Dubai Design Week 2020: A Lesson From Dubai To The World

Dubai Design Week continues inspiring people to create opportunities for innovation, sustainability, and human development.

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Executive Director, Dubai Design District (d3)
4 min read
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Dubai just hosted one of the first major design events to take place in physical form since the global coronavirus pandemic started. Dubai Design Week may have taken place in exceptional circumstances, but the city’s readiness and resilience –coupled with the safety measures put in place by the relevant authorities– has showcased that physical events can get moving again.

Within the safe open-air setting of Dubai Design District (d3), thousands of people attended the region’s largest creative festival. It was a return to life, and a major milestone in the recovery of the creative industries. The health and safety of visitors was paramount. Attendees were requested to download the Dubai Design Week app and register their preferred visiting time to help organizers manage numbers and recommend hours of lower footfall, if required.

Among other measures, this ensured it ran smoothly as d3 placed a greater focus on promoting local and regional talent this year. Following our decision to extend support to Lebanese designers and startups affected by the explosion in the Port of Beirut, we were excited to play a significant role in the success of the sixth annual Dubai Design Week, and provide a platform for the community to come together.

We embraced the challenges of social distancing with a collection of installations and activations inspired by recent times. The “Serres Séparées” pop-up dining concept presented by the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, for example, saw a series of glass greenhouses placed in the heart of d3. The influence of recent times on design was keenly felt at the MENA Grad Show, too, where six projects from students at the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation were showcased. One of the students, Zinah Ahmad Issa, featured the prototype of an inflatable soft robot called “Hugo,” which interacts with humans and responds to their emotional state. Another eye-catching project included a prototype that translates paintings into sound, allowing blind people to experience art.

To focus on a key vertical within the design ecosystem, we launched the inaugural d3 Architecture Festival in partnership with the Royal Institute of British Architects Gulf Chapter. Held under the theme of “Identity, Context, and Placemaking in the Gulf,” it was the first architecture event of its kind in Dubai, and included a physical exhibition alongside live-streamed talks and workshops. Aimed at steering the industry towards a more sustainable future, we also shortlisted 39 of the region’s best architecture projects pushing the boundaries of engineering, sustainability and innovation.

We established the annual festival because architecture has never been so important. With the United Nations estimating that the global population will reach 9.7 billion people by 2050 –with two-thirds of them living in cities– urbanization will create major challenges for architects and real estate developers in ongoing efforts to future-proof our cities. Dubai and Abu Dhabi have led the way in terms of what a modern metropolis should look like. We have iconic landmarks such as Burj Al Arab, Ain Dubai, and Dubai Frame, among many other remarkable architectural landmarks, defined by prominent architects.

Our community is also home to more than 50 architects who have designed some of the UAE’s most impressive projects, including The Opus, Zayed National Museum, and the falcon-shaped UAE National Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai by Santiago Calatrava. We enjoyed showcasing some of the projects from our community during the festival, and we are pleased to say that the d3 Architecture Festival will return bigger and better next year.

What we have learnt from this festival is that Dubai’s creative industries are open to the world. The in-vogue hybrid of physical and digital events that has proved popular for visitors and organizers will be a mainstay for conferences, seminars, and new product launches moving forward, creating greater opportunities to reach a wider audience. We look forward to continuing to work closely with talent and companies in various fields of design during and after Dubai Design Week, so that we can continue to inspire people to create opportunities for innovation, sustainability, and human development.

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