Dubai Design Week 2020



Dubai Design Week 2020

Opens with a hybrid programme giving regional and international talent a platform to reimagine the way we live

Staged in a strategic partnership with Dubai Design District (d3) and Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), with the support of A.R.M. Holding, the sixth edition of Dubai Design Week opened with a hybrid showcase of events including physical exhibitions, outdoor installations and pop-ups at its main hub in Dubai Design District (d3) alongside a globally accessible digital fair and virtual talks programme.


Responding to the current reality of travel restrictions and physical distancing, the festival offered new opportunities to the MENA creative community,  giving centre stage to the local and regional talent, and reflecting worldwide on the role of designers in redefining the way we live in a Covid-impacted world.



The Shape of Things to Come
A new approach to designing places of worship
©Dubai Design Week 2020



Dubai Design Week 2020’s key highlights include:

Within a safe open-air setting in Dubai Design District (d3), a series of outdoor public installations by local and international talent presented design solutions to the fast-paced changes occurring in our urban environment and the new challenges arising from the pandemic.


Downtown Design’s multimedia exhibition ‘The Shape of Things to Come’ spotlighted progressive design thinking from the Middle East, showcasing exploratory work from 28 of the Middle East’s most inspiring architecture and interior design studios as they conceptualise how we will live, work and play in a post-pandemic world. In a bid to support the objectives of the industry and reconnect internationally, Downtown Design presented a new digital fair and virtual talks programme.


Dubai Design Week 2020
The Shape of Things to Come
MOROX by ©Brand Creative
©Dubai Design Week 2020



The MENA Grad Show, a new addition to the Global Grad Show initiative, featured 50 of the most exciting projects from the Middle East and North Africa for social impact innovation, focusing on solutions to improve and transform lives. Global Grad Show unveiled its inaugural interactive digital exhibition with 100 projects in the fields of environmental, social and economic development.


Entitled ‘Fata Morgana’, this year’s Abwab pavilion by Iraqi designer Hozan Zangana in collaboration with Generous Studio and Woodcast Designs, addressed city dwellers’ ever-changing relationship with their public realm and the constant need for urban interventions that serve the purposes of shelter, respite and relaxation.


Engaging experiences by country-specific organisations, including the Embassy of Switzerland, the Institut Français and the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the UAE alongside showcase by home-grown cultural organisations and design studios such as Tashkeel, 1971 Design Space and Hamzat Wasl complemented the physical programme of exhibitions at Dubai Design District (d3).



Dubai Design Week 2020
UAE Designer Exhibition
‘Burqa’ by ©Dana Amro.
©Dubai Design Week 2020





This year, a group of UAE-based designers and international design studios have created functional, modular and purposeful proposals of semi-permanent, sustainable public space interventions with the intention of producing a body of work offering long-term use solutions.


Projects include:

‘Please Sit Here’ by American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) in collaboration with local designers Khalid Shafar, Aljoud Lootah and Hamad Khoory – a series of outdoor benches that allow users to sit two metres apart. The benches can also be converted to accommodate more people, closer together, as and when the time comes for distancing regulations to be relaxed, ensuring the project retain a legacy as functional public seating in the future.



Dubai Design Week 2020
View of ‘Please Sit Here’ by ©Hamad Khoory x AHEC
©Dubai Design week 2020



‘Pardis’ by multi-disciplinary Kuwait-based Studio Meshary AlNassar in collaboration with surface brand Cosentino – a physical manifestation of our human yearning for a sense of lost community


‘POINTS IN COMMON’ by Montreal-based new media studio Studio Iregular – a digital public work using proprietary technology named CURSOR which records visitors’ interactions and explores how they can create meaningful connections between them.



Dubai Design Week 2020
Points in Common by ©Studio Iregular
©Dubai Design Week 2020



‘Desert Ribbons’ by Bishoy Girgis, a Material Fabrication Specialist, and Tania Ursomarzo, an Assistant Professor of Architecture and Interior Design at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) – a spatial design concept which explores different seated positions of the body and the variety of possible social situations that seating can create.


‘Nacre’ by London-based designers Hagen Hinderdael and Dubai – based 3D – printed concrete specialists Concreative – a series of modular pieces made of 3D – printed concrete which encourage social interaction through a variety of compositions. Due to their material qualities and durability, the elements can be reused as urban outdoor furniture.


‘Shadow Box’ by Agata Kurzela Studio in collaboration with Milad Marble Dubai – an installation which encourages visitors to rediscover stone as a material by showing the wealth of surfaces based on different cuts.


‘Deterministic Path’ by Iman Ibrahim Professor of Interior Architecture & Design at University of Sharjah – a grid-like structure that represents several paths constructed using chip wood panels, covered by reflected mirror sheets from the inside and that is entirely modular allowing deconstruction for flexibility in placement and use.


‘The Megalith’ by Dubai-based Spanish architect Ana Carreras in collaboration with Lever x Mirage – an urban sculpture designed as a modern abstract interpretation of the first known architectural structure in human history, the “dolmen”.


‘RE:TREAT’ by Colab – a playful structure, made from various repurposed materials such as construction scaffolding, old traditional Emirati fishing nets and unused fabrics, placed at the entrance of UAE’s first material library, Colab.


‘Earthly’ by UAE designer Jumanah Rizk in collaboration with Belgian lighting brand Delta Light – a urban intervention rooted in the contextual exploration of materials and natural resources in the form of compressed earth, which incites a distant gathering between people.






In view of the ongoing pandemic, Downtown Design brought the industry together across digital and physical platforms, offering the architecture and interior design community a focal point to gain inspiration and insight, network and navigate the new design landscape.


Alongside a new digital fair and virtual talks programme, Downtown Design’s hybrid format featured an onsite conceptual exhibition titled ‘The Shape of Things to Come’, which highlights the breadth and expertise of the Middle East’s design talent, exploring how an extremely diverse and cosmopolitan community deal with universal issues without losing sight of its local context.



Dubai Design Week 2020
The Shape of Things to Come
The Island by ©XO Atelier
©Dubai Design Week 2020



Some of the shortlisted studios include: Saudi Arabia based Sibyl Design Studio who investigate how Middle Eastern cities can develop engaging, efficient and safe-distanced pedestrian networks using the infrastructure already in place within our neighbourhoods.


Lebanese architect Rabih Geha who imagines nightclubs of the future and Kuwait-based PACE who visualises a new approach to designing places of worship.


Binchy and Binchy Architects who were faced with delays in receiving building materials during the lockdown showcases new materials that they have developed internally as a local and sustainable response to the shortage. Exploring new models of slow design and conscious consumption, Dubai-based interior design studio ROAR presents a new rug developed in collaboration with women weavers in Afghanistan. In a photo-essay exclusively accessible online, Beirut-based architect Carl Gerges examines the impact of the recent explosion on the city’s fabric and the importance of preserving the architecture heritage in the reconstruction.



Dubai Design Week 2020
The Shape of Things to Come
Sadu Totem and Patterns Unfold by ©Binchy & Binchy
©Credit_Natelee Cocks
©Dubai Design Week



UAE-based practices Bishop Design, Wilson Associates and Kristina Zanic Associates presented conceptual presentations that interpret our recent collective experiences with both irony and insight.


Full list of projects:




Launched this year, the MENA Grad Show physical exhibit featured 50 of the most exciting projects from the Middle East and North Africa for social impact innovation, focused on solutions to improve and transform lives. The MENA Grad Show received more than 200 submissions from 36 universities based in the Middle East and North Africa, including Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI), the German University in Cairo (GUC), The American University of Sharjah (AUS) and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). MENA Grad Show provided a diverse showcase of how students in different disciplines, from architecture to chemistry and electric engineering, approach complex social and environmental problems and put forward solutions that included: a personal positioning system to help the visually impaired navigate independently, a microwave-enabled monitor to reduce water loss in pipelines by 50%, an alternative to concrete using palm tree waste and a streamlined process to extract lithium from the ocean.


Dubai Design Week 2020
MENA Grad Show
Reconstructing Mass by ©Alina S. and Mary K.
©Dubai Design Week 2020



Global Grad Show unveiled the trends from the 2020 applications, the selection of 100 projects and the interactive digital platform where year-round content is made available to all audiences.


Access the Global Grad Show digital exhibition and discover the 100 international projects here.



Dubai Design Week 2020
GGS 2020 Airtomo by ©Kevin Chiam, RCA
©Dubai Design Week 2020



Global Grad Show has evolved to focus on the most commonly shared concerns among graduates from around the world, identified from the record 1,600+ applications received from 270 universities in 60 countries. Entries, up 30% on the previous year, ranged from leading institutions such as Harvard, MIT and Imperial College to universities in developing countries. With representation for the first time from countries such as Indonesia, El Salvador and Oman, the 2020 digital exhibition is the most diverse Global Grad Show to date. The virtual exhibition allowed a direct interaction with the graduates behind each of the projects and also sees prototypes, film and original research material visually curated for online visitors to engage with, including a global heat map of ideas and trending issues. In addition, Global Grad Show’s Covid-19 initiative, one of the first international open calls to address the pandemic’s challenges, has four projects currently undergoing entrepreneurship training, with one advancing to pilot stage.



View of UAE Designer Exhibition including Acrylic Collection by ©Reem Al Bustani
©Dubai Design Week 2020



Conceptually building a modern-day city in an open-plan arrangement, the fifth Abwab pavilion by Iraqi designer Hozan Zangana in collaboration with Generous Studio and Woodcast Designs addressed city dwellers’ ever-changing relationship with their public realm and the constant need for urban interventions that serve the purposes of shelter, respite and relaxation.  Entitled ‘Fata Morgana’, the installation featured a series of seating components and seven pillars that symbolise each of the Emirates, while also serving as demarcation for physical distancing. Fata Morgana highlights the necessity of crossing each other’s paths by presenting a pivotal intersection, which demands an interaction between people and reactivates the social connection in a safe and careful way.



Dubai Design Week 2020 – Abwab
‘Fata Morgana’ by ©Hozan Zangana.
©Dubai Design Week 2020



As a nod to historical construction methods used across the Middle East, Zangana has applied a rammed earth technique to the different elements of the pavilion, thereby (re)connecting culture, history and people within a public space




As part of the programme at its main hub in Dubai Design District (d3) and in compliance with the current physical distancing measures, Dubai Design Week 2020 gave centre stage to the local and regional talent with a series of exhibitions including the launch of the d3 Architecture Festival in partnership with RIBA Gulf Chapter and the UAE Designer Exhibition, featuring works of 20 UAE-based creatives. Key showcases by home-grown cultural organisations and design studios included: ‘Tanween 2020’ by Tashkeel, which premieres limited-edition pieces inspired by, designed and manufactured in the UAE by three emerging designers; ‘Fashcultivate’ by 1971 Design Space which features seven textile commissions made from date palm leaves, a sustainable and locally-sourced material; the second edition of ‘Laila Mn’ by Hamzat Wasl which showcased a new collection of contemporary prayer mat pieces available to buy with proceeds devoted to families who have been affected by the ongoing pandemic.





In addition to these regional initiatives, key international institutions presented innovative solutions in response to the global pandemic alongside the latest creations by some of the most talented designers from their respective countries. The Embassy of Switzerland’s ‘Reflections on Swiss Innovation’ showcased the ‘BYOM (Bring Your Own Mask)’ project by innovation lab HyperAktiv alongside an installation highlighting the design elements of its Pavilion at next year’s Expo as well as ‘From Truck Till Bag’, a display explaining iconic up-cycling brand FREITAG’s making process. With ’Space, Exploration and Design’, the Institut Français in the UAE brought together a series of design projects which aim at creating connections between the global lockdown during the COVID-19 crisis and life in a small space similar to what astronauts experience when confined on the International Space Station. ‘Design is GREAT: From the UK to the UAE’ presented by the UK’s Department of International Trade offered a window to the DNA of British contemporary design, featuring work by celebrated designers such as Tom Faulkner and David Harber and brands such as Porta Romana, Julian Chichester, Tala and John Cullen. The AIMMP (Association of Industries of Wood and Furniture Portugal) invited visitors into a conceptual ‘Portuguese Apartment’ while the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the UAE proposed ‘Serres Séparées’, a design concept that allows guests to dine in individual greenhouses.




Dubai Design Week 2020
View of UAE Designer Exhibition
‘Symbiotic Forms’ by ©Tamara Barrage
©Dubai Design Week 2020



Dubai Design Week 2020


Has been held from 9 – 14 November

Under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of Dubai Culture & Arts Authority





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