The highlights of the best of Middle Eastern design

Dubai Design Week is held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of Dubai Culture & Arts Authority

The fifth edition of the largest creative festival in the Middle East will be celebrated with a varied programme of over 200 events, highlighting the design identity of the UAE and wider region.

  • Abwab will host designers from Lebanon, the Eastern Provinces of Saudi Arabia (supported by Ithra), and India
  • Downtown Design will present top international brands with strong presences in the Middle East, while the fair’s dedicated showcase for high-quality and original design; Downtown Editions, will present a focus on regional talent
  • Guest Curator Ghassan Salameh to spotlight regional design with two new exhibitions; educational “MADAR”and product-focused “INSIGHT/ONSITE”
  • Coinciding with Dubai Design Week, November 2019 brings the inaugural edition of the Sharjah ArchitectureTriennial, the first platform of its kind for architecture and urbanism in the region

Staged in partnership with Dubai Design District (d3) and supported by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (DCAA) and Audi Middle East, the fifth edition of Dubai Design Week will spotlight the design identity of the UAE through diverse representations of local and international creative efforts. 

With its hub in d3, Dubai Design Week has been a key player in cementing the city as a destination for design professionals and enthusiasts.

Presenting a focus on regional designers in its ambitious and extensive programme of events this year, Dubai Design Week 2019 will continue to encompass a range of disciplines including architecture, product design, interiors and multimedia and will offer more opportunities than ever for visitors to directly engage with regional talent, creating a dialogue that affirms Dubai’s status as the region’s creative capital. 

2019 Programme – regional highlights in Dubai Design District (d3) 

Downtown Design 

At the heart of Dubai Design Week is Downtown Design (12-15 November), the leading fair for high-quality and original design in the Middle East.

After its successful launch last year, Downtown Editions, the fair’s dedicated section for limited edition and bespoke design will continue to present the next generation of regional talent.

Exhibiting designers will include Kuwaiti Meshary AlNassar, who will show a collection of sculptural marble lights inspired by his family home, UAE- based Tashkeel, who will unveil the 2019 cohort of Tanween designers and Sharjah-based Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council who will present pieces of traditional and modern crafts from across the UAE.

Aljoud Lootah will also present a numbered, limited-edition collection of objects inspired by the Emirati wooden dowry chest, the Mandoos, while the region’s equestrian culture will be represented in a collection by Emirati designer Hajar Abdallah, who makes her designer debut. 

Dubai Design Week

“MADAR” and “INSIGHT/ONSITE” by Ghassan Salameh 

Sitting in Downtown Editions, design entrepreneur Ghassan Salameh will curate two exhibitions which focus on regional design. “MADAR”, an initiative supported by d3, will be an educational exhibition that will shed light on the current emerging movements and initiatives in the design market of the region today.

The curated exhibition will feature works by regional designers and design experts based in the Middle-East, offering insights on the different components and stakeholders that constitute the ecosystem behind the design industry as well as highlight the various stages of a starting a design business. 

Salameh will also curate a product-focused exhibition titled “INSIGHT/ONSITE”, which will showcase the latest productions and innovations of emergent and independent local and regional designers, in a standardized equal space format.

Here, new designers will be able to get real-time feedback on the viability of their concepts. 


Translated as ‘doors’ in Arabic, Abwab is an architectural installation that offers a platform for design talent from across the Middle East.

In its fifth edition the designers selected from India, the Eastern Provinces of Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon will be challenged to recreate the local classrooms of their cultures through the “ways of learning” theme. 

“Qissa Ghar” meaning ‘Home of Stories’ by Mumbai-based Busride Design Studio, will retell creation myths from cultures across India: seven contemporary artists have been invited to interpret these fantastic stories onto Khadi – hand spun natural fiber cloth originating from India. 

“WAL(L)TZ” by Lebanese-Polish sisters Tessa Sakhi and Tara Sakhi, of multidisciplinary Beirut based architecture and design studio T SAKHI Architects, will respond to this year’s theme with an interactive wall portraying the socio-political barriers in society through a psychological and physiological journey for its visitors. 

The Eastern Provinces of Saudi Arabia, supported by Ithra, is represented in a research-led project that works to safeguard the craft native to the land; palm frond weaving. Shahad Alazzaz founder of Azaz Architects collaborates with local craftspeople to develop innovative textiles and experiment with their application, each textile being an interpretation of a process and story, interlocked as a symbolic representation of community. 

UMBRA by Finsa and Tinkah 

Spanish wood solutions manufacturer Finsa have commissioned Dubai-based multidisciplinary design studio Tinkah to create a gateway to Dubai Design District (d3). “UMBRA” will be inspired by the Mashrabiya patterns of the Middle East with Emirati-specific perforations. 

Mashrabiya, an element of traditional Middle Eastern architecture, was historically used as a window or spatial partition with its geometric perforations enabling occupants to observe activity without themselves being visible, and simultaneously prevent the sun from overheating homes, limiting the light allowed in while still inviting a breeze.

The reimagined partitions of UMBRA using Finsa materials will be produced to allow visitors interact with the structure and objects, the sun will paint shadow patterns across the surfaces within it. 

Barjeel by MAS architecture 

MAS Architecture Studio will be producing a six-metre tall installation titled “Barjeel”, inspired by the traditional wind towers of the UAE, composed from layers of reclaimed cardboard and strip lighting in an exercise to build from reused materials. 

Historically, the wind towers were a common architectural element of small houses and villas in the region, performing as non-electrical air-conditioners.

Their function was to catch and direct cooler breeze into the house below it, circulating the hotter air to the top of the structure. Barjeel will harness passive ventilation to create the same effect, resulting in a place of rest for visitors. 

Green Nexus by MAS Paints in partnership with UAE Modern 

With the aim of bringing visitors together to exchange knowledge on nature-based solutions for the next generation to thrive, MAS Paints in partnership with UAE Modern will present a site-specific installation to Dubai Design District (d3). A landscaped podium will tell the stories of best practices in water security, water pollution, food security and health. This will be shaded by trees, acting as a connector between living things, blending technology and natural elements. 

Audi Innovation Hub by Abdalla Almulla 

The 2019 Audi Innovation Hub will be designed by Emirati designer and architect Abdulla AlMulla, founder of ‘MULA’ design studio. Almulla’s methodology is driven by creative energy, and taking inspiration from technological advances.

The pavilion will consist of a sweeping steel structure, combined with gradient mesh which creates shade, inspired by the technology of Audi’s “e-tron”, as well as Almulla’s use of patterns and geometry in setting design guidelines. 

“Kabul Old City – A Visual Journey”, by Turquoise Mountain An independent organisation working to protect community at risk primarily in Afghanistan and with a focus on historic buildings and heritage crafts, Turquoise Mountain, will present a multimedia pop-up exhibition titled “Kabul Old City – A Visual Journey” in collaboration with ICONEM, using virtual reality technology to digitize endangered cultural heritage sites in 3D.

Art Jameel Shop 

With hand-picked products especially for Dubai Design Week, the Art Jameel Shop will be situated in Building 4, next to Global Grad Show, and will be the home for items related to contemporary art, design, architecture, and culture – from the UAE to the world.

Products from established and award-winning brands will sit alongside items commissioned especially for Design Week from regional designers and up-and-coming artisans. 

Sharjah Architecture Triennial 

Coinciding with Dubai Design Week 2019, the inaugural edition of Sharjah Architecture Triennial will be staged from 9 November 2019, reinforcing November as the annual meeting point for design in the region.

The Sharjah Architecture Triennial aims to serve as a platform for architecture and urbanism in the region, while advancing the contemporary practice and preservation of the region’s rich modern heritage. 

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