Dubai Design Week 2020. Programme Highlights in d3

by Editorial Staff

Compasses Magazine

Held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, Dubai Design Week returns for its sixth edition, 9-14 November 2020

This year, Dubai Design Week turns its spotlight on the regional design scene under the theme of redefining and reimagining the way we will live in the near and distant future. Within a safe open-air setting in Dubai Design District (d3), the 2020 edition of the creative festival will stage a series of installations and urban interventions and outdoor experiences. Downtown Design’s exhibition ‘The Shape of things to come’ will present interior design and architecture concepts of the future. A world-first exhibition of the best social impact innovation projects from the region, the inaugural MENA Grad Show will present university projects that make the world a better place. Iraqi designer Hozan Zangana has been awarded this year’s Abwab commission for his proposal ‘Fata Morgana’, a conceptual framework in an open-plan arrangement featuring focal pillars representing each of the seven Emirates. The winning concept for Urban Commissions 2020, supported by A.R.M. Holding, has been awarded to Emirati and Saudi architects Reema Almheiri and Lujain Alatiq, for their design of an innovative outdoor retail experience. In view of the challenges created by the ongoing pandemic and the repercussions on the local creative sector, a new UAE Designer Exhibition will act as a platform to highlight 20 local and UAE-based creatives. Engaging experiences and initiatives will be staged by country-specific organisations, including the Embassy of Switzerland, the Institut Francais and the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Staged in strategic partnership with Dubai Design District (d3), with the support of Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (DCAA) and A.R.M. Holding, Dubai Design Week returns 9-14 November 2020 with a diverse programme of events and activities including exhibitions, installations and pop-ups at its main hub in Dubai Design District (d3), alongside new online elements accessible globally, such as a digital fair for design brands and a series of virtual talks programmes. Responding to the current reality of travel restrictions and physical distancing, the festival will offer new opportunities to the Middle East’s creative community, giving centre stage to local and regional talent and reflecting on the role of designers in redefining the way we live in a COVID-impacted world.

Khadija Al Bastaki, Executive Director of d3, said: “2020 has presented us with a rare moment to pause and reflect on the role of design. Dubai Design Week will establish a dialogue around these critical social, cultural and economic issues. It will offer new opportunities for the Middle East by providing a platform for local and regional talent. We look forward to deepening our support for the industry and have high hopes for the inaugural d3 Architecture Festival in partnership with RIBA Gulf Chapter, which will provide an important reflection point for Dubai, the UAE and the regional creative ecosystem.”

Her Excellency Hala Badri, Director General of Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, said: “Dubai Culture is embarking on its cultural journey from an inspiring strategy that seeks to empower creatives in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, consolidating the emirate’s position as a global centre for art and culture, an incubator for creativity, and a thriving hub for talent. As a strategic supporter of Dubai Design Week since its inception, we are confident that this year’s edition will progressively attract emerging and established creatives in fields of art and design. We will continue to support it in all its versions that would continuously carry more innovation and keep pace with the new changes and the circumstances that would arise.”


2020 Programme Highlights


MENA Grad Show

Leveraging the established Global Grad Show platform, the MENA Grad Show is a world-first exhibition of the best social impact innovation projects from the region, in the fields of technology, science and design. The inaugural edition received over 200 submissions from 35+ universities based in the Middle East and North Africa.

A key component of Dubai Design Week’s programme in d3, the MENA Grad Show will exhibit graduate projects that make the world a better place, complemented with a programme that supports young talent in sharing knowledge and experiences to advance their professional careers. The initiative is supported by A.R.M. Holding and Dubai Culture, in line with their continued engagement with Global Grad Show and support of the local and regional creative communities as well as youth. The physical showcase will be open to the public from 9-14 November 2020 at Dubai Design District (d3).


Downtown Design

In light of the pandemic, Downtown Design 2020 will take a hybrid format, bringing the design community together across physical as well as digital platforms. Spotlighting progressive design thinking from the Middle East, Downtown Design’s multimedia exhibition ‘The Shape of Things to Come’ will feature conceptual work by the region’s architects and interior designers as they imagine how we will interact with our environment and each other in the future, exploring how we will live, work and play in a post-pandemic landscape, including an innovative pedestrian network, a new approach to design for places of worship and the evolution of air travel.

Continuing to support the objectives of the design industry in these challenging times, Downtown Design’s new digital fair, debuting during Dubai Design Week, will connect international and regional brands with the fair’s network of buyers, architects and interior designers.



Since 2015, Abwab has acted as a platform for regional design talent, inviting visitors into the creative landscapes of neighbouring MENA communities through a series of pavilions. For this year’s edition, Dubai Design Week announced an open call to creatives from the Middle East and has commissioned a singular landmark pavilion, ‘Fata Morgana’ a project by Iraqi designer Hozan Zangana in collaboration with Generous Studio and Woodcast Designs. Addressing city dwellers’ ever-changing relationship with their public realm and the constant need for public interventions that serve the purposes of shelter, respite and relaxation, the concept incorporates natural social distancing for visitors to have a safe experience. Focusing on the framework of a modern-day city through an open-plan arrangement of components arranged around a central origin point, the Abwab 2020 Pavilion features pillars symbolic for each of the seven Emirates.


Urban Commissions 2020

Supported by A.R.M Holding, Urban Commissions 2020 invited architects and designers from the MENA region to create an innovative, multi-purpose retail unit for a new outdoor market experience. The winning proposal titled ‘Basta’, by emerging Emirati and Saudi architects Reema Almheiri and Lujain Alatiq, will be unveiled at the new pop-up market held during the weekend at Dubai Design District (d3), 13-14 November 2020.


UAE Designer Exhibition

Responding to the repercussions of the ongoing pandemic on the local creative sector, Dubai Design Week will again focus on homegrown design and UAE-based designers, offering designers a platform to strengthen their audience base and professional network, through a curated exhibition staged in Dubai Design District (d3). Following a public callout with the aim of including diverse content, emerging designers across design disciplines will present their projects and ideas, showcasing their skill sets. Works on display will range from home accessories and jewellery to furniture, as well as subjects of sustainability, material experimentation and craft innovation.


d3 Architecture Festival

A programme marking the launch of Dubai’s first architecture festival will showcase landmark regional architectural projects under the theme ‘Identity, Context and Placemaking in the Gulf’. Curated by Juan Roldan, Associate Professor in the College of Architecture, Art & Design at the American University of Sharjah, the d3 Architecture Festival 2020 in partnership with RIBA Gulf, with the support of RIBA, will stage an exhibition celebrating the achievements of architecture companies in d3, the UAE and the wider GCC region, and what is to come from the emerging generation of local companies and graduating students, alongside a series talks to steer the Middle East towards a more sustainable future.


The Dubai Design Week Marketplace

The Dubai Design Week Marketplace is a new, outdoor, retail initiative and a key component of the largest creative festival in the Middle East. Held in Dubai Design District (d3) the 13-14 November, 60+ invited vendors will present a curated selection of the best of Dubai’s artisans, creatives, entrepreneurs, small businesses and food scene, providing visitors with a unique retail experience. Offering original products predominantly sourced and made locally in various fields including fashion, jewellery, homeware, beauty, lifestyle and food, The Dubai Design Week Marketplace will also feature a wide range of fun experiences that will entertain and engage all the family.


Outdoor Installations

Staged throughout the open-air, pedestrian setting of Dubai Design District (d3), outdoor installations and public interventions will respond to the fast-paced changes occurring in our urban environment and the new challenges arising from the requirement of physical distancing, The installations include: Renowned Emirati designers, Khalid Shafar, Aljoud Lootah and Hamad Khoory who have been commissioned by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) to create convertible seating solutions designed for the UAE’s continuously adapting urban environments; Multi-disciplinary Kuwait- based Studio Meshary AlNassar has joined forces with global surface brand Cosentino to present a contemporary take on the ancient Persian paradise garden, an antidote for enclosed spaces; Jumanah Rizk and Delta Light will showcase an abstract installation rooted in a contextual exploration of material that cultivates the local and natural resources in response to COVID-19.


Exhibitions & Pop-ups

Presented by 1971 Design Space and curated by Khulood Thani and Fatma Al Mahmoud, the ‘Fashcultivate’ exhibition celebrates the date palms as an integral part of the region’s cultural and historical identity through 7 commissioned textile pieces by Gulf-based designers. Alongside a retrospective of Tanween alumni over the past 7 years, Tashkeel will unveil limited-edition pieces inspired by, designed and manufactured in the UAE featuring the 2020 participants of their Tanween design programme; Nada Abu Shakra, Lina Ghalib and Neda Salmanpur. A capsule exhibit of solo work and inter-disciplinary collaborations, the d3 Edit will reflect the diversity of the Dubai Design District (d3) creative community members.

Alongside regional showcases, international initiatives will share insight into their creative communities’ response to the multifaceted issues caused by the global pandemic; With innovation in focus, the Embassy of Switzerland will stage a series of activities including an exhibition titled ‘BYOM (Bring Your Own Mask)’, showcasing a series of 3D-printed works and studies of young Swiss designers rethinking the hygienic mask; In collaboration with Institut Francais in the UAE, an exhibition curated by Cité Internationale du Design will draw inspiration from life in a small space, such as astronauts when they are confined at the International Space Station to focus on space exploration and design, creating connections between the global lockdown during the COVID-19 crisis; Titled ‘‘Serres Séparées’, a dining concept inspired by the recent distancing measures and with a focus on the importance of water, energy, and food will be staged in a series of glass greenhouses placed in the heart of d3, presented by the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.


Live Programming

Continuing to engage with global audiences and create a dialogue among the international design community, Dubai Design Week’s talks programme will consist of a series of virtual talks and panel discussions. Critical discussions will dive into the emerging alternative structures and solutions, that designers and creatives can adapt and learn from, to navigate new realities, emerging from globally disruptive events, that affected societies, economies and industries. Complementing the fair’s physical showcase and exploring the new creativity that is emerging as a response to the recent pandemic, Downtown Design’s ‘The Forum’ will present a programme of daily online industry talks, featuring leaders of the international and regional design scenes, spotlighting the new value system that has evolved as a response to the pandemic. Hosted at Re: Urban Studio, professionals and academics in the field of design will be able to participate in Masterclasses, aimed to elevate practical and vocational skills of SMEs, self-employed and aspiring creatives. The Making Space returns with hands-on workshops that cater for all ages and levels of experience, where participants will have the opportunity to develop and enhance practical and creative design skills through making and exploring. This year, the workshops will be conducted exclusively by independent designers, makers and small businesses from the UAE in varying formats, including physical sessions with small gatherings on-site at d3.


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