During 2013, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, made an announcement regarding his plans for the Dubai Design District (d3). The launching of the district took place within a period of two years, during April 2015. Later in 2015 the district became both partner and host of the initial Dubai Design Week! Now it is in its 3rd rehearsal and took place during 13 to 18 November 2017.

Living in this age and phase it is evident that design thinking evolved to become a principal part of nearly all facets of our everyday routine, whether it is clothing, architecture, media, interior decorating, digital world representations, technology and food etc. Dubai’s aspiration in establishing the city as a strategic nucleus for design, art and culture is an exceptionally well-judged action!

Dubai Design Week appears to develop in a quantum leap to achieve their goal. They did not just establish their city as design’s regional capital, but it became the international rendezvous for the global design population. The Dubai Design District has grown a lot since 2005 and become home to a flourishing community including cafes, restaurants, studios, offices and design stores, whilst constituting a growing and charismatic population of design thinkers!

During design week the atmosphere is filled with vibrancy and excitement! The design fair’s main attractions take place in their hub venue, d3 whilst a variety of activities and exhibits are featuring around the city. Downtown Design, which is the main trade fair, is most highly likely the most important attraction. Sheika Latifa bint, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority’s vice-chairman, is the patron of Downtown Design and is a leading supporter of the Design Week.

This project originated during 2013 and had since became one of the principal projects of the Design Week. This year is its fifth iteration, portraying more than 150 local and international trademarks which were selected with great care. This great fair is also the sole platform of its kind in the Middle East. Its centre of attention is original modern design, excellent quality displaying research and innovation. This year’s version was described as beautiful and dramatic by William Knight, the Art Dubai Group’s managing director as well as the head of Design for the Dubai Design Week.

Abwab, which means doors in Arabic, is an initiative of the Design Week which is devoted to portray the most excellent designs which originates from the region of MENASA. This year the work and designs of more than 45 designers from 15 different countries were exhibited. Abwab is the unique platform for upcoming, young and enthusiastic designers. Many times the most innovative and beautiful designs are portrayed by Abwab, for example the magnificent metal cast bowls designed by Kawther Al Saffar, a young designer from Kuwait. Her approach of cutting, pouring and plating are created in collaboration with the metal artisans working with her. Rana Hazim, from Lebanon’s, tranquil spiral cubicles offer quite moments of reflection and privacy within the ardour of the urban scenery.

Abwab extends into its own dome which was designed by Fahad + Architects of Dubai, a multifaceted architectural firm, which received numerous accolades. The pavilion is created from scrapped bedsprings obtained from Bee’ah, a waste management company. The interim dome forms a light, airy but strong mesh transient copper structure which reminds one of soft, breezy clouds, the rolling waves of the ocean, cotton candy and even coral. Its unique form arouses feelings of hope and eternal return. It is accentuated by its location in the huge open air passageways of d3, placed side by side against the large quantity of buildings.

Coalesce Design studio from Karachi was also represented at Abwab, displaying their Ralli chair created from shisham polished wood, flitting with staining, whilst creating patterns which were infused by the conventional patchwork textiles from which it derived its name. However, this was not the first time Coalesce was at the fair. During 2015 the company brought their Dalaan project, which was received very well. The firm’s Lattoo stools which acquired great appreciation during Abwab’s initial year were also displayed in a brand new shape this year and formed part of the fixtures at the Design Week.

A large outdoor attraction of the programming of this year was the fixtures which were spread throughout d3 and more than 10 specific sites were involved. The revolving Lattoo chairs of Coalesce were fun and offered interaction, whilst inviting the crowd to sit down and to take a spin. In their brand new look it manifested a traditional and vibrant palette, bringing bright and sprightly colour to d3’s monochromatic setting. Other fixtures included Paula Zucotti, Swarovski as well as Silent Call, an indoor kinetic light fixture designed by Dubai’s Khalid Shafar, representing Lasvit; inspired by the expressive beauty of the Adhan (Islamic call to prayer) and the mosque representing Islamic architecture’s crown.

An intrinsic component of the Dubai Design Week is the Global Grad-Show which is devoted to portraying the most innovative and most brilliant design talent from worldwide institutions, which are based on research. Several of these designers’ focal points were the resolution of the growing refugee crisis, worldwide. Whilst over 92 universities participated globally, the show had grown to double its size!

An extensive array of workshops, talks and symposiums also forms an integral part of the Dubai Design Week regarding the dialogue and extent generated by it. Sir David Adjaye, an influential architect delivered this year’s fundamental theme speech, whilst other great architects like Santiago Calatrava delivered this speech during previous years. Although d3 is the Dubai Design Week’s hub of activities due to its extensive programming, a number of locations are activated throughout Dubai, by its Around the City initiatives, especially in the Al Serkal Avenue and Al Quoz district.

Maybe 2017’s Iconic City exhibition of Dubai Design Week was the most poetic and nostalgic project. This project entails an annual highlight related to a regional city. Salma Lahlou from Morocco curates the project which featured Casablanca, calledIconic City – Loading Casa by using audio, mapping, archival works and video. She told the organisers that it would be a representation of Casablanca via content and form and not a design object.

When preparing the process for this project, Lahlou said that she thought it best to divide it into 5 elements: social, geographic, philosophical, cultural and historical which in combination form a way of living which defines its migration. How the city had developed during time from a small-scale village of about 50-acres to its present-day 150,000-acres, growing from a community of 20,000 to 5-million occupants. In search of Casablanca’s identity through its music, architecture, cinema culture and visual art. This project also witnesses the adaptability of the city as well as its forgetful memory.

Lél is another design studio from Pakistan, which debuted at the Dubai Design Week, accommodated by O’de Rose, an electric design store and forms part of the Design in Bloom exhibition. Farhana Asad founded the company almost 20 years ago. However the Lél Studio based in Peshawar and Islamabad are managed in collaboration with Farhana’s daughter. Meherunnisa Asad, Creative Director of Lél’s vision regarding the brand is avant-garde, whilst the mission persists to be preserving the art of pietra dura, an ancient Pakistani craft. Recently Lél featured quite recently in Harper’s Bazaar-Interiors and now with its involvement in a decisively important global design event, it is confident to get into the international market which it is striving for to maintain its culture whilst moving forward to the future of modern design.

Although the Dubai Design week is still a young enterprise, it already has established itself rapidly as the region’s leading annual design affair. This, in combination with its other art & design enterprises like Design Days Dubai and Art Dubai, the city’s 85% global immigrant population as well as Dubai’s recent successful bid as the host of the 2020 World Expo affirm the city’s strategic location. Not just Dubai’s vision acting as an anchor towards the design and art communities of this region, but acting as a bridge for the international market, an aspiration which Dubai is well on the way to achieve.