Abwab: the annually remodeled platform for engaging with diverse cultures.



ABWAB; an annually remodeled exhibition dedicated to commissioning work from across the region, uniquely experienced at Dubai Design Week.

The Abwab exhibition is transformed annually to respond to the changing design climate of the region. The first edition was born with Dubai Design Week in October of 2015 whereby six projects from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia were commissioned to incorporate one unifying theme - Games; The Element of Play in Culture. Each project was country-specific and hosted within identical pavilions designed by UAE-based architects Loci Architecture & Design. The Middle East Architecture Award nominated pavilions embodied the Emirati desert in their shells.

The content was devised to be interactive, to engage audiences through personalizing cultural exchange. Jordan’s stone swings ‘the untitled swing project’ by Arini quickly became an attraction to visitors of Dubai Design District (d3) having remained on site until May of last year. Curators of Saudi Arabia, Basma & Noura Bouzo, Tunisia, Chacha Atallah and Pakistan, Salman Jawed were all subsequently selected to curate their respective country exhibitions in the London Design Biennial 2016, and curators of the UAE Pavilion, Mobius Design Studio are regularly curating exhibitions across the UAE.

A Hypothetical Office assembled the Abwab pavilions into a cluster in 2016, covered the central space in a rich green netting and borrowed crumb rubber tiles from waste management company Bee’ah to form a housh, courtyard, for visitors to gather in after experiencing the 6 surrounding exhibits. Themed ‘The Human Senses’, the Algerian design team led by Hellal Zoubir produced a percussion landscape, the scent of the part craftsman/part machine olive-wood arch by Elias & Yousef Anastas wafted through the air from the Palestinian Pavilion. Thukral and Tagra measured Dubai’s emotions through memories-made-tangible in pigmented tiles now permanently installed in building 7, of d3. The Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities devised a vehicle for empowering local pottery craftsmen with ‘Unearthing’, Rand Abdul Jabbar and Hozan Zangana’s produced an Iraqi sculpture garden and finally Afaaq al Mustaqbal by UAE’s Salem al Qassemi forged a ‘chai karak’ flavoured rest-stop for visitors.

In 2017, Abwab cast the widest net through an innovative peer-selection process, ‘design dominos’; whereby in order to be considered to showcase a work, the designer is required to nominate the next designer to submit, a pay-it-forward mechanism. Through this, Abwab tasked itself with building a community across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. 250 designers were reached, 101 submissions were shortlisted into 45 works from 15 countries, and showcased in a bulbous pavilion by Fahed + Architects.

This year Abwab is an exhibition of 5 city pavilions, devised to express the historic artform of oral storytelling. Cities 2018; Amman, Beirut, Dubai, Jeddah, Kuwait City