Grown 25% since the previous edition, this year’s festival was aimed at encouraging and empowering local and international design talents as well as activating all segments of the industry. Cementing Dubai as the region’s capital for creativity, the annual event was a place for design enthusiasts, professionals, key players and public visitors alike to gather and exchange ideas.
At the heart of the event, Downtown Design fair saw 16,000 visitors come through the doors and presented 175 brands of which 40% were new exhibitors and included 40 regional designers – the fairs largest regional showcase to date. The inaugural section Downtown Editions, a platform for limited-edition design with a focus on individual designers, studios and design collectives, presented creative talent from the Middle East and beyond.
To make the multifaceted areas of design accessible, the talks programme presented a dynamic series of industry talks and panel discussions and on the waterfront terrace of Downtown Design were large-scale installations such as ‘Le Refuge’, by Franco-Italian designer Marc Ange and David Harber’s sculpture ‘Aeon’, as part of Dubai Design Week’s emphasis on public design installations and interaction.
Global Grad Show showcased 150 forward-thinking projects from universities across the world and staged its first AI conference, titled ‘Belief in AI, which 70,000 people tuned into via live streaming on Facebook.
The annually remodelled exhibition Abwab was this year in the format of five pavilions representing regional communities, showing collaborative efforts between designers from Amman, Beirut, Dubai, Eastern Provinces of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait City.
Site-specific installations included ‘The Gate’, a collaboration between Paola Navone and Abet Laminati, which functioned as an entrance to Dubai Design Week’s primary hub at Dubai Design Week (d3). Also amid the buzz of the event, was the Parametric Surfaces installation by SUPERFUTUREDESIGN*, aimed at giving visitors a look into how digitally-enhanced virtual reality can affect their lives as well as a dual pavilion designed by Dubai-based Anarchitect, which illustrated how the light cast by our smart devices can affect our human body clocks.
There were also plenty of smaller exhibitions, which meant that at almost every turn a visitor could experience something new. In a presention by eight Emirati designers, the nation’s history was explored through photographs in UAE Design Stories: The Next Generation from The Emirates. Also, the Institut Français in the UAE exhibited the work of contemporary French designers and manufacturers in Le French Design: How Innovation Creates History. The Original Comes from Vitra was a historic take on some of world’s most iconic pieces of furniture pulled together from the Vitra archive and helped to illustrate the importance of memorable design. And UAE emerging talent was displayed in Tashkeel’s showcase of limited editions, produced by the four participants of the annual Tanween incubator.
The Middle East Architecture Network (MEAN*) designed the Audi Innovation Hub, made from reconstituted vehicle tires, which provided display space for two of the latest Audi models as well as a venue for the announcement of the winner of the annual Audi Innovation Award; Lebanese designer Elias El Soueidi. Selected from 65 submissions, the winning project ‘Ruin to Reality’ is an app that aims to allow access to virtual 3D models of ruined historical buildings and will receive $25,000 worth of investment in its concept.
During Dubai Design Week, the first edition of the Rado Star Prize UAE was announced by Swiss watch makers Rado. For this, young designers will be able to submit their innovative proposals for a chance to be featured at Dubai Design Week 2019.
Across Dubai, the impact of the event was also felt with the opening of the city’s first contemporary arts institution, Jameel Arts Centre, and the inaugural Fikra Graphic Design Biennial was launched.
The dates for Dubai Design Week 2019 will be announced in the new year.
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