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Naqsh Collective / Desert Casting / Dubai Design Week / The Flying Saucer Sahel Al Hiyari / Outdoor Design / United in Design / Chapter-101


DHS 25.00 OR 2.70 BD 2.60 SR 25.00 KD 2.10


The Culture Issue


Features 16

Preserving the past ‘A Thobe Story’ features 10 unique garments embroidered by Palestinian refugee women that recall missing memories


Exploring identity Three Kuwait-based designers investigate the potential of a local design identity in an exhibition at 1971 - Design Space in Sharjah


Dubai Design Week The 5th iteration of the design festival brought physical exhibitions, outdoor installations and an online showcase to its global audience


Uniting design We speak to the founders of United in Design, set up to address the lack of diversity within the design field


A Sharjah icon The recent restoration of the iconic Flying Saucer returns the Brutalist landmark to its former glory while investigating its past


Monumental mass


Jordanian architect Sahel Al Hiyari’s Barghouti House softly integrates into the landscape while remaining impressively monolithic


Design Focus: Outdoor furniture Looking at how outdoor pieces can help us to take advantage of our glorious outside spaces and create fresh air

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Photo by Young Habibti

This month, almost every conversation I’ve had with a designer or architect has led to a discussion about culture: understanding it, reinterpreting it and possibly uncovering some of its layers to trace traditions back to their origins. While contemporary design in the Middle East already has strong ties to its various cultures, a new approach is entering the scene, whereby many designers are in the process of unlearning borrowed or injected cultural references in order to explore a design language that is, perhaps, less nostalgic and more realistic. With ‘Desert Casting: Towards an Identity’, three Kuwait-based designers are attempting to create a design movement that encompasses the many influences that have shaped the Gulf country, using an amalgamation of references that could potentially result in a defined design identity. “The fact that we have a borrowed design identity needs to be discussed, in order to see what our own interpretation may be,” Jassim AlNashmi told me during my visit to their exhibition at 1971 – Design Space in Sharjah. The topic of culture was also heavily present in some of the works presented during Dubai Design Week - where we saw architects and designers adopting a responsive approach to various past and present-day issues. Artist Christopher Benton presented chairs found across industrial sites in the UAE as a commentary on culture, eco-consciousness and class systems, providing an outlook into a culture that exists on the periphery of conversations around design and craft. Story telling is an important part of design that allows one to dig deeper and devise a new narrative. This type of design helps us explore and retain memory, which is crucial to learning and understanding culture. It imprints an emotional quality that has the potential to reconnect us not only our roots but also with one another - something that we need now more than ever. A story recounted by Iraqi designer Hozan Zangana about the inspiration behind his ‘Fata Morgana’ installation during Dubai Design Week really struck me. “Fata Morgana brings back vivid memories from my childhood,” he said. “I remember riding on the top of a large truck in Iraq in the heat of summer. My family was traveling from Erbil to Baghdad to visit our relatives and due to the war, this was the only way we could reach them. As I would sit on the top of the truck and look back in the distance, the heat would distort the scenery and create different shapes and forms. The colours would melt together and there was no way of telling if the image was real or not.” He later added: “It is important to me that we remember where we come from, what our heritage really means; the good and the bad. I want to share the richness of our cultural heritage and also raise awareness for personal endurance. This is what connects us: personal stories we can relate to.” I hope this issue prompts a questioning of culture but also a celebration of the role our past can play in defining a future that serves us and our communities.

Aidan Imanova Editor

Photo: Christopher Benton

Editor’s Note

On the cover: ‘How to Be at Rest’ by Christopher Benton.

K House by Norm Arc hitects and Aim Architecture Photography by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen

identity.ae The latest architecture, design + interiors news, now online




rchitect and interior designer Viktor Udzenija was invited by international auction house Christie’s to curate its inaugural design section of the Middle Eastern Modern & Contemporary Art & Design auction, presenting 10 contemporary design works by artists and designers across the Middle East and North Africa. Marking a novel twist to its traditional sale format, the design section presents a separate guest-curated sale, with the mission to connect the Middle East with other geographies. “There is a vast depth of ingenuity, innovation and sustainability in these selected works, made by designers from all over the Middle East,” Udzenija commented. Udzenija’s carefully-sourced design selection featured a diverse roster of talent from the region, including Lebanese painter and sculptor, Ranya Sarakbi’s ‘Ouroboros’: a monumental looped serpent constructed from more than 16,000 single units of cast bronze. The handmade entangled band is 11 metres long and boasts dramatic, everunfolding geometric patterns.

Viktor Udzenija poses in front of Ranya Sarakbi’s ‘Ouroboros’


Contemporary Middle East “It is hard to pinpoint and describe this incredible work without being whisked away into the land of myths and legends,” Udzenija said of the sculpture. “It is just exquisite. Other highlights from the auction included a tapestry by Iranian designer Taher Asad-Bakhtiari. Woven by semi-nomadic tribal women using entirely naturally dyed, hand-spun wool, each piece can take up to four months to create, depending on size. Unlike the traditional Iranian carpet, Iranian tribal weaves display simpler patterns, because tribal people weave what they see: the sky, the mountains, the earth and the animals. Inspired by the power of this puritan philosophy, Asad-Bakhtiari imagines a process to further strip the tribal weave to its bare elements, starting with the weaving process itself. “Despite being clearly rooted in the traditional Gabbeh carpets, the innovative approach of exposed warps and bold geometries gives this carpet a unique contemporary architectural aesthetic. The use of hand-spun wool and natural dyes make this work the epitome of sustainability,” Udzenija explained. Moroccan-born Hassan Hajjaj’s ‘Crate Stools’ are inspired by the merging of his two cultures – the artist moved to London early in his childhood. Much of his work fuses elements from traditional and contemporary North African culture with familiar Western imagery and iconography. Other pieces in the collection include a table by design duo david/nicolas - a tribute to their hometown of Beirut; a mirror by UAE-based designer and architect Ammar Kalo, where traditional crafts from the region meet modern fabrication techniques; and the ‘Unique’ chair by Carlo & Mary-Lynn Massoud, which is made from foam and coloured concrete.


Top: ‘Unique’ chair by Carlo & Mary-Lynn Massoud Above: ‘Crate Stools’ Hassan Hajjaj covered with upholstery Right: Tapestry by Iranian designer Taher Asad-Bakhtiari woven by semi-nomadic tribal women



Mediterranean escape


antorini-inspired cracked mosaic tiles, neutral tones and curving niches and arches make up the Mediterranean eatery Caya, set in the up-and-coming residential neighbourhood of Nshama Town Square in Dubai. Studio EM, the interior design studio behind the project, used subtle cues to create a space that celebrates simplicity at its purest, with organic niches carved into the walls, adorned by delicate ceramics alongside biomorphic mirrors and curvilinear furniture selections, with natural greenery and dried plants. “I really loved the brand direction of Caya; it’s so in tune with where the F&B scene is heading,” says Nicola Fahy, head of F&B Design at Studio EM. “The multi-purpose nature of the concept meant that we had to really focus on creating a clean and simple design that could adapt throughout the day, whilst also being thoughtful and intricate enough to really capture that Mediterranean vibe.” The lighting at Caya is intimate, and natural light floods into the interior spaces through the surrounding windows, overlooking a charming courtyard, which continues the use of neutral tones and the infusion of greenery found inside. The 270-square-metre space was once a property sales centre. Studio EM’s concept focused on creating a multi-purpose space that serves the community. Caya provides a tranquil escape from the bustling city, offering a clean, simple and organic environment.


50 T H A N N I V E R S A R Y C L A S S I C A L L I B R A R Y







All around the world NextSpace, founded by Laurence Dehlen, aims to introduce the Middle East market to a myriad of brands from across the globe

Can you give some background into your career within the design industry? At the beginning of 2000, I spent several years scouring the world for unique and precious pieces that would furnish my home in Cape Town. I’ve always loved beautiful interiors and luxury hotels. My extensive travels allowed me to discover exquisite lighting and furniture that was not available locally to my home. By opening two stores in Johannesburg and Cape Town, I was able to showcase and introduce my findings to the South African market. In 2009, Purity appointed me as their regional sales manager in Dubai. Almost a decade later, I sought to expand and further my experience, and joined Kettal as their Middle East director in 2018. I handled all of the contracts and exciting hospitality projects in the region. How did NextSpace come about? What gap does it fill in the market? The global pandemic has afforded many luxury brands the time to step back and rethink their approach in the market and become more connected to the incredibly inspiring design community. Several brands in the Middle East have reached out to me. They want to harness my experience within the luxury sector to streamline and re-structure their businesses within the region and further into Africa. The team at NextSpace has exceptional combined experience across the UAE and the GCC. Nextspace has seamlessly created an extraordinary curated collection of brands that have authentic offerings. The collaboration of various brands offers a refreshing experience and an unexpected and non-traditional platform on which to work. 14


What is your business model with NextSpace? NextSpace understands that it is no longer enough to have a static showroom and assume trade projects. We understand the importance of unique networks so that various interior designers, architects, developers and operators can work in harmony and offer clients a streamlined service and better value. This inimitable and extensive partnership is what differentiates us from other service offerings. We can appoint distributors or work directly with brands and create much more interest with regional and local pop-ups and exhibitions. At the moment, we are not considering any showroom spaces; we want our offerings to remain fluid and creative. Can you highlight some of the brands in your portfolio and give some details about what

makes them stand out? We have three iconic brands from Cape Town that represent South Africa internationally: Indigenus, Haldane Martin and Wiid Design. Haldane and Laurie Wiid both design planters for Indigenus, which is how we had the initial introduction. Tidelli is a Brazilian brand established over 25 years ago. It has won significant projects across the Americas and Europe and is effortlessly venturing into the Middle Eastern market. It offers fully customised outdoor furniture that is contemporary, fun, affordable and functional. We have also partnered with another 10 European brands; some will debut into the market through NextSpace while others are already well-known in the Middle East.





Lensvelt is a dedicated, Amsterdam-based furniture label for office and contract projects. They are culture enthusiasts that have a strong affinity to art, architecture and design. They work and collaborate with renowned names such as Marcel Wanders, Atelier Van Lieshout (AVL), Piet Hein Eek, Richard Hutten, Studio Job, Luc Binst, Maarten Baas, Fabio Novembre, Maarten Van Severen, Baranowitz + Kronenberg, Space Encounters, i29 and OMA. Potocco boasts a century's worth of beautiful designs and possesses an incredible collection of indoor and outdoor furniture for the luxury market. Additionally, our partnership with Cassina will allow us to oversee their strategic growth and development in the GCC over the next few years. Another exciting brand is Omelette-Ed which was founded in 2010 in Spain by La Mamba Design Studio. They use their online platform to curate collections and sell their designs which include mirrors, tableware, clocks and lamps. As someone who has been working with brands for many years, what do you feel brands should be focusing on today? Brands need to have comprehensive offerings which embrace smallscale private projects and much larger contract sales opportunities. We encourage diversity and involvement with regional projects, and the development of corporate strategies, plus a complete collection of products and accurate pricing. By working collaboratively, the design community, brands and NextSpace will connect to factories for competitive pricing, project development and the ability to work with designers from conception to completion. These partnerships will help streamline an even more outstanding result. THE CULTURE ISSUE



Preserving the past ‘A Thobe Story’ features 10 unique garments embroidered by Palestinian refugee women that recall missing memories


otifs reflecting stories of Palestine adorn a selection of 10 thobes designed by Jordanian design studio Naqsh Collective and embroidered by refugee Palestinian women and artisans who are part of UAE-based social enterprise 81 Designs. Exhibited during Abu Dhabi Art, at the Manarat Al Saadiyat, the traditional garments – worn both by men and women across the Arab world – recall nostalgic stories and missed experiences of growing up in Palestine. These are handstitched onto the thobes using a traditional technique called tatreez, that has been passed down through generations. ‘A Thobe Story’ celebrates culture and heritage that has been transformed using a modern visual language with the aim of keeping traditions alive. Depicting narratives of lost and unfulfilled memories of a diaspora growing up away from their homeland, each of the 10 thobes relates to three of Palestine’s major cities: Jaffa, Akka and Gaza. The narratives also relate to Naqsh Collective’s wider body of work that aims to preserve memory using brass, marble and woodwork. The sister-duo of Nisreen and Nermeen Abu Dail founded Naqsh Collective in Amman in 2010, integrating aspects of art, architecture and heritage. “Our aim in creating a Palestinian thobe is to imagine living our missed experiences of our beloved Palestine, like jumping off Akka’s cliff and going on a fishing trip by Jaffa’s Port. The thobes will connect with grandmothers and can be passed on from generation to generation,” says Nermeen. The thobes referencing Akka feature its wellpreserved old city walls. In the garment called ‘Leap 16

of Faith’, a ritual that serves as a rite of passage is depicted, where boys jump from the famous cliffs of Akka to prove their manhood. Featuring layers of tatreez stitching, it captures the intricacy of the jagged rocks, highlighting its beautiful texture. Another thobe in the Akka series is stitched in bright red and gold thread while a more pared back design, called ‘My Journey’, focuses entirely on the mental journey of the young boys who are about to perform a dangerous feat. The top right corner of this thobe features a brass sculpture of one young man suspended in mid-air. Jaffa, which was once a great fishing village and trade hub on the Mediterranean, is also captured within the collection of thobes – each piece is priced at US $10,000. The piece called ‘The Fishing Trip’ depicts scenes of fishermen in their small boats, rendered in a minimalist design using white and gold thread. Another piece, called ‘Jaffa’, features a simple black fabric embellished in rich gold thread, focusing on the boats which used to cross to the famous trading port, while to the top right of the thobe there sits a solid brass vessel. In Wa Mashat (‘So She Left’), a world of free movement is imagined, with a motif that depicts a woman bearing a basket of Gazan fruit and goods on her head, taking them home to her family across the border, in Jordan. The back of the thobe shows an image of a dove, the symbol of peace. The women of Gaza would often turn flour and sugar sacks into embroidered garments, so this particular thobe is made from a similar material as a tribute to these women and their craftsmanship.


Exploring identity Three Kuwait-based designers investigate the potential of a local design identity by merging existing regional and borrowed elements in an exhibition showcased at 1971 - Design Space in Sharjah WORDS BY AIDAN IMANOVA


he exhibition ‘Desert Cast: Towards an Identity’ is an exploration of existing design references and motifs found across Kuwaiti housing projects that have been reapplied in conjunction with local craft in an attempt to create an authentic design identity that acknowledges the past and present. The work of three Kuwait-based designers – Jassim AlNashmi, Kawther Al Saffar and Ricardas Blazukas – ‘Desert Cast’ was first showcased through the Abwab initiative during Dubai Design Week in 2018. The first iteration presented a series of stools that analysed the replication of the classical Greco-Roman architectural elements that typically adorn Kuwaiti homes, in what the designers deem as a disingenuous sense of luxury. This contributes to the country’s struggle in developing a context-based design identity, which in addition to borrowed classical elements also includes motifs that are an “orientalist, overgeneralisation of Middle Eastern culture”. The latest exhibition showcases a reinterpretation of 2D gypsum profiles, that are often used to extruded gypsum cornices and friezes, which, through using a technique like wire-cutting creates sculptural pieces that embrace their craft. ‘Towards an Identity’ also utilises the process of copper oxidisation on the aluminium sculptures that gives the pieces their distinctive colouring, through a natural chemical reaction. By borrowing these profiles in their work, the designers have morphed them by overlapping the designs with locally embellished processes, such as sand-casting, which is native to the region; foam-cutting which is part of contemporary design education; and lost-foam casting – burying foam in sand – in an attempt to combine technology and ancient craft. “The shapes themselves are a conversation around what identity is and whether Kuwaiti identity is taken from our past, our present or an amalgamation of both those things,” says AlNashmi. “These profiles are actually taken from the gypsum factory and broken up and abstracted – in similar way to what has been done with Kuwaiti houses. Contractors and craftsmen are taking references, such as classical Roman architecture, reapplying them and saying, ‘this is luxurious’.” “There is a term for it – ‘false luxury’ – which I think explains it very well. William Morris spoke about it in the Arts & Crafts movement, where they were taking ideas and reapplying them without thought,” Al Saffar adds.



‘Desert Casting: Towards an Identity’ exhition at 1971 - Design Space in Sharjah

The sculptural objects reference 2D gypsum profiles used in decorative corniches and friezes in Kuwaiti houses




By synthesising local craft and design technology, ‘Desert Cast’ creates the possibility of a Kuwaiti identity that is rooted in its migrant history, while embracing its contemporary image. “We started by looking at the materials and processes that were in Kuwait, and seeing how we could examine a contemporary culture that can be produced out of what already exists, as opposed to looking at a nostalgic version of Kuwait or a version that doesn’t include its multinational society and its trade history as an indication of what is happening today,” explains Al Saffar. “One of the things we thought was very important to pinpoint is that we don’t think that identity should just be based on your passport. Some of the craftsmen in Kuwait – who are from all over the world – have been living in the country for many years. We want people to be more honest about the reality of Kuwait; to stop rejecting migrants and craftsmen as not Kuwaiti; and stop glorifying people with a Kuwaiti passport and instead glorify craft, glorify skill.” AlNashmi adds: “What we are looking to do is ask, ‘What is already here and how can we use it and make it more contemporary?’ in the same way that any design movement has been done in the past in other countries. We need a similar movement in our own country and for this we need critique and conversation.” id



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Dubai Design Week

hile many of the world’s design events went virtual this year in

response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fifth iteration of Dubai Design Week – a festival that has quickly become one of the most sought-after events on the arts calendar in the Emirates – presented a combination of physical exhibitions and outdoor installations, bringing together international works and regional talent in addition to an online showcase of brands and talks, making the event

insight into the development of design

accessible to a global audience.

in the UAE, where Emirati and expat

Although many of the event’s

designers and artists showcased

extensions remained, this year’s Dubai

works that explored local materials

Design Week focused less on beautiful

and techniques as well as themes

distractions and more on hard realities

such as identity, locality and context.

– an approach that felt necessary

At a time when the global design

in the wake of our current situation.

community is working harder to

Designers and architects responded

respond to social and environmental

to calls about the changing dynamics

issues, the 2020 edition of Dubai

of public spaces and social interaction,

Design Week further confirmed

the challenges of the current built

the growing influence of the Middle

environment on climate change and

East on the design map, and of a

the environment, the social politics of

community that is questioning norms

the design industry and sustainable

and exploring its own potential.

alternatives to traditional materials. A greater focus on locally-based designers also provided a deeper

In the following pages, identity highlights some of the most


thought-provoking, exploratory and collaborative works that were showcased at this year's Dubai Design Week.



A new era Lebanese designer and curator Ghassan Salameh speaks of the challenges behind the formation of Dubai Design Week 2020 in the midst of a global pandemic

What have been your ambitions and vision for Dubai Design Week? From the beginning, it was agreed that I would further develop the public programming of Dubai Design Week, focusing on regional and local creative communities. At the time, the plan was that I would do more personal outreach - such as visiting different countries in the region and working with organisations and institutions that are already established within their own countries - and work with them to develop programmes and activities for the festival. All this got disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which ironically ended up serving the same initial purpose. The lack of international travel and the economic impact of the crisis on global economies meant that we now had less international content due to movement and budgetary restrictions, leaving us to look to our local communities for content production. In early April, I developed the Dubai Ideathon. The concept behind this project was to invite creatives from different disciplines, levels of experience and types of businesses for two days of brainstorming workshops to explore and understand how this health crisis has affected their work, their businesses and their creative productions – and to learn more about their expectations in terms of support from related governing institutions and organisations. This individual and community-specific approach allowed us to better understand the needs of local and regional communities, and to tailor this year’s programme accordingly. Besides the obvious challenges that COVID-19 presented, did the sudden shifts in our daily life make you consider or reconsider certain approaches? Frankly, coming from Lebanon, I do not remember a time where there wasn’t some type of ongoing crisis. Living in such an environment automatically puts you in the mindset of constant urgency. Way before the pandemic started, I had realised that my creative skills are more valuable if they are set to serve actual relevant issues with a human-centric approach. This is why I decided, about five years ago, to alter my focus towards more socially oriented design and thinking practices. I have since then attempted, through my personal design work and curatorial work, to raise awareness and shift the discourse on the 38

Photo: Jalal Abuthina

dubai design week

Photo: Edward Michael

design practice from a consumer-related focus to understanding the importance of designers as thinkers, planners and solution providers, while attempting to make a positive impact on social, economic and environmental issues. Tell us about the UAE Designer Exhibition that you curated. What was the curatorial direction and what were you hoping to communicate through this exhibition? The UAE Designer Exhibition came together after putting out a public open call for designers, makers and creative practitioners based in the UAE to submit their latest work. This project was conceived with the aim of offering a complimentary platform for emergent creative producers to showcase their work during Dubai Design Week 2020. The site-specific exhibition was located in a former restaurant in d3, with minimal intervention into the space. utilising the existing interiors to display the designers’ works. More than 20 creatives from diverse backgrounds, levels of expertise and creative interests, living and producing in the UAE, shared a common space in a collective effort to propose explorations of subject matters currently relevant within the local context, with the aim of offering a larger platform for commonly underrepresented communities in a more accessible space. What does your selection say about design in the UAE today? There is definitely a growing design scene here and it is apparent that there is an interest in supporting the design sector on a governmental level through different initiatives and programmes supported by various public cultural institutions. There is also considerable growth and development in academic programmes, with universities graduating candidates and future design professionals with great potential. There definitely is an underlying richness in content here, especially because the city has a strong multi-nationality community that feeds into a cultural diversity that should be further celebrated and represented. In the aftermath of the pandemic, do you think there needs to be a rethinking of the way we approach design fairs? Certainly. We can already see how the format of a fair has globally changed, with many organisations already going virtual with their events and venturing into more digital content. Many others are downsizing due to a lack of physical participation and cuts to marketing budgets, forcing the organising parties to rethink not only formats but also function and purpose. It certainly depends if the organising institution has a profit-driven objective or not, but generally I believe many fairs around the world realised that they should be supporting more local and emerging talents in order to keeping creative production going and preserve their creative industries. Fairs and organisations can no longer stay out of the conversation and only cater to commercial needs. They must act as platforms that gather designers around important and crucial subjects, acting as launching pads for social innovation. THE CULTURE ISSUE

Photo: Jalal Abuthina


dubai design week

How to Be at Rest by Christopher Benson

Part of the UAE Designer Exhibition, Dubai-based artist Christopher Joshua Benton’s installation titled, ‘How to Be at Rest’, presented a collection of found chairs sourced from various neighbourhoods across the UAE: from Satwa, Mina Zayed and Khor Fakkan – industrial areas with mostly South Asian working-class communities that exist on the periphery of the country’s metropolis of glistening skyscrapers where residents visit for textiles, furniture upholstery and automobile workshops. Exploring ideas of found object art, vernacular and 40

improvised design, power, social class and sustainability, ‘How to Be at Rest’ is a refreshing presentation of design created out of necessity, using creativity and available materials. While possessing all the qualities of what one would describe as good design, the chairs are made by non-designers and were presented in their found form with no intervention by the artist. The installation forces one to question what design outside the discipline can teach us about outsider voices, eco-consciousness and alternative design solutions.

What sparked your interest in these found chairs? How long have you been researching and collecting them? Christopher Benson: I lived in Satwa, Dubai for two years. At the time, it was the only neighbourhood I could afford. Whenever I left my home, I’d be surprised at all of the inventive ways people would just make things work around them: the way people would use concrete posts to reserve a parking space, or fix a broken lock, or improvise seating. Over time, I realised that I had collected hundreds of such images. What is significant to you about their designs? I love that each chair is totally representative of where it was found. Chairs from the carpentry shop re-used old wood. Chairs from the car upholstery shop recycled fabrics and car parts. The dozens of chairs that I saw in the industrial area of Khor Fakkan all have the same small-frame base—there must have been a school that closed down there. I devised a term called “improvisational vernacular furniture” to talk about these objects where everything is essential, everything can be repaired and everything exists in its own time and place. Naturally, I am not the first person to realise the poetry in such items. The sculptor Abraham Cruzvillegas has coined the word “autoconstrucción” to talk about self-construction “by any means necessary”; he was inspired by seeing how people make do in the Mexican neighbourhood where he grew up. In Hindi, there’s a word called ‘jugaad’ which loosely means ‘frugal innovation’—or more specifically, using whatever material is at hand to make things work. The academic Deepa Butoliya furthers this conception with her term “critical jugaad” which is part of her design pedagogy. It positions ‘jugaad’ as a coping mechanism for everyday resistance and survival against colonial oppression. What lessons do these chairs potentially teach their viewers? One of the premises that I’m putting forward with “improvisational vernacular” is that everything can be repaired. That means that through modes of refurbishment and renewal, every object is atemporal and can theoretically last forever. All you have to do is fix it again. These chairs also offer important back-to-basics lessons to designers: remember the body, let function guide form, work quickly, be intuitive, use local materials, build things to last. And if you go back to these essentials, sustainability will follow. If function comes first, you get an object that is less trendy and thus less disposable. If you make things more durable, they are less likely to be discarded. And as you can see, creativity can still exist within these constraints, too. All of these chairs are so imaginative. What I also found interesting was the fact that you chose to instil almost no intervention, other than curating the display. Why did you feel this was important? Depending on the project, I try to be as invisible as possible. In this instance, I am presenting found objects as ready-made, which is a classic Duchampian gesture. It allows the audience to focus more on the material reality that brings each object to life, rather than on my role as an artist. Since I am not the designer-maker of these objects, it’s best that I function more as ‘caretaker’. The corollary of this is that the more minimised my role, the more visible the craftspeople become—people who are typically left out of such design conversations. How were you able to possess these pieces? Did the men/women who owned these chairs allow you to use them and then bring them back? I’m curious about the scenarios in which these chairs were obtained. Collecting the chairs was my favourite part! I purchased each chair, negotiating, begging, and sometimes playing hard ball. It’s a

Photo: Jalal Abuthina

quizzical thing to ask people to stand up while you look at a chair that they are currently sitting on—and then offer to buy it. But I go into most of these neighbourhoods a lot, so I think people are familiar with my crazy ideas. When I explained the project, many of the makers were really proud that someone appreciated their craft. One especially entrepreneurial artisan even offered to fabricate as many chairs in any style I wanted. Of course, I told him no. Authenticity is key. How did you feel seeing these chairs within Dubai Design District? What do you think it added to the overall dialogue? I can’t imagine a more important place to show these chairs. At Dubai Design Week, people have expectations: there’s plenty of thoughtful, well-crafted, expensive, collectible furniture to go around. And as beautiful as those kinds of objects are, it’s all quite inaccessible — it’s mostly furniture that will ultimately end up in homes of the wealthy or in hotel lobbies. ‘How to Be at Rest’ serves as a counterpoint to that: it’s ordinary people using ordinary materials to make extraordinary things. It’s not speculative, it’s real. It’s not for display, it’s for use. These are chairs that people may see everyday but never notice, constructed by people who are sometimes less-than-seen. It’s quite punk rock to put chairs like these in a mannered placed like Dubai Design Week. A big part of my artistic practice is to flatten hierarchies of class and taste. It’s not about pointing to the divide between the high and low, it’s about showing people that neither really exist. It’s important to remember that Satwa—where many of these chairs were found—is only a 10-minute drive from where Dubai Design Week is held. This can bring up some critical social questions: Why are the ways people live and work between these two places so vastly different? Why are their resources allocated so unevenly? And why can’t people in that neighbourhood be part of the same conversation on craft and design? THE CULTURE ISSUE


dubai design week

Symbiotic Creatures by Tamara Barrage The relationship between two entities, whether human or natural, is explored in the amorphic ‘Symbiotic Creatures’ collection by Lebanese designer Tamara Barrage, showcased as part of the UAE Designer Exhibition. The collection of stools, made with painted fibre-reinforced plaster, reflects on the topic of connectedness and interdependency by continuously morphing into counterpart objects such as a light or a vase – and sometimes other unidentifiable sculptural objects within the collection, including ‘a growth’ and ‘a creature’. The curious forms of these objects are intended to draw the viewer closer in an attempt at investigation and physical connection. “The inspiration behind ‘Symbiotic Creatures’ is the phenomena of symbiosis where two unlikely bodies become interconnected biologically – be it mutualistic or parasitic. Each of the stools in ‘Symbiotic Creatures’ embodies a dual connection: between a stool


and a light, a growth, a vase and another organic sculpture. I wish for that duality to transcend beyond the objects themselves and exist between the users’ bodies and the existing objects,” Barrage explains of the collection. “Each piece portrays a particular type of exchange: sometimes it is two bodies melting into each other and becoming one, and other times it is a body growing and feeding off the other or giving birth to the other. These exchanges remind me of bodily and emotional links. “With their forms, the pieces offer a more intimate relationship with the users, which is an exchange I am interested in exploring,” she shares. “I constantly observe how everyone almost immediately touches the pieces when they encounter them and how they position themselves on the objects. It’s always different and personal, and I like that my objects can evoke such curiosity and provide such experiences to their users.”

dubai design week

Seeds by Nuhyar The Seeds collection by Nuhyar was exhibited as part of the UAE Designer Exhibition, which saw the repurposing of a naturally abundant material in the region – one that often goes unnoticed – and into a flexible and biodegradable material with a renewed function and decorative language. Inspired by the local natural context, and achieved through a process of collecting, splitting, filtering and naturally treating white popinac (Leucaena leucocephala) dried pods and leaves, the project aims to create a closed-cycle in the production of the plantbased material. The seeds that were collected were later used to grow more trees. The treated pods and leaves are stitched to form a plant-based skin, layered to create surfaces that resemble falcons' feathers, or mixed and rammed with earth to create monolithic objects. The treatment of the white popinac pods allowed for the creation of a new material called Leucaena, which

could potentially serve as a plant-based alternative to leather. “The natural patina inherent in the pods is representative of the time preserved within them, which makes Leucaena an incredible material that is texturally-specific to its context,” says designer Nuhyar Zein.

Metamorphosis by roar for Zuleya by FBMI Zuleya is a new retail brand by the Fatima Bint Mohamed Bin Zayed Initiative (FBMI) that sells sustainable handmade carpets and lifestyle products made by women in Afghanistan. Launched as part of this year’s Downtown Design fair and designed by Pallavi Dean and Ana Carreras from Dubai-based interior design studio, Roar, the ‘Metamorphosis’ carpet is handwoven by female artisans in Afghanistan and inspired by butterflies of the UAE and Afghanistan, including the Indian Red Admiral and Eastern Pale Clouded Yellow. The modular

carpet has been designed to adapt to a range of spaces, from offices and hotels to homes and schools. All profits from Zuleya’s sales are invested back into FBMI, with the aim to support thousands of women in Afghanistan and their families. “If there’s one word we wanted to capture, it was ‘transformation’,” says Pallavi Dean, creative director at Roar. “When we think about Zuleya by FBMI, it’s transforming lives of families in Afghanistan – we wanted to bring that essence to the modern Middle East, in a way that is sensitive and contemporary.” ‘Metamorphosis’ is coloured with vegetable dyes traditionally used by Afghani women. The addition of metallic threading adds distinctive and contemporary detailing to the overall design.

Photo: Natelee Cocks



dubai design week

Yareed by Lina Ghlib

Egyptian product and furniture designer Lina Ghalib presented ‘Yareed’ as part of the 2020 Tanween programme by Tashkeel, with a focus on fusing cultures to create a contemporary design language. With ‘Yareed’, Ghalib explored the creation of a new material called ‘PlyPalm’ with the intention of introducing it to the design market. The material emphasises the importance of preserving the craft of furniture-making in Egypt and marrying it with the symbolic heritage and identity of the palm tree in the Emirates. “In Egypt, they still use palm tree branches to make pieces of furniture such as seating, tables and even bird cages. I found that the use of this material in both cultures was something that tied them together very closely,” Ghalib explains. PlyPalm is made from upcycled palm branches, making it a sustainable and environmentally friendly material. Ghalib envisions it becoming the base for her upcoming projects. “I see a lot of potential in PlyWood,” she says. “It could replace a lot of materials we use in everyday products and furniture pieces. We are moving into a more sustainable era and it's quite important to be more conscious of the materials we use or create nowadays, to leave a green footprint behind. “There is a material in the market that is currently being used by some of the biggest furniture manufacturers which is called Ply-Boo, formed of ply-bamboo. The manufacturing process to create a 44

structural piece of material is very similar. Studying this material inspired the manufacturing technique. The difference is that Ply-Palm uses branches that have already been shed, instead of cutting them fresh.” The bench’s form was inspired by the techniques used by the Egyptians to create furniture out of ‘Jereed’ or palm branches, where several branches would be punctured while smaller branches would be inserted through, either diagonally or perpendicularly, to create structure. The design of the bench emulates the same techniques but with contrasting materials such as brass rods. The bench serves as a seat, with two options: one at a regular seating height and another that mimics floor seating inspired by Emirati traditions. At its root, ‘Yareed’ investigates design techniques and compositions of the ancient Egyptians, who used objects such as foldable chairs and beds and thrones that carried kings from one place to another. “Studying their craft and what they were able to create with no machinery inspires me and is something I hope I can preserve through design and storytelling.” Ghalib says.

dubai design week

Rippling Shadows by Faissal El-Malak Palestinian multidisciplinary designer Faissal El-Malak’s ‘Rippling Shadows’ is inspired by the Renaissance Shawls produced in workshops across Europe as a response to the original, highly sought-after cashmere shawls of 19th-century France. These new shawls had motifs that were relative to their new environments, depicting more of a narrative approach than their original counterparts, while retaining the same style. ‘Rippling Shadows’ is part of the Fashcultivate exhibition, co-curated by Emirati fashion designer/curator Khulood bin Thani and Fatma Al Mahmoud, head of 1971 – Design Space in Sharjah, to celebrate date palms and their importance throughout the history of human civilisation, and their significance in the cultural, economic and historical identity of the Gulf region. ‘Rippling Shadows’ was first exhibited in 2019, after seven Gulf-based designers were comissioned to create works ranging from textile design to contemporary couture, while exploring the theme of date palms.

‘Rippling Shadows’ depicts a man navigating through a sea of shadows, supported by a palm tree. Safifa weaving surrounds him while diamondshaped structures representing cardinal directions of a compass light his journey to the unknown. “This all comes together to paint a surrealist vision of the palm tree through its use in different settings, from architecture to boatmaking, taking place in all parts of traditional life in the UAE,” El-Malak explains. Exploring identity and narratives across the Middle East is central to El-Malak’s practice – be it fashion or product design. “My practice is closely linked to my identity and my research on navigating a Middle Eastern narrative that is in parallel to my personal history. I have lived in different places across the world and have always been fascinated by the conversations and creations that arise when differences are confronted with one another. As a result, exploring craft preservation and reinterpretation has become my driving force and area of interest.”



dubai design week

Fata Morgana by Hozan Zangana

The annual Abwab pavilion, which acts as a portal for design innovation from the MENASA region, was created this year by Iraqi designer Hozan Zangana in collaboration with master craftsman Woodcast Designs and generous.studio. Selected by a jury of designers, architects and curators, ‘Fata Morgana’ presents a conceptual framework for a modern-day city. The outdoor installation offers an open-plan arrangement of public seating, divided by seven pillars at different heights – all set around a convivial circular table at the centre. Exploring the ever-changing relationship between people and the public realm, ‘Fata Morgana’ responds to physical distancing measures set as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Simultaneously, the organisation of the installation amplifies the necessity to cross paths with strangers through a series of pivotal intersections aiming to reactivate spontaneous social interactions. “The installation, with its varying height levels, can be seen as a skyline with the seven pillars (symbolising the seven emirates) in the middle and smaller ones around them. The table and circular seating are inspired by the majlis, a traditional way people would meet and come together. The two stools per pillar represent the importance of the man and woman, who deserve a seat at the table,” Zangana explains. All the shapes of the installation are derived from a circle which is a symbol of strength; it has no sharp edges and is independent from its environment,” Zangana adds. “All the elements of the installation together form a basic circle, symbolising unity.” ‘Fata Morgana’ additionally offers research into regionally contextual materials and production processes as a nod to historical construction methods. “The rammed earth technique is used to build the different elements of the pavilion and symbolises the earth which is the foundation of culture and heritage in the MENA region.” ‘Fata Morgana’ in itself is a mirage-like phenomenon that occurs in the desert. Its name hints at a shimmering beacon in the distance. The installation aims 46

to provoke a similar reaction to that of a ‘Fata Morgana’; awakening a sense of interest and curiosity that attracts viewers to come together to reflect and interact from a distance. Zangana, who was forced to flee the war in Iraq at the age of 14, recounts how his childhood memories inspired the installation. “Fata Morgana brings back vivid memories from my childhood,” he says. “I remember riding on the top of a large truck in Iraq in the heat of summer. My family was traveling from Erbil to Bagdad to visit our relatives and due to the war, this was the only way we could reach them. As I would sit on the top of the truck and look back in the distance, the heat would distort the scenery and create different shapes and forms. The colours would melt together and there was no way of telling if the image was real or not. Almost like a trance, as if my life was a movie. “All of my work has some kind of connection to my childhood and past experiences. My objects represent a number of my fascinations or a personal memory, such as standing in long lines to get petrol during the war. It is important to me that we remember where we come from, what our heritage really means; the good and the bad. I want to share the richness of our cultural heritage and also raise awareness for personal endurance. This is what connects us: personal stories we can relate to.”

dubai design week



dubai design week

Paradis by Meshary AlNassar for Cosentino A reimagined Persian paradise garden (or ‘Char-Bagh’) created by Kuwaiti interior architect and designer Meshary AlNassar for innovative surfaces brand Cosentino was arguably one of the most visited outdoor installations during Dubai Design Week. Built entirely out of the ultracompact engineered surface Dekton, ‘Paradis’ is a contemporary interpretation of the ancient gardens such as those found in the Taj Mahal and other such landmarks, which consist of a central water feature that runs through the middle of the layout, a mirroring landscape on each side and a temple set at the centre as a focal point. ‘Paradis’ abstracted the layout of a traditional paradise garden by setting the ‘temple’ at the centre of the installation, allowing for a scale of up to 3.2 metres high. For the water feature, AlNassar incorporated Cosentino’s ‘Liquid’ by PATTERNITY collection that showcases water ripples, translated as patterns on a slab. This emphasises the existence of water within the ‘temple’ of ‘Paradis’. The seating is set horizontally with social distancing in mind.

“At the beginning I wanted visitors to enjoy a cup of coffee, a phone call or a good conversation in our seating, but during Dubai Design Week I noticed people walking into our water feature and getting up close and personal with the slabs, and admiring the height of the walls with their patterns. I think scale is one of the keys of the central space. The scale of the four floating walls gives visitors a sense of grandeur and visual generosity, and that is something I enjoy doing in most of my work,” AlNassar comments. “‘Paradis’ was an escape from our current surroundings. The space itself triggers visitors, who have experienced an entire year of lockdowns and fear in the face of the coronavirus, with a number of questions. Are we ready to go back to our roots? Are we ready to take a walk outside and sit under the sun and exhale? I believe so. I believe we deserve that moment for ourselves.” As part of Cosentino’s commitment to sustainability, the installation will remain in d3 for a period of six months until April 2021, beyond which the materials and flora will have a second life as it finds its way to be reused and recycled. 48

dubai design week

Jalees by Aljoud Lootah

‘Please Sit Here’ is a collaboration between the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) and three local designers to develop benches for outdoor use that enable people to sit two metres apart while also adapting to allow closer proximity in time for relaxed social distancing regulations. Emirati designer Aljood Lootah designed ‘Jalees’, which features primitive characteristics of old outdoor benches that were commonly found around the UAE and in most Emirati households. ‘Jalees’ pays tribute to the benches' minimal structure and physical attributes. The vertical and horizontal wooden planks that were used to construct the old benches inspired its minimal design, with the aim of creating a modern interpretation of a traditional item. The bench also responds to social distancing measures by offering a flexible seating system, with octagonal seats that slide across the entire length of the bench to create distance between strangers. To bring two people together, the seats are able to slide closer. Seating can be added or removed from the bench, in line with requirements. Smaller sliding and removable tables are placed between the two seats to provide the users with a space to place their cups of coffee, phones or small personal belongings. id

Photo: Natelee Cocks




Uniting Founded by London-based interior designers Sophie Ashby of Studio Ashby and Alex Dauley of Dauley Design, United in Design is a charitable organisation set up to address the lack of diversity within the design field. Aidan Imanova speaks to the founders to find out more.


ow would you define United in Design? Alex Dauley: In essence, United in Design aims to address the inequalities present across the design industry and provide actionable avenues for change. We define ourselves as an organisation that helps to educate and open pathways into interior design. With United in Design, we hope to play a part in making interior design an accessible and obtainable career choice, working closely with the industry to tackle the obstacles preventing this by correcting the balance and levelling the playing field. What prompted you to start United by Design? Sophie Ashby: On 4 June 2020, I issued a statement on the Studio Ashby Instagram feed, in response to the murder of George Floyd and the global anti-racism movement, acknowledging the studio’s own shortcomings in running a diverse company and also some uncomfortable home truths about the elitist and exclusionary nature of the design world. United in Design is a product of the outpouring of energy and the drive for change I received in response to this post, having spoken to so many people and listened to their stories of struggle, sidelining and missed opportunities. AD: My passion for United in Design was ultimately fuelled by first-hand experience of this reality - which is why, having trained and tutored at KLC School of Design, I began outreach to leading industry figures to specifically promote the benefits of addressing the inequality. Do you feel that the lack of diversity in interior design is a global problem, and what are some ways to address this issue? SA: Definitely. Locally and globally, interior design is a profession most often afforded by privilege – opportunities to live in beautiful houses, to travel, to visit hotels, to be immersed and inspired, private education, access to funding for highly expensive design courses, a foot in the door. These are all important introductions. It’s an uncomfortable but a very real truth, as an industry with the badge of elitism stamped all over it. Do you have plans to widen your outreach with United in Design to a global audience? AD: Our end goal is to become an ongoing sponsored initiative that is able to nurture, coach and develop high-potential candidates from Black, Minority Ethnic and low socio-economic groups - eventually funding scholarships, apprenticeships and bursaries for programme participants via annual subscription fees and events. At the moment, our energies are focused on the UK but we hope to build partnerships across the globe and lay a framework that other organisations can adopt. What has the reception been like from the industry since the launch? SA:



The reception has been overwhelmingly positive, inspiring and hopeful for change. AD: Sophie and I have been so thrilled with the response so far and we have now had over 120 partners signed up to the initiative. We are also starting to receive emails from applicants who wish to receive mentoring, work experience and apprenticeship placements and many new outreach projects are being set up in partnership with UiD. How can we use education as a tool for inclusivity? AD: Through our research, we learned that there seem to be two main barriers to the interiors industry: money and lack of opportunity. Many of the well-known educational settings are very expensive which makes studying there unrealistic to a huge number of people. However, many design companies only hire from these esteemed design schools so the pool of applicants is already segregated by lack of financial means. Ultimately, we want to make our industry more inclusive, break down some barriers to entry and help connect people with opportunities. We plan to provide a wealth of advice and guidance via our online resource hub. There isn’t currently a centralised platform that people can access to find out what they need to know about a career in design – United in Design will provide that. What frameworks have you developed for United in Design, and what programmes have been created to contribute to actionable change? AD: By pooling groups of four design studios, makers and suppliers together, we are able to provide a 12-month apprenticeship placement, with the apprentice spending three months in each organisation. The apprentice will be paid a junior designer salary, split across the four studios, enabling each apprentice to gather a broader set of skills, knowledge and contacts in order to progress through the industry. We are excited to announce that our first pool of companies has been put together to offer four United in Design Apprenticeship Apprenticeship placements; each apprentice will spend three months in companies such as Laura Hammett Interiors, Fromental, Turner Pocock and Brady Williams Studio – among many other leading firms. SA: The key to the framework of United in Design is that it addresses the issues with tangible results. In order to take the pledge and become a member of the United in Design movement, businesses (or individuals) must commit to three actions from the seven-point actional pledge, which aims to encourage partners to unlock doors and inspire others within the industry, sharing their wealth of expertise and time with those who need it most.


From the left: Alex Dauley and Sophie Ashby




A Sharjah icon The recent restoration of Sharjah’s iconic Flying Saucer returns the Brutalist landmark to its former glory – and investigates its past in the process

Words by Aidan Imanova Photography by Danko Stjepanovic


ew buildings in the Emirates have lived as many lives as Sharjah’s Flying Saucer – a futuristic structure with a mysterious history to match. While information of its origins and owner remains unknown – only speculations exist – the building has played a vital role within the city’s urban fabric. Sitting at the intersection of multiple residential areas near the city centre – such as Dasman, Ghubaiba, Yarmouk and Ramla – and overlooking what was previously known as the ‘Flying Saucer Roundabout’, the building was most likely built between 1974 and 1976, based on aerial archives; facing one of the entrances to the British Camp which maintained its presence in Sharjah from 1942 to 1971. “In reality, the last British Army official left the Sharjah Camp in 1976,” affirms Mona El Mousfy, founder of SpaceContinuum Design Studio, the architecture firm behind the restoration of the Flying Saucer, who adds that occupation around the building was sparse, creating a structure that was isolated from its surroundings. “The beloved Flying Saucer expresses the optimism and forward-looking vision of the UAE genesis years,” El Mousfy recounts. “Sharjans appear to have been engaged in all phases of its occupation from 1978, when it was an isolated building on a roundabout, to its present. The building’s history and its transformations have multiple references to the growth of Sharjah and of the multiple residential neighbourhoods that surround it.” As it stands, the Flying Saucer’s futuristic design is indicative of the city’s growing modernity at the time, which saw the erection of a number of modern buildings around the area – although none with as striking a structure as the Flying Saucer's. “Prior to its opening in December 1978, an advertisement in Al Khaleej newspaper set the tone for the project’s futuristic ambition, implicitly acknowledging the space-age influences of western '60s and '70s pop-culture that are evident in its design,” El Mousfy explains. “The article announces, along with a futuristic abstract drawing, that ‘The Flying Saucer will be soon landing in Sharjah’, followed by a second article that reads ‘The Flying Saucer will be landing in Sharjah Tomorrow’, (Al Khaleej 1978). A more detailed advertisement in Gulf News on 18 December 1978 read 'Space Age Shopping comes to Sharjah'.



All images courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation






“Undoubtedly the Flying Saucer was an alien object to Sharjah and the area it landed on, yet Sharjah at this period was beginning to embrace modernity – as evidenced by the 1970s modern buildings along Al Aruba Street, Sharjah Corniche Street and in the newly developed neighbourhoods located around the Saucer and few kilometres inland from the city centre,” she adds. Initially conceived as a French-inspired store that combined a restaurant, newsstand, tobacconist, gift shop, patisserie and delicatessen, the building was later taken over by a local supermarket chain. The Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) first acquired the building in 2012, replacing a fast food chain that had modified its architecture through the incorporation of an annex, interior partitions and a false ceiling that hid its concrete dome and ceiling structure from the inside. The peripheral structural pillars had also been cladded with silver aluminium panels. Three years after acquiring the building, Sharjah Art Foundation began the process of returning the Flying Saucer to its original form in preparation for the 2015 exhibition ‘1980 – Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates’, curated by SAF’s president and director Hoor Al Qasimi for the National Pavilion UAE La Biennale di Venezia at the 56th International Art Exhibition that year. For this temporary renovation, the building was stripped of its exterior cladding and interior elements, including the false ceiling and partitions, fully revealing its over seven-metre-high dome and impressive structure. “SAF began restoring the building in 2015, working with SpaceContinuum Design Studio to reverse the transformations undertaken during The Flying Saucer’s occupation by Al Taza restaurant that led to the erasure of the building’s Brutalist character. In this first phase of renovation the structure was stripped back to its core form by removing the grey aluminium cladding on its pillars and the orange aluminium cladding on its canopy, and taking down all false ceilings and interior partitions,” El Mousfy comments. The most recent intervention restored the building to its original silhouette, enhancing the open character of the interior gallery space.

Notable elements of its design include a wide circular dome floating above a ring of eight columns, a star-shaped canopy projecting beyond a fully glazed panoramic façade, and light and open interior space supported by angled V-shaped pillars. “The core aim of the present restoration was to bring the Flying Saucer back to its original silhouette by removing its incongruous connected annex and reinstating its openness and perceptual lightness. This deletion fully reveals the glazed façade that immerses the space with daylight and allows for a 360-degree panoramic view of the surroundings. It also restores on the interior and exterior the radial symmetrical shape of the building, helping visitors to further appreciate its quite magnificent ceiling and façade structures, and towards the centre, its 7.3-metre-high dome that was kept in its existing condition- a rough exposed concrete finish. “The main aim of this cycle of adaptive reuse was to fulfil the desire of the Sharjah Art Foundation to further inscribe the Flying Saucer into the daily life of Sharjans while contributing to its rich sociocultural history,” El Mousfy says. “This present intervention has a two-fold strategy; firstly the restoration of the Flying Saucer to its original character, and secondly the addition of a new outdoor public space and a lower-level community space that aims to foster gathering, learning and creativity.” The outdoor urban space, dubbed the Platform, is an open public space designed to act as a spatial and programmatic extension of the Flying Saucer, and set to host social events, performances and outdoor art installations. “One important urban addition of the present intervention aims to enhance the approach to The Flying Saucer and invite pedestrians and visitors at large to engage with the venue’s outdoor spaces. The Platform, which is anchored on the site around the Saucer, has replaced the old parking space. It acts both as a threshold surrounding the building on three sides and as spatial and programmatic extension of the Saucer, to be used as a public gathering place and to stage outdoor exhibitions and events,” El Mousfy explains.











Due to the building’s intersectional location, pedestrian access to the building is easier from some areas more than others, although El Mousfy adds that Sharjah Art Foundation intends to work with the Sharjah Roads and Transport Authority to attempt to achieve more pedestrian-friendly conditions. The additional underground location, the Launch Pad, creates a community space that houses a sunken circular courtyard called the Green Crater, featuring lush vegetation and natural light; there is also a convivial, multi-activity café overlooking the Green Crater, a curated library, as well as areas to host events such as film screenings and workshops. “The Launch Pad is intended as a community space that fulfils a cultural and social function. In contrast with the Saucer’s radial symmetrical shape, the Launch Pad has a fluid character and is enclosed all around by white-stained fair-faced concrete walls giving it a rough textural expression. The space geometrically mirrors the Platform above; it fans around the Saucer’s faceted retaining walls and extends to the periphery of the site,” El Mousy says. “The horizontally extended yet vertically compressed underground space has limited outside vistas – in contrast to the Saucer space that allows for 360-degree panoramic views of its surroundings. Also, in contrast to the Flying Saucer, which is fully immersed with daylight, the Launch Pad receives daylight from different types of light source:

the lush circular sunken courtyard, the glass encased stair and the three linear peripheral skylights that bring zenithal lighting to the open space.” The ongoing renovations of the Flying Saucer as well as other modern buildings across Sharjah sheds light on Sharjah Art Foundation and SpaceContinuum’s stark interest in preservation and adaptive reuse, placing Sharjah at the forefront of such initiates across the Emirates. “Sharjah Art Foundation’s President and Director Hoor Al Qassimi has a long-term interest in revisiting and adapting selected modern structures of the ‘70s and ‘80s to new uses. Their preservation aims to highlight their architectural and urban qualities, and reveal their rich history with multiple references to the UAE’s own history,” El Mousfy explains. “Myself and the two architect colleagues from the Sharjah Art Foundation who have also worked on this project, Mona El Chaar and Hinjal Kumar, fully share this interest in engaging with existing structures in the city. Not only is this approach environmentally sustainable, but it also creates a layered architecture that is in continuous dialogue, while building upon the city’s history and memories, and responding to contemporary uses and evolving aspirations. I believe that thoughtful adaptive reuse of culturally valuable buildings supports the re-evaluation and transformation of architecture.” id




MONUMENTAL MASS Sahel Al Hiyari’s Barghouti House softly integrates into the landscape while remaining impressively monolithic WORDS BY AIDAN IMANOVA







et on an undulating landscape of hills that were once covered in abundance by native oak trees, Barghouti House appears to have independently landed onto the site. At first glance, the monumental structure seems less like a residence and more like a civic or cultural building. Upon closer inspection of its many nuances – its sensitive embrace of the surrounding landscape, the gaps in the structure that result in interplays of light and shadow, the hand-sanded delicacy of the façade and the floor-to-ceiling windows that reveal a rich interior – one is immediately taken by the warmth against its brutal structure. “The quality of materiality plays an important role in the general ‘style’ of the house, where its hand-sanded concrete surfaces undulate to create an imperfect, vibrating body that allows the structure a softer tactile feel, which is not really commonly sought in reinforced concrete buildings of this type,” says Jordanian architect Sahel Al Hiyari. The house is located in Dabbouq, a residential district set to the west of Amman – an area that has seen mass development, resulting in environmental damage to one of the few forested areas in the Jordanian capital. For this reason, Hiyari’s sensitive approach has been to navigate the building around the existing landscape so as not to cause further damage to the area. Instead, the single-family villa – which is located on a rectangular lot of land – is skewed in relation to the existing topography, aligning it with the direction of the sharp diagonal slope that extends from one corner of the site to the other. “The orientation of the house does not follow the lot lines, but rather adheres to the direction of the topographic lines. The site has several mature oak trees indigenous to the area, which was another determining factor as to how the house would be located. For this reason the structure was located at the mid-section of the site, which was the only clear space with no trees,” Al Hiyari reveals. “In essence, the project succumbs to the site conditions and does not attempt in any manner to transform them. The strategy accepts the conditions in their totality and internalises them as design tools.” The three-floor residence consists of two separate masses that are connected by a partial roof, framing the views over the landscape; each level connecting to the garden. The divided sections of the house allow for each mass to act independently of the other, allowing one of the parts to act as a private apartment within the overall villa. While the garage is set at the back of one of the separate masses due to the L-shaped configuration of the house, most of the spaces are arranged in a formation of rows directed towards the views to the outside. The main ground floor contains the main functions of the house, while the basement level offers service spaces and a multipurpose hall.


The main arrival space has been set at the highest part of the land and is entirely closed apart from the garage and the main entry of the house, which is carved out from the landscape and accessible by two stairs of different scales. This entry courtyard actually opens up both to the sky, through the roof, and the landscape across the site, which can also be seen through the interior spaces. “Each space is carved within the thick slabs that make up the massing of the house,” Al Hiyari explains. “This has consequently allowed a variety of spatial conditions to occur within the interior in terms of heights, size and levels. The common denominator between all spaces is the unified and recessed widow height that produces continuous slab lines of the external mass. This actually dissolves the spaces within into singular gestures of thick slabs. Therefore, the result is a series of domestically scaled spaces manifesting visibly as suspended monoliths.” The thick concrete slabs that appear to hover between the land further add to the building’s monolithic quality, while its sculptural form references the surrounding landscape and simultaneously contrasts against it. Although there is no specific point of reference in this project, Al Hiyari explains there may be apparent similarities to other megalithic architectural works, such as those of Frank Lloyd Wright, that compare in expressions of scale and weight, as well as sculptural qualities. “Our interest extends to the ambiguous qualities of buildings under construction, abandoned structures, and even archaic ruins,” he adds. For the interiors, Al Hiyari worked with Lebanese design duo david/nicolas, whom he met in 2016 whereupon “sparked an immediate synergy” that resulted in two collaborations, beginning with Barghouti House. “I was quite impressed with their work,” Al Hiyari confides. “I believe they are extremely talented, knowledgeable and with a very refined sensibility. As a consequence I initiated the collaboration and luckily the client also admired their work.









“What is quite interesting about david/nicolas is that they are product designers through and through. So, their contribution not only consisted of the selection of furniture, fabrics and so on, but also more importantly, the design of specific elements that range from wall panelling to specific furniture and fixtures. Their work brought a fresh energy to the interior, yet one that remained quite harmonious with the architecture of the house.” Jordanian landscape architect Lara Zureikat, who is behind important projects, such as the Palestinian Museum, was another collaborator on the project. In appropriate style, she used the landscape to further accentuate the architecture. The landscape permeates the architecture in an attempt to articulate its spatial experience with the surrounding nature, while in response, the architecture frames the landscape and allows it to integrate with the built form. “What is interesting about our numerous collaborations with Lara is her great capacity to work with the architecture without really overwhelming it or being overwhelmed by it,” says Al Hiyari. “This balance is not easy to achieve, especially when a large constituent of the architectural project is actually the landscape itself, as is the case with Barghouti House.” Much like with the rest of the plot, the landscape of the garden was already quite defined due to the number of mature trees present on the site, which the architects refused to tamper with. The intervention, therefore, included inhabitable pockets within the garden for the family to use. Al Hiyari adds that the negligence in creating ecologically sensitive environments is predominantly related to a lax set of environmental and building codes combined with a collective social indifference to the damage being done. “Many write this damage off as inevitable, or unavoidable, or as the price we must pay for development and expansion. More dangerously, I believe, it is a question of a lack of awareness and/ or the superficial understanding of the necessary roles that such delicate environments perform. Consequently, the responsibility actually becomes a personal one shared by clients and architects and governed by their individual sense of duty,” he comments. While Al Hiyari’s work remains a reference for many architects across the Arab world and beyond, the architect insists that his work doesn’t consciously respond to the state of architecture and its development across the Arab world or anywhere else. His focus is mainly concerned with, or based on a closer examination of, the immediate context and conditions of each project. “Having said that, we also do not work in a void,” he affirms. “The work actually seeks to refract and reflect on the many facets of what may be considered local aspects related to history, nature, resources and social dynamics - to name a few. Therefore, rather than defining a perspective seen strictly through a global lens, our work tends to invest itself in expanding the possibilities and challenges of the here and now.” id





design focus





020 has proved to be an exciting year for the interior design industry. We are ramping up the functionality of our living environments and creating a shift in our thinking. We are also taking time to reconsider how we can take advantage of our glorious outside spaces and create fresh air living rooms. Working from home and schooling children from the kitchen table has forced many to feel they need to change up existing living rooms and create additional, useable exterior spaces. The closure of beaches and parks, restrictive physical distancing regulations and the replacement of glorious summer events with virtual reality performances have forced residential outdoor spaces to play an increasingly important role in leisure activities, while helping maintain a sense of wellbeing and normalcy. Having just 30 minutes of natural daylight exposure helps regulate the body's circadian rhythm, which contributes to a more regular sleep pattern. Now is the best time to consider extending outdoor spaces to create additional living rooms; set up a healthy garden-kitchen; build an outdoor pavilion or simply put up a hammock; and luxuriate in knowing that you have a quiet space to read in.


outdoor furniture

Hybrid furniture

COVID-19 has added pressure points to our once peaceful homes. Many are now seeking ingenious alternatives that can spatially redistribute spaces to accommodate learning, working, living and playing. The hybrid prefix has allowed us to explore multifunctionality in our living spaces. Online furniture sales have risen dramatically, with expected revenues in both the US and EU furniture markets to grow annually by 4.3 per cent from 2020 to 2023. Creating an outside living space makes our homes even more unique. Their designs should seamlessly evolve and change while retaining a sense of tradition. Consider each piece of furniture as limitless and timeless, completing and enhancing

a hybrid living space. It is time to embark on a journey to change perspectives around the way we perceive living spaces, where environments are no longer dictated by limited definitions of indoor and outdoor living but should instead be considered as hybrid spaces. This cross-over between indoor and outdoor areas has made its way into furniture design, where brands such as Exteta are busy crafting one-off pieces of exquisite furniture that are made for both indoors and outdoors, as well as catering to hybrid spaces. Although the brand’s ethos claims that there are no shortcuts to beauty, Exteta is building a bridge between humans and nature in a manner that highlights experience and authenticity.



Blurring indoors and outdoors Biophilic design aims to create a seamless harmony between indoor and outdoor spaces. Screenedin porches, covered decks, pergolas and other transitional areas blur the lines between inside and outside. Interior designers are largely taking on a more holistic approach when catering to those who want to incorporate both. Designers are seeking ways to blur the lines of traditional indoor living by bringing form, order and structure to outdoor areas. Functionallydesigned features create dynamic, purpose-driven living spaces that retain a sense of openness yet protect us from natural elements. In order to create that fluidity, Kettal launched Kettal Pavilions, which boast various colour and panelling options. The self-standing aluminium structures can be designed to include blinds and curtains to ensure privacy, while additional packages can include daybeds, tables, dining and relaxing armchairs and settees. Alternatively, a sunroom or conservatory would be a more 70

traditional way of connecting a home with its garden. Keeping climactic context in mind, it is vital to understand the importance of experimenting with new fabrics and materials that can withstand weather conditions such as those in the Gulf region, be it strong heat, salty air, the harsh desert environment or the occasional sandstorm. Flexform has recently launched an outdoor furniture collection which embraces the warmth of internal comforts with the necessary practicalities of outdoor living. “Venturing into the outdoor furniture category is something that we've wanted to do for a long time," explains design director Christian Grosen. "The demand has been there. It is almost an extension of the indoor space and, no matter what you call it, it is worthy of the same careful design consideration." As restrictions continue to abound, it is increasingly vital that we have a space we can enjoy throughout the seasons, whether it is a balcony, a porch or patio, regardless of size.


outdoor furniture

‘Fenc-e Nature by Philippe Starck for Cassina

Kettal Pavilions

Early in 2020, Patricia Urquiola – who spearheads Cassina as its art director – launched Cassina ‘Perspective Goes Outdoor’, a celebration of reborn classics, mid-century icons and contemporary pieces designed by Rodolfo Dordoni, Philippe Starck and Urquiola herself, embracing its first-ever outdoor furniture collection. The ‘Perspective Goes Outdoor’ range includes a carefully curated collection of rugs, accessories and lighting filled with plenty of al fresco joy. Each piece embodies warm and inviting finishes, richly coloured fabrics, three-dimensional materials and elaborately patterned textiles with a tropical feel. Similarly, ‘Fenc-e Nature’ is the continuation of a journey undertaken by Philippe Starck and Cassina. Starck celebrates harmony with nature in this outdoor collection inspired by and respecting the environment. The ‘Fenc-e Nature’ collection features durable and timeless furniture that is distinguished by its organic, almost crude elements that are tactile – such as an armrest in solid teak, sandblasted to create an irregular effect. Each backrest is handwoven with wood or natural willow, thus strengthening the bond with the outdoor and nature. “‘Fenc-e Nature’ is the dream of a life in harmony with nature; elegant and respectful. It is not a project; it is a lifestyle proposition,” Starck said of the collection. THE CULTURE ISSUE


design focus

Outdoor luxury

In addition to more traditional outdoor furnishings, simple tables and seating will always remain popular. Today, we see the introduction of luxury furniture that is not traditionally found outside but more commonly set inside our living rooms. Soft furnishings including cushions and rugs, art and bar trolleys are now being introduced to the outdoors, bringing an element of beauty and comfort. There is a rise of craftsmanship in the furniture industry - and one can also see this reflected outdoors. In a world ruled by technology and machines, it is essential to retain a natural balance, and the beautiful traditional art of craftsmanship is sure to create some unique products. The introduction of new textiles has been transformative in garden design. Rugs define a room and create diverse environments, while adding a greater sense of warmth and comfort. This makes them even more important in outdoor environments, where there's an absence of walls and delineated spots. The Middle Eastern landscape may, at times, appear bleak and barren, making rugs the pefect additions to outdoor spaces in the region. Outdoor rugs can be a little more dazzling and adventurous than those inside your home. Choose from carefully created and exciting colour palettes that complement the hues found across the region. 72


Tidelli is an excellent example, exquisitely showcasing these capacities in its hardwearing rugs. The brand has developed a harmonious interaction between design and nature, humanising the relationship between man and the environment. Tidelli’s rugs are made from hardwearing nautical rope and are bursting with colour. It has also recently introduced a rug simulator to the market, where one can create one's own designs, shapes and sizes.

outdoor furniture

High-end indoor furniture manufacturers, historically, did not tend to have outdoor lines, so it was often difficult to find equivalent quality in garden or poolside furnishings. As Starck once flippantly said, “‘Today, everybody makes outdoor collections. They put outdoor fabrics on existing furniture and think that makes it ‘outdoor’”. We know that creating durable outdoor furniture is not that simple and there is now an emergent demand for such specialised pieces. For example, the Udine region of Italy has been fondly known as the 'Chair District', producing furniture with elegant soft shapes, achromatic colours and refined details. Each piece was designed to stand


the test of time, and the same tradition continues today, but with a slight nod to the contemporary. Over a hundred years ago, the same Italian creativity and artisanal traditions became the basis of the Potocco workshop that also produced chairs. Each of its products is studied and customised in minute detail, just like a tailor-made suit. Beautiful fabrics render each creation unique, with a perfect mix of tailoring, experimentation and quality. Chairs for outdoor living are created with the same care and attention to detail. Potocco’s new collection of outdoor furniture impeccably combines company tradition with innovation and a strong focus on customisation. id

Creating new traditions



identity Design Awards 2020


or the first time since its launch six years ago, the identity Design Awards held a virtual ceremony to announce the winners of the 2020 edition. The ceremony was streamed live on 4 November 2020, awarding 13 winners across 17 different categories. This was followed by an intimate 60-guest Winners’ Dinner, attended by the winning firms of the identity Design Awards 2020, as well as those from the shortlist and the wider design and architecture community across the UAE. The dinner took place on 16 November at W1 Rhodes at the Grosvenor House, Dubai.




Handcrafted gems Finance professional-turned-designer Shima Samaei is behind the heritageinspired brand Chapter-101, whose pieces bring together the evocative beauty of the Middle East region



ell us about yourself and how you founded Chapter 101? I was born and raised in Iran, Tehran to Kurdish parents. I moved to Dubai with my family 20 years ago to pursue a better education and upbringing. I initially began a career in corporate finance, working in various corporations. As the years followed, I turned back to design, driven by the challenges of self-creation. Which is when I decided to dedicate time, for a year, to my design project while still working full time. The opportunity of being able to travel and see different cultures while being exposed to design and architecture gave me the driving force that I needed to share my ideas and turn them into reality. In 2018, I finally decided to leave the corporate world. I launched my practice, Chapter-101, creating bespoke design pieces rooted in Middle Eastern culture. Last year, I enrolled in a Master’s degree in Interior Architecture and Design, and have recently graduated. I have always been eager to continue learning in every aspect. What inspires Chapter 101? Artistic and cultural influences of heritage motifs from the Middle East and Persia, mostly. Chapter’s purpose is to create soulful pieces that have contemporary functionality, while upholding an enduring sense of value. The pieces are what I wanted to see and believe in, shared with people.

How do you create the concepts for your collections? I hand sketch almost every day. Naturally, I discard most of the drawings; only a few of them make it to my laptop, where I reproduce them in 3D. I then take them to the workshop and build mock-ups to picture the materiality of each piece. When I can, I bring them to my living room, seeking an emotional response with the décor and space. I imagine how the same response could reach people. What materials do you typically work with and why? Marbles, brass, copper and all unexpected, imperfect organic materials that are distinguishable from other high-volume brands. I admire natural textures and the earthy feel they give. I have recently been studying a lot about sustainability in design and hope to apply it to Chapter’s pieces and projects, adding further value and durability. Where are your pieces produced and is there an element of craftsmanship involved? Chapter’s workshop is located in Sharjah, where I have gathered a few brilliant helping hands who are marble, wood and metal specialists that bring out the best in craftmanship. Our collections are primarily handmade and call for ancient skills and techniques. Some materials such as marble are very delicate and I am always grateful for the heavy work that the artisans put into creating the pieces.




Products This month’s products include wish list items that will make perfect gifts this festive season. From beautifully sculptural storage pieces to home fragrances, there is something here for everyone.

Photo: Anders Sune Berg


Maria Brunn Design Inspired by the ritual of storing beloved items, ‘Dependables’ is a special storage system that doubles as a sculptural and functional piece of furniture when stacked. Each handmade box is made out of solid walnut and oak wood with intricate perforations that give it its decorative detailing. The handcrafted detailing inside the boxes further emphasises the value of the stored objects. Made to order: mariabrunn.com

Room sprays Allover

Allover is a locally-rooted Emirati brand inspired by the dunes of the desert and the waves of the Arabian Gulf, with the aim of creating fragrances that are reminiscent of the region, made from high-quality oils. The tastefully packaged room sprays include scents from fresh florals to Arabian musk. Available at allover.ae 78



La DoubleJ for Salviati Milan-based brand La DoubleJ unites with historic Italian glassmakers Salviati to create this elegant set of four dark pink grape glasses, exclusive to MATCHESFASHION. The glasses have been handmade on the Venetian island of Murano, known to be the home of fine glassmaking since the 18th century. The darkly romantic gradient colour of the glasses is sure to add a bold touch to any festive dinner setting. Available at matchesfashion.com

More Joy glass baubles More Joy by Christopher Kane

‘More Joy’ by Christopher Kanes’s crimson-red and black festive baubles with cheeky prints are crafted from glass and suspended from a black satin tie, accented with silver hardware – for those with a more daring tree this year! Available at matchesfashion.com

Leather backgammon set Métier

Métier’s Melissa Morris is devoted to creating objects that eventually become heirlooms, and this backgammon set is no different. Crafted in Italy, it includes hand-stitched dice shakers with hidden magnets which slip on each end when the board is rolled up, and also features a zipped compartment that houses the wooden and leather pieces. This thoughtful gift is perfect for quiet evenings with family. Available at matchesfashion.com THE CULTURE ISSUE



Wabuki chopsticks Snow Peak

Snow Peak’s brown ‘Wabuki’ chopsticks are collapsible for ease of storage while on the move. Crafted from bamboo with stainless steel handles, the chopsticks are printed at the tips with the asterisk logo. Available at matchesfashion.com

Hermès Carré Hermès

Hermès’ silk scarves are just as iconic as its leather goods, bringing a sense of refined classic luxury. This winter, the prints are evocative and vibrant works of art, fusing bold colours and prints. We especially love this ‘Bouclerie’ modern muffler in a cashmere knit that is bound to warm up any chilly evening. Available across stores worldwide and at hermes.com

Beoplay E3 8rd Gen Bang & Olufsen

Part of Bang & Olufsen’s latest gold range, this festive colour range is the perfect item to pick from under the Christmas tree. The newest version of the “truly” wireless in-ear earphone includes an improved battery life of up to 35 hours, a QI-cerified wireless charging case and Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity for a seamless listening experience. Available at bang-olufsen.com



Homes by Nisrine El Lababidi

Interior designer Nisrine El Lababidi has launched her first book, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that highlights the homes of Dubai’s creative community


ur homes reflect both who we want to be and who we really are,” writes interior designer Nisrine El Lababidi in the introduction of her first book, ‘Homes’, which is followed by the slogan: ‘We Make Them, They Make Us’. ‘Homes’ is the designer’s vibrant tribute to the city of Dubai, taking its readers into the hearts of the city’s creative community and their living spaces. Featuring the homes of 15 Dubai-based entrepreneurs, designers and architects, ‘Homes’ presents lively images of their private dwellings captured by photographer Larissa Goncalves (whose home is also featured in the book), alongside intimate interviews with each of the homeowners that offer an even deeper look into their inner worlds. “The book is a celebration of all that is mostly hidden,” El Lababidi writes. “The hidden side of Dubai and the hidden side of professional men and women who contribute to the city’s creative buzz”. The intricate details of their daily lives offer a glimpse into a side of Dubai that one accesses via a tour bus or guidebooks, she adds.

Looking at the homes of Emirati filmmaker Abdulla Al Kaabi, art collector Rula Galayini, designers Pallavi Dean, Fadi Sarieddine and Italian architect Andrea Sensoli, El Lababidi highlights Dubai as a multicultural hub where residents hail from all areas across the globe. “The houses I chose represent a sample of the creative dwellers of Dubai: people of different backgrounds, different family sizes, different interior styles; some are renting while some own their homes. I wanted to inspire people to really make a home, even if they are in a transient phase, passing through this country. Everyone deserves a home that resembles them and these 15 homes might inspire and push one to do just that,” she explains. El Lababidi further adds that although producing the book during the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging, it also revealed the vital role that homes play in people’s lives.“ At a time while we spent more time at home, we resdiscovered our spaces and ourselves. What do we want our homes to say about us, and how are they representing us? I believe that's what counts the most.” In ‘Homes’, readers will be charmed by the distinctive personality of each home, and by the homeowners who have brought these spaces to life. ‘Homes’, is not only a celebration of design but also a celebration of people and of the city that ties them all together. THE CULTURE ISSUE


id most wanted

Miminat Design’s Ice wall sconces embody the marriage of minimalist and contemporary forms while maintaining the essence of handmade treasures. The single or coupled cylindrical tubes of opal frosted glass, finished with aged brass detailing, appear to hover over a circular marble frame that is available in Black Spider, Arabescato and Calacatta Voila. The intricate detailing and finishing of the sconces tell the story of sophisticated craft and artisanship.

Ice wall sconce by Miminat Designs 82





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