exploring middle eastern heritage at dubai design week, from biomaterials to rural typologies

exploring middle eastern heritage at dubai design week, from biomaterials to rural typologies

dubai design week 2023 celebrates middle eastern heritage

 

On November 7th, the ninth edition of Dubai Design Week kicked off at the emirate’s design district, unfolding as a tapestry of artistic expressions fusing creativity, culture, and innovation. The festival brings together an array of installations, workshops, interactive experiences and more, together exploring pivotal themes of eco-friendly design; namely, addressing the crucial need for reclaiming materials of our past while imagining new forms that foster sustainable practices.

 

From the biomaterial explorations of Abdalla Almula’s Of Palm and the woven timber panels of Naseej pavilion, to waiwai’s reinterpretations of traditional rural typologies, the installations underscore a recurring motif — a celebration of Middle Eastern heritage and craftsmanship. Drawing inspiration from the region’s natural and built landscapes, the projects incorporate sustainable methods alongside modern technologies, upcycling and repurposing organic materials such as palm trees to dissect ways in which contemporary design can engage with vernacular practices. 

from biomaterials to rural typologies: an exploration of middle eastern heritage at dubai design week '23
Naseej pavilion | all images courtesy of Dubai Design Week

 

 

palm-derived biomaterials nod to tradition

 

This year’s Dubai Design Week sees diverse innovative expressions of biomaterial installations, repurposing materials such as local food waste, loofahs, and notably, palm trees — prevalent across the Middle Eastern landscape. Emirati architect Abdalla Almulla’s pavilion Of Palm takes center stage at the annual festival, spotlighting the multifaceted roles played by the indigenous palm tree in providing nourishment, shelter, fuel, and other essential functions. The project is rooted in notions of scarcity, seeking to explore the potential of sustainably harnessing natural resources at our disposal in abundance. Looking to historical practices where communities utilized fewer elements to achieve more, the installation is crafted entirely from palm tree components, from its roof woven through the application of parametric approaches, to the tree trunk structural columns.

 

EDGE Architects’ (more here) EDGE MORPH immerses visitors in a timber-centric experience marking a void with organic curves and contrasting contours. Made from Desert Board, an engineered board produced from upcycled palm fronds native to the emirates, the installation presents a void of organic curves and contrasting contours enhanced by the shifting interplay of light and shadow. With Palm Repose, Majid Al Bastaki integrates palm trees as part of a narrative of cultural reverence. Repurposing locally sourced trunks combined with sleek metal frames, the bench unveiled at the Downtown Design fair is a tribute to the UAE’s heritage, drawing from the idyllic scenes of local farmers resting amid palm-laden landscapes.

from biomaterials to rural typologies: an exploration of middle eastern heritage at dubai design week '23
Of Palm by Abdalla Almula

 

 

CONTEMPORARY ECHOES OF ARABIAN ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE

 

Reinterpreting rural vernacular architecture to propose design solutions for our urban present and future, Designest, Urban Hadeera, and Breeze Houses reflect nuances of Arabian heritage. Realized by architect Ahmad Alkattan, Designest intertwines minimalistic aesthetics with advanced construction techniques to create street furniture that nods to the historical pigeon towers of the Arabian Peninsula. With its white cylindrical form, the structure, 3D-printed with recycled reinforced GRC, adheres to this year’s theme of sustainability while creating a quiet retreat for passersby. Openings for ventilation mark a threshold blurring privacy and openness, while pigeon nests punctuate its rounded top, utilizing reused toilet and kitchen paper rolls as places of rest and sustenance.

 

In parallel, waiwai studio’s installation revives one of the most iconic structures from the vernacular architecture of the UAE — the hadeera — an open ring of palm fronds bound together to provide shelter against the climate and elements of the desert. Urban Hadeera serves as both a shelter and a communal space for reflection amid the cityscape, crafted from sustainable salt-based building materials to address contemporary urban needs by looking to historical contexts. Artist Alya Ola Abbas’ Breeze Houses alludes to the iconic Al-Barjeel wind tower, a notable architectural feature of heritage homes in the UAE, in a contemporary expression. Melding architecture, nature, and human narratives, translucent blue curtains mirror the wind’s dance while audio recordings weave conversations and narratives of Emirati life.

from biomaterials to rural typologies: an exploration of middle eastern heritage at dubai design week '23
a palm leaf roof woven through the application of parametric approaches

 

 

a preservation of Sustainable craftsmanship & Cultural practices

 

Weaving traditional Emirati craftsmanship and the pearl diving legacies of Bahrain, Naseej and Blessings of Iridescence explore the narrative of sustainable cultural preservation. By architects AlZaina Lootah and Sahil Rattha Singh, Naseej, meaning ‘to weave’, incorporates stacked layers of wood that unfold to mirror the intricate patterns found in traditional weaving and the geometry of palm tree leaves. A small nook within invites audiences to connect with the organic material and reflect on the essence of Emirati heritage.  

 

Paying homage to Bahrain’s pearling heritage, Sara Al Rayyes of Orient Design Studio references cultural symbols while establishing a modern, ecological approach to design. Blessings of Iridescence breathes new life into discarded mother of pearl oysters, using sustainable concrete as a composite material to embody its strength and resilience. The architectural installation presents curved seating elements that symbolize the pearl itself, intertwining the aesthetic of dhows and the glistening iridescence of oyster shells.

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from biomaterials to rural typologies: an exploration of middle eastern heritage at dubai design week '23
EDGE MORPH by EDGE Architects

EDGE MORPH by EDGE Architects
a void with organic curves and contours crafted from upcycled palm fronds native to the emirates

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Blessings of Iridescence breathes new life into discarded mother of pearl oysters

from biomaterials to rural typologies: an exploration of middle eastern heritage at dubai design week '23
Designest by Ahmad Alkattan

exploring middle eastern heritage at dubai design week, from biomaterials to rural typologies
a stack of timber panels mirroring traditional weaving techniques

Alya Ola Abbas' Breeze Houses
Alya Ola Abbas’ Breeze Houses nods to the iconic Al-Barjeel wind tower

 

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a contemporary expression of an architectural feature of heritage homes in the UAE
a contemporary expression of an architectural feature of heritage homes in the UAE
Blessings of Iridescence by Sara Al Rayyes of Orient Design Studio
Blessings of Iridescence by Sara Al Rayyes of Orient Design Studio
stacked layers of wood mirror intricate patterns of traditional weaving and the geometry of palm tree leaves
stacked layers of wood mirror intricate patterns of traditional weaving and the geometry of palm tree leaves

project info:

 

event: Dubai Design Week 2023

duration: November 7 – November 12, 2023

location: Dubai Design District, Dubai, UAE

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