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Designers from all over the world exhibited their latest creations at the recent Downtown Design fair in Downtown Dubai. The design stars also shared insights in a series of seminars intended to raise awareness about Dubai’s important milestones towards becoming a global design hub.
Organised under the theme “Original Design”, the second edition of the event was held at the foot of the Burj Khalifa, with the iconic tower serving as a backdrop to a host activities. The event was held last month under the patronage of Her Highness Shaikha Latifa Bint Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), and was sponsored by Emaar and Dubai Culture.
Speaking at the event, Downtown Design Director Cristina Romelli Gervasoni emphasised the importance of quality design in enhancing and enriching people’s lives. World-renowned Italian architect Mario Bellini, for his part, marvelled at Dubai’s vibrancy and how it has changed over the years since he first visited.
“Dubai is a very special place,” says Bellini. “I am constantly astonished by the changes it has witnessed since I first came here. I have seen it emerge from the desert to become the rich cultural design destination we see today.
“It has developed into a world centre of design, which could almost rival Milan for its sense of innovation and quality.”
Downtown Design also highlighted several homegrown talents from the region, who joined more than 50 exhibitors showcasing new designs in furniture, lighting, kitchens, bathrooms, textiles, flooring and carpets, accessories and new technologies.
The focus for this year, as with last year’s fair, was the importance of originality in design, particularly among high-quality brands, which have seen significant growth in this region.
Bringing a touch of Italian elegance to oft-overlooked rugs, two companies stood out at the show: Golran, which showcased new collections that placed a contemporary spin on the ancient art of handmade rug making, and Sahria, which demonstrated an equally contemporary twist to hand-knotted rugs.
Particularly enthralling was Golran’s Lake Collection, otherwise known as Raw Edges, by designers Yael Mer and Shal Alkalay. It incorporates Persian rug tradition and features fine textures and subtle colours, taking inspiration from Yaacov Agam, a lenticular artist who developed a unique system of optical perception in art.
Viewed from one direction, the iridescent colours and pile heights produce a pleasing patterned effect. However, alter your viewpoint or look in a mirror, and new and startling variations are revealed in the rug — colours alter and textures change according to the light.
Sahria’s extraordinary Shinebright rug was part of its Sparkles collection at the event. This Milan-produced silk rug features Swarovski crystals combined with muted, metropolitan colours, such as cement grey and old gold, to produce a cosmopolitan statement piece, which is reminiscent of an idealized urban skyline.
As with all the rugs featured at the show, it would almost be a shame to walk on Shinebright, which, like all great works of art, would be equally at home hung on the wall of a contemporary villa or apartment.
Bohemian glass has long been recognised as some of the finest in the world. Works by two companies from the same region were exhibited at Downtown Design.
One of event’s showstopping moments was when Lasvit unveiled its kinetic sculpture, Alice, by Petra Krausová. This ethereal sculpture and lighting feature comprises more than 50 separate organically inspired, hand-blown glass elements, which are suspended independently and move rhythmically, similar to the way a flower opens to greet the day and closes again at sunset.
An enthralling piece, it perfectly encapsulated the fair’s original design theme.
Meanwhile, Preciosa has produced eco-friendly crystal and glass lighting installations for some of the world’s most prestigious luxury interiors, including many in the GCC, by combining a century of Bohemian crystal and glass traditions with modern techniques and technologies.
Furniture design was well represented at Downtown Design, with examples of domestic, outdoor and office furniture on show.
US-based Theodore Alexander featured two-room sets comprising a bedroom and living room, designed around the theme of contemporary comfort and style. The stylish, luxurious and eclectic collection takes its influence from the past, while looking to the future.
Applying the design mantra “form follows function”, Ego Paris displayed its latest collection of stylish outdoor furniture, which mixes tradition and innovation to transform outdoor spaces into unique, comfortable and welcoming environments.
Herman Miller’s Mirra 2 ergonomic task seating is touted to represent the best of contemporary industrial seating solutions for applications in health care and related technologies and services.
Winner of the Wallpaper Design and Design Plus Awards 2011, Italian accessories and furnishing company Pinetti uses recycled hide and an ecological biocomposite in its tactile and chic collection. High levels of traditional Italian craftsmanship combine with contemporary styling to produce a collection that is much in demand for private interiors as well as in high-end commercial applications.
Danish company PO: create simple, sculptural home accessories that function beautifully — one of the company’s founding principles. Its product design ideas stem from casting aside traditional methods of doing things and giving their designers free reign to innovate. The result is surprisingly quirky and charming home accessories.
The Latvian Pavilion was a showcase of several designers working in materials as diverse as linen, crystal, volcanic basalt fibres and wool. Particularly striking were the soy wax candles from Anna Kilpe, which utilize Baltic amber and relaxing scents in their production to bring a touch of Nordic elegance to the home.
Aside from working with established designers from around the world, Downtown Design also aims to encourage young designers and innovators. The show’s collaboration with the Royal College of Art gave three postgraduates of the university the opportunity to demonstrate their solutions to everyday problems.
Julian Melchiorri’s Silk Leaf and Exhale is the first man-made biological “leaf” that is capable of emulating the respiration properties of a real leaf and demonstrating photosynthesis. Its ability to transform carbon dioxide into oxygen and organic compounds has application potential in built-up environments, such as cleaning the air in city centres and, in the future, in space!
Part of Downtown Design’s remit this year was to showcase talents from the Middle East and North Africa and highlight the region’s importance as a global design hub. Lamia Bousnina Ben Ayed, founder and owner of the Musk and Amber Gallery in Tunis, curated six of the region’s hottest design talents and exhibited them as part of the Musk and Amber and Harper’s Bazaar International Regional Design Museum.
Cherif Morsi from Egypt, hailed as one of the most talented and innovative designers in the Middle East, designs products and furniture for some of the world’s leading brands. His Apotheke piece is indicative of his style, which relies on creative simplicity.
Iranian-born Mohammad Hossein Ghaderi’s interests lie beyond mere product de sign and his pieces reflect his passion for figurative design, industrial design and calligraphy. His Carbon sofa showcased at the event draws upon the influences of the complexities of cut diamonds.
Architect and designer Chacha Atalla is originally from Tunisia and studied in France. She is inspired by collaborations with artisans and craftsmen and women who work in pottery, construction materials, leather, iron and upholstery fabric to produce her unique furniture and contemporary home accessories.
The breadth of talent from all over the world displayed at Downtown Design was testament to the organisers’ ability to draw together designers of many disciplines to demonstrate just how far Dubai has come in terms of being a global design hub. The city’s reputation for innovation and a unique sense of style will guarantee that not only established figures, but also young, emerging talents from the world of design thrive in this culturally-diverse
Source: Ruth Khan, Special to Property Weekly