings to capture the essence of Emirate heritage, celebrating the fusion of architecture, nature, and human stories. A distinctive architectural feature of heritage homes in the United Arab Emirates, the eye-catching structure captured its essence as a symbol of heritage and sustainability, gracefully rising to allow visitors to step inside and experience the gentle breeze, celebrating the synergy between architecture and nature.

INSTALLATION: Arabi-AN by Mitsubishi Jisho Design

Designed by Mitsubishi Jisho Design architects Takaaki Fuji, Hiroya Inage, and De Yuan Kan, Arabi-An, unveiled at the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale, was a visionary project merging teahouses and furniture, uniting people through tea. Embracing three fundamental principles, it represented a versatile fusion of teahouses and furniture. This visionary endeavor celebrated the art of tea as a symbol of human connection, fostering renewed intercultural dialogues in a world marked by divisions. It navigated the balance between universality and specificity, adjusting light and wind quality with changing latitudes and locally sourced waste materials, creating teahouses that harmonize with their unique surroundings. Sustainability and circularity lay at its core, utilizing localized food waste, such as 'tea dregs & grapes,' to construct its structures, steering away from the use of 'discarded pasta & coffee grounds' seen in Venice. 

Round 4: 100/100 Best Hundred Arabic Posters

100 selected posters from the 4th edition of the prestigious 100/100: Hundred Best Arabic Posters competition, supported by independent arts platform 421, were on display at Dubai Design Week 2023. The competition drew global submissions marking an eight-year partnership highlighting the Arab world's visual culture. This esteemed competition, initiated by a group of academics and students from Cairo, is dedicated to showcasing the visual culture of the Arab world by identifying and celebrating the region's most outstanding Arabic posters.

-Saira Malik 

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