A designer of spaces, furniture and objects that aim to elevate the human experience, Egyptian architect and designer Nuhayr Zein creates a practice rooted in culture and identity, taking inspiration from the surrounding natural context to create culturally-relevant and environmentally-responsible designs and material solutions.

“After graduating from the American University of Sharjah with a degree in Architecture, I started working at different architecture offices as well as developing my own independent work simultaneously,” Zein said. “Having an experimental mind-set, I have worked on a diverse range of projects from cultural and residential to small-scale public installations as well as furniture.”

That exposure to a wide range of design disciplines allowed the Dubai-based designer to work on projects of varying scales, all of which helped drive her career further towards one that is nature-inspired and bio-integrated. As a student, Zein won a competition sponsored by the chamber of commerce in Milan to build a public installation at EXPO 2020 Dubai, which she has since been developing to be showcased at the global event in October.

“Just recently, I designed my first furniture collection titled SEEDS, which I exhibited as part of the UAE Designers Exhibition at Dubai Design Week in 2020, as well as at Art Jameel and Venice Design Week,” she said. “I will be exhibiting again at Design Week 2021 as part of the Tanween programme by Taksheel, and I definitely look forward to taking part in the public installations or Abwab in the next design week editions.”

In her latest project, the designer is developing Leukeather, an alternative to animal leather using discarded plant resources. On the global scale, the animal and exotic leather industries are large contributors to climate change as well as threaten wildlife and biodiversity.

“Although this is known among designers, animal leather is still being used in furniture, fashion, and product design and it is about time we start looking for other sustainable and ethical alternatives,” she explains, adding that she is also collaborating with material scientists to develop a replacement for wood-veneer, a project currently in the concept stage.

“With my work, I hope to achieve more designs in the region that are inspired by the process or natural behaviour rather than by style,” Zein adds. “In the future, I look forward to creating bio-integrated designs and materials inspired by the region’s context.”