Get to know Dubai Design District - A designer's dreamland

Get to know Dubai Design District - A designer's dreamlandImage Credit: Supplied

Dubai Design District (d3) is a Tecom Investment project dedicated to the design, fashion, art and luxury industries. Scheduled for completion early next year, phase one of the project comprises ten buildings being built at a cost of Dh4 billion.

The project aims to create a pioneering creative community in the Middle East that will promote and nurture local and regional designers. The project will include residential, commercial, retail and hospitality components, characterized by distinct public spaces, unique street furniture and shaded walkways. It will also have a creek-side promenade, with international and boutique hotels, a pop-up shop area, amphitheatre and convention centre.

Lindsay Miller, Managing Director of d3, tells Property Weekly the development will provide an environment that will enable designers to take their creativity to the next level.

''Our role is to provide the infrastructure and curate the ecosystem that engages, inspires and enables the complete design lifestyle,'' she says.

- Why was it essential to dedicate an entire district to design?

When we talk about design, we mean it in broad terms. We are talking about a creative industry that spans a wide range of disciplines, including interiors, architecture, fashion, sketching, light industrial and services — and all with a strong relationship with art. When we look at the global design community, we see an incredible amount of cross-pollination among different sectors, with many designers now moving between disciplines.

For example, the renowned architect Zaha Hadid is designing shoes, Frank Gehry is designing jewellery and fashion brands such as Missoni and Versace are expanding into hotels.

Regionally, there are increasing numbers of success stories, whether it is El Seed's collaboration with LVMH, Amato dressing Katy Perry and Beyoncé or Azza Fahmy's internationally recognized brand. We are also seeing significant momentum among these designers to come together and form a community here in the Middle East.

Whether it is an event such as Art Nights at the Dubai International Financial Centre, the Design Talks Series at A4 Space or initiatives at Fashion Forward, this community is committed and highly enthusiastic about coming together to drive their industry forward.

It is the desire for this sort of community that lies at the heart of d3. We are creating a place for the region's designers and design enthusiasts to come together every day, to interact, not just at special events, but all the time.

d3's success hinges entirely on the energy that the people working and living there bring to the community.

- Walk us through d3.

Our role is to provide the infrastructure and curate the ecosystem that engages, inspires and enables the complete design lifestyle.

We will provide a unique concept office and outdoor environments that will enable designers to take their creativity to the next level and offer a dedicated studio and warehouse district that gives consumers and tourists a first-hand experience of the design process.

We will be a home for academic institutions that create a bridge between emerging talent and established professionals, as well as design-led hotels with a value proposition and ethos that attract international design enthusiasts.

We will also provide residential components that focus on increasing the quality of life of residents, along with community services that minimise the unnecessary hassles of life, instead enabling people to focus on their craft and their passion.

- How does d3 fit into the emirate's vision of becoming a global hub?

For Tecom Investments, our part has always been to foster the emirate's creative communities through hard and soft infrastructure, with successful projects such as Dubai Media City, Dubai Film and TV Commission, Dubai Internet City and Dubai Knowledge Village.

Design District is the logical next step as part of our commitment to develop thriving creative communities. It is our role to look at the full lifestyle requirements of those working within design, going beyond the standard nine-to-five requirements and integrating relevant residential and leisure components.

By doing this, d3 will play its part in underpinning Dubai's wider ambitions, creating a knowledge-based hub for the creative community. Our master plan has also been designed to ensure that it is aligned with the leadership's drive to make Dubai a smart city and as such we have been selected as the initiative's Greenfield pilot development.

- How will the district go beyond being just a posh neighbourhood?

There are a lot of characteristics of ''posh neighbourhoods'' that we want to learn from and take into account. For example, they tend to be well-planned, highly integrated and clean, with a high level of greenery and outdoor space. These are all things that have guided the thinking behind d3's master plan.

At the same time engagement with the wider design community and end users of the district enabled us to see that there are many other considerations that need to be brought into the equation. High levels of activity and life in the street, both at night and during the day, are critical for this community.

Opportunities for community members to make their mark, whether it is by guiding our plans through participation in the many focus groups that we hold, by taking a flexible space and designing it themselves, curating street art in the neighbourhood and even coordinating an impromptu market or pop-up are critical to ensuring that this area thrives.

- How will this project impact Dubai's regional and global footprint?

The d3 development will play a vital role in shifting Dubai from being a net importer of design talent to a net exporter of design talent. While the emirate will remain a major retail hub for regional consumers, d3 will seek to enhance exposure for emerging and established Arab talent on a global scale.

We want to help create a larger market and increase international appetite for Arab talent by facilitating and growing the availability of Middle East-originated designs worldwide.

We already have many talented designers from this region who are gaining significant traction internationally. For example, we have seen Amato's Furne One dressing global superstars such as Beyoncé, Katy Perry and Heidi Klum.

This kind of mass-scale publicity and success breeds further success. It raises interest in Middle Eastern talent more generally from consumers and the industry, and it provides an opportunity for other local and regional designers to be discovered and gain global exposure.

- While big-ticket names are always a draw, how will d3 impact home-grown and regional talent?

The big-ticket names have an important role to play at d3, but we really want to foster the growth potential of the local industry. Home-grown, regional talent lies at the very heart of this ambition.

By being based in the same community, regional talents will be exposed to the full extent of the industry's value chain and there will be opportunities to interact, share and engage with major players from the world of design, fashion, luxury and art. For an up-and-coming regional designer, that is a very compelling and inspiring opportunity.

To ensure we nurture emerging talent in an effective and holistic way, d3 will also provide a comprehensive creative hub that inspires through exposure to the full creative value chain.

We will offer local talents access to leading academic institutions and internationally renowned design schools and courses, renowned museums, art spaces and a wide variety of cultural and social events.

- Can you share some pertinent industry statistics?

The global apparel, accessories and luxury goods market was valued at a staggering $1.06 trillion (Dh3.89 trillion) last year. That is a big market by any standard and Dubai is well placed to increase its share in this market, generating jobs and economic growth along the way.

The UAE was ranked the second-most attractive emerging market for apparel retailers in AT Kearney's 2013 Apparel Index. The retail experience is clearly a major part of the attraction of Dubai, with 60 per cent of luxury goods spending driven by tourists and the Dubai Mall welcoming a record 75 million visitors last year.

This explains why 55 per cent of the top international brands already have a presence in Dubai, contributing to the emirate's retail industry, which was estimated to generate approximately Dh242.4 billion last year.

- Tell us about the d3 timeline.

Phase one of the project is the development of ten core buildings into innovative, open, flexible office space. The first phase is well underway and we are on track to welcome our first business partners early next year, with an expected population of 10,000 creatives.

Phase two will be delivered two years later and will include the Creative Community, a core element of the d3 project. We will soon be able to reveal the winning design following an architecture competition we initiated to design this area.

The winning design is incredible and truly captures the urban, organic, raw nature of our vision of creating a home for emerging designers. We wanted an area that would give our designers the opportunity to realise the designs in their imagination, by giving them a space full of life and vibrancy that allows them to mix, interact, work and inspire each other.

Phase three will be the development of a 2km waterfront, with a view of one of the most iconic cityscapes in the world. The waterfront will be a bustling collection of design-led hotels, with unique restaurants and food outlets, so that visitors and tourists can relax and enjoy all that there is to offer on this lake-side strip.

Did you know that Dubai is going to have Dh30b worth of projects for Expo 2020

Source: Sanaya Pavri, Features Writer, Property Weekly


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