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A Look At Dubai Design Week’s 2021 Programme

With the most extensive programme to date, this year’s festival is supporting the design community in Lebanon…

While returning from November 8-13, Dubai Design Week will be celebrating design and creativity in the UAE and beyond with oodles of free-to-attend engaging exhibitions, pop-ups, installations, talks and workshops. The event’s most extensive line-up to date will include 200+ impactful activities, which will be staged at the festival’s main hub in Dubai Design District (d3) and around the city. And this year, the festival’s key focus is supporting the design community in Lebanon, the creative capital of the region. The spotlight will be on established as well as rising design talent, whether it’s architectural installations, product designs, artisanal delicacies or outdoor music sessions.

The festival, staged in strategic partnership with d3 alongside Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), is chock-full of highlights, including the MENA Grad Show. It is set to showcase the 50 best social impact innovation projects from the brightest minds coming out of the region’s universities. The youngsters address issues ranging from desertification and accessibility through to child nutrition and waste management.

Dubai Design Week, held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum,Chairperson of Dubai Culture and member of Dubai Council, will also hold the "2040: d3 Architecture" exhibition. The multi-media stage dedicated to architecture with a human-centric approach includes five architectural firms presenting concepts of how Dubai could look in 20 years.

Additionally Downtown Design, the region’s leading design fair for high-end and quality design, is making a comeback with an in-person showcase of 130+ international and regional exhibiting brands and designers. There’s also a strong trade programme that will provide a platform for the region’s architects and interior designers to gather and explore business opportunities. For 2021, the fair will host brands from over 20 countries as well as major national representations from European countries like Austria, France, Hungary, Italy and Spain. And Downtown Editions, the fair’s boutique section dedicated to limited-edition and bespoke design, will once again display work from individual designers, studios and creative collaborations, with a spotlight on the region.

In line with this year’s theme of regenerative architecture and restorative design, the festival’s headline commission Abwab has been awarded to Dubai-based Ahmed El-Sharabassy for his proposal titled “Nature in Motion.” The architectural pavilion references the Dubai desert’s constant motion and mimicking the city’s continuous development. The pavilion will host an exhibition focusing around the human impact on the planet titled “Pulp Fusion,” curated by Beirut-based architecture and research firm Bits to Atoms.

Another highpoint is the 15 installations and public interventions that will be staged throughout d3 for visitors to explore in the open-air setting. “Morphing Nature” by Kristina Zanic Design Studio for Trend Middle East will tell a story of sustainability and earth preservation. There’s also “The WAW Machine” by creatives Iman Almidfa and Hessa Ali Alechla, who are behind Wild Arab West. The Emiratis will greet visitors with positive affirmations and cultural sayings in English and Arabic through an automated vending machine promoting kindness between people and the world. Meanwhile, “The Shape of Light” by conceptual art studio Shuster + Moseley will explore geometric prismatic forms through a large-scale, specially commissioned glass installation. The festival will also shine a spotlight on an immersive architectural installation by Ana Carreras for Lever/Mirage titled “Athenaeum” and illuminate the recent findings of the three-thousand-year-old city of Mleiha. Another must-see, “Context Reflections” by ANARCHITECT in collaboration with Cosentino, will invite visitors to discover the intriguing play of penetrated light created via a naturally occurring optical phenomenon in a low-tech installation using carbon-neutral materials. And the winning proposal of the annual design competition Urban Commissions, which is supported by A.R.M. Holding, will unveil a public space intervention of a social space for people to play safely together.

A range of showcases will also uncover the latest in design from the region. The "UAE Designer Exhibition 2.0" will unveil works by 25 emerging and undiscovered creative talents, based and producing locally. In addition, The Beirut Concept Store will feature works by 50 established designers and emerging creative talent based in Lebanon, from tableware and furniture pieces to books and small gift items.

The Swiss Embassy is collaborating with Zayed University and UAE-based creative studio Hamzat Wasl, led by Hind Bin Demaithan and Fatma Al Mahmoud. They will be presenting a unique exhibition highlighting the preservation of the printing press and design. Another exposition titled “Design Your Future!” also came about thanks to a collaboration, this time between L’Institut Français of the United Arab Emirates and Cité Internationale du Design. It focuses on the challenges of the design process from idea to application, for a brighter transition to the future. Elsewhere, there’s an exhibition by the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation named “One Grain at a Time” that will get visitors to reflect on the transience of time and boundlessness of space through an immersive intervention. Plus, “Together,” an active and colourful pop-up space by Jotun will be centred around the unique moods that arise when people meet.

A programme of 80+ hands-on workshops under the theme of ‘‘Paper, Plastic + Play’, Making Space will offer all kinds of visitors the opportunity to experiment with ancient and innovative ways of making and creating. Whether it’s pottery, reforming plastic, papermaking or using soap as a new medium, each activity is curated with people and the planet in mind. Atölye will explore themes across circular economy, design thinking and community design at "The Re:turn," their pop-up space in d3 as well.

To get to know more about design, The Forum at Downtown Design is hosting leading international and regional experts in the fields of architecture, interior and product design. The experts will shed light on the latest innovations and trends in the global design scene and exchange new ideas, creative inspirations and future strategies.

Furthermore, “Meet the UAE Creatives” is a new, daily remodelled programme of gatherings curated by Fatma Al Mahmoud. The programme will bring the local creative community and its stakeholders together in a series of engaging dialogues in a casual format in one of d3’s many bespoke eateries. Visitors will also get the chance to meet the region’s artisans, creatives and small businesses offering a curated selection of original and high-quality products at The Marketplace. Taking place from 12-13 November, it is supported by Dubai Culture.

A series of multi-disciplinary activations, events and engaging activities will offer creative experiences to visitors of all ages throughout the week too. These include delicious food offerings and a host of children’s activities like pottery and tree planting, alongside a programme of live music sessions and entertainment on the weekend.

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