What to look for at Dubai Design Week 2018

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This year’s Dubai Design Week is upsizing considerably. With over 230 events set up over a six-day period, and over 120 institutions from around the world participating, this years’ edition is witnessing a 20% capacity rise from last year. Its program consists of commissioned installations, exhibitions and competitions as well as talks, workshops and tours. These events are angled to stimulate conversation between leading actors in the field of global creative innovation and the public. Here’s a glimpse of what to expect…


Words/Salomé Aubergé


One of the highlights of Dubai Design Week 2018 is Abwab, meaning ‘doors’ in Arabic. Abwab’s venue undergoes annual remodeling based on the geo-creative context of the moment. This year, the exhibition’s five pavilions are crafted from natural materials including fallen twigs and timber coated in recycled newspaper, designed by UAE-based architecture firm Architecture + Other Things. Under the title ‘Between the Lines’, exhibitors will present specially commissioned design experiences that tie together physical and metaphorical boundaries that shape everyday life in their respective countries. With commissioned designers coming from Amman, Beirut, Dubai and the Eastern Provinces of KSA, the exhibition uses design to mediate cultural exchange across the region.



Other key exhibits not to miss this year include Downtown Design and Global Grad Show. The former, one of the Middle East’s leading design fairs, will exhibit the works of over 175 design brands from across the globe. Its theme for this year is ‘Livable Cities’ and under this thematic umbrella, the fair will feature an indoor garden space created by landscape designers desert INK, as well as creative installations and pop-up concepts. This year, the fair is introducing a new section titled Downtown Editions, a co-curated initiative between design weeks in Amman, Beirut, Casablanca and others in the region, aimed at showcasing limited edition and bespoke design, design collaborations and capsule collections.


Global Grad Show is an exhibition comprising of impact-driven design solutions to global problems. Having received over 1000 submissions by graduates from design and technology schools across the globe, the exhibition committee selected 150 to present at this year’s show.



The week-long event also encompasses a series of competitions and awards. The winner of one of the Middle East’s leading design innovation competitions, the Audi Innovation Award, will be announced on the 13th of November. The theme for this year’s competition is ‘Connections’ and the winner will receive $25,000 worth of investment towards their design career. Design 100 is another open-call competition, in which UAE designers competed to create a piece of furniture or a functional object of some sort, to get the chance to have 100 editions of their creation produced by Dubai Design District in partnership with American Hardwood Export Council. Downtown Editions will announce the winner and will be in charge of selling the winning product to visitors, with all the proceeds going to Dubai Cares’ initiative in support of Syrian refugees.


To complement the extensive selection of exhibitions, conferences and talks have been set up to provide a space in which people can address questions and concerns related to the art and design world today. Dubai Design District will hold a comprehensive selection of talks and panel discussions, bringing together creatives, opinion leaders and the public in conversation. Dubai Design Week and UAE Modern have teamed up to present People Planet Profits, a sustainability conference consisting of a series of events throughout the week, exploring numerous facets of what it means to be sustainable today.

Other exciting talks include the Belief in AI conference, which will explore the global phenomenon of artificial intelligence, focusing on the way it is unwittingly moulded by cultural forces. This event will gather designers, theologists, engineers, philosophers and scientists to explore the ethics behind artificial intelligence today as well as potential ways it might feed into design tomorrow. This event is co-curated by Ben Vickers, Chief Technology Officer at the Serpentine Galleries in London, and Kenric McDowell, Artist + Machine Intelligence program lead at Google Arts & Culture.


The 2018 edition of the design week is heavily encouraging public participation, as oppose to mere observation. As well as its extensive program of talks and roundtables, it is organizing workshops for people to gain hands-on experience in the design sphere. Making Space, a pop-up studio, will run workshops and children’s activities led by regional and international designers, providing the public with opportunities to experiment with a variety of design techniques from modelling to sculpting to weaving and sketching.



To facilitate navigation throughout this bustling event, Dubai Design Week 2018 is launching an app that will allow visitors to create personalized timetables of events that are important to them. November is an exciting time for art and design in Dubai; as well as the design week, the Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai’s first contemporary art museum, and the inaugural Fikra Graphic Design Biennial in nearby Sharjah are expected to open within the month. November is a busy time in Dubai’s art and culture calendar, so download the app and don’t miss out on the eclectic glory of the design week.


Pictures courtesy of Dubai Design Week