DUBAI – Without negating the powers of the high-tech, human-centric designs took the spotlight at Dubai Design Week this year. In the global context of increasingly divisive issues and ongoing humanitarian crises, the most innovative designs were concerned with community, connections, and human resilience.
Housed in OMA’s newly completed Concrete building at Alserkal Avenue, the While We Wait installation highlighted the tensions of the controversial separation wall in Palestine’s Cremisan Valley.
The towering structure by Bethlehem-based architects Elias and Yousef Anastas used stones quarried in various regions of Palestine, bringing in the infinite tones found in the landscape – from earthy red to pale limestone. With the closing of Dubai Design Week, the installation will now be relocated to the Cremisan Valley indefinitely.
Cut by robots in intricate shapes and then hand-finished by local artisans, the execution of the structure integrated the high-tech without compromising human craftsmanship. All the while, the architects highlighted the relationship between nature, architecture, and how claims over either or both could lead to the segregation of communities and sever the links between people and the landscape they inhabit.
Graduates from 92 universities from across the globe were invited to present their innovative prototypes in the Global Grad Show, focusing on themes of empowerment, connection, and sustainability. The curator of the exhibit, Brendan McGetrick, conveyed different messages through the graduate projects: innovation that transcends technology and exists independent of wealth; equality without hierarchy amongst universities, regions and designers; universal design opened to all types of projects; and impact on the world at large through solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.
The exhibition featured forward-thinking designs within specific contexts, such as kitchen utensils for the blind – reinvigorating the haptic experience in design – and a voice-assistance system to overcome language barriers faced in hospitals.
Stepping out of the design district, visitors of Dubai Design Week were greeted by a large cloud-like installation. Fahed and Architects constructed an ephemeral pavilion using recycled bedsprings, a material that supported us in our dreams and was now re-used to nurture a renewed message of hope.