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Downtown Design / Ammar Basheir / Emirati crafts / Craftsmanship in the Middle East Furniture design / david/nicolas / C’est ici / Afrominima


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ISSUE 202 / OCTOBER 2020

The Craftsmanship Issue


Features 14

supernova by david/nicolas.

The dream maker Ammar Basheir shares his design journey and exploring materials, volume and decadence


Emirati crafts: how the UAE is preserving its intangible heritage We explore the development of the crafts industry in the UAE and the people behind it


Contemporary craftsmanship identity celebrates the art of craftsmanship from across the Middle East


Design Focus: Furniture design Esra Lemmens tackles how the realities of today are impacting furniture design



California dreaming Step inside an art-filled home in Dubai designed by Colombian duo C’est ici


Tradition reinterpreted david/nicolas’ collection for Pierre Frey blends decoration and functionality

Regulars 14





On Our Radar


id Classics










Editor-in-Chief Obaid Humaid Al Tayer Managing Partner and Group Editor Ian Fairservice Group Director Andrew Wingrove Editor Aidan Imanova Designer Hannah Perez Chief Commercial Officer Anthony Milne Deputy Sales Manager Mrudula Patre Sales Representative - Italy Daniela Prestinoni

Destroyers/Builders for BRUT Collective available at Esra Lemmens Gallery.

General Manager - Production S Sunil Kumar Assistant Production Manager Binu Purandaran Production Supervisor Venita Pinto Group Marketing Manager - Digital Anusha Azees Web Developer Firoz Kaladi Contributor Esra Lemmens

identity magazine is printed by Emirates Printing Press. Member of:

Head Office: Media One Tower, PO Box 2331, Dubai, UAE; Tel: +971 4 427 3000, Fax: +971 4 428 2260; E-mail: motivate@ motivate.ae Abu Dhabi: PO Box 43072, UAE, Tel: +971 2 677 2005; Fax: +971 2 677 0124; E-mail: motivate-adh@motivate.ae London: Acre House, 11/15 William Road, London NW1 3ER, UK; E-mail: motivateuk@motivate.ae


Photo by Eline Willaert



Photo by Young Habibti

I remember my first time seeing the indigenous craft of Qurar, a rare technique that originated in Bahrain and that is known to only a few skilled women in the community who still practice this traditional style of weaving. The Shaikh Ebrahim Centre led by HE Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa is helping preserve and revive this ancient craft technique in Muharraq – a pearling town in Bahrain – as part of its initiative to preserve the tangible and intangible heritage of the country. Now, the older generation of women are teaching their daughters. Today, there are three generations working side by side weaving dresses, shawls, cushions and other accessories using the Qurar technique. Traditional crafts and craftsmanship methods have existed in the Middle East for centuries, each country and region possessing specific know-how and techniques using a wide range of materials, from silk threading to glass and metal. Intangible heritage is a vital source of our identity and due to industrialisation and the rise of the digital age, many craft traditions have been lost or are at the risk of extinction. This is why it is so important for designers, curators, educators and government bodies to continue preserving our traditions, but also allowing them to develop their own place within a contemporary context. We are already seeing this happening across the UAE, with programmes such Tashkeel’s Tanween and the Irthi Crafts Council, which not only empowers local female artisans but facilitates a collaborative partnership between craftswomen (who have never before been exposed to practicing their craft professionally) and young regional designers, creating a sharing of knowledge, skill and innovation. In this month’s Craftsmanship Issue we look at the development of such initiatives across the country, while also highlighting the works of exceptional regional talent with our Contemporary Craftsmanship feature: a 16-page homage to the designers whose works embody artisanal precision and sensitivity, while collaborating with craftspeople and artisans from across the region, spanning the UAE, Kuwait, Lebanon and Egypt. Our cover features the delightful and sensual vases called Hollow Forms by Palestinian designer Dima Srouji that seeks to reactivate the dying industry of glassblowing in the region, while shedding light on the history of the craft in Palestine. The vases were created by expert glassblowers in the outskirts of Jerusalem. In other parts of the magazine, we speak to Bahraini designer Ammar Basheir, who has managed to stay under the radar until his most ambitious project – the Nuzul Al Salam boutique hotel in Muharraq – received international acclaim for its cultural relevance and eclectic design inspired by the epic of Gilgamesh and one that tells a very different story of design in the Arab world. I hope this issue sparks inspiration in some and pride in others while we continue to share and celebrate the works of regional and international designers: works that make us challenge our perceptions and expand our knowledge — and sometimes, allow us simply to appreciate the beauty of design. It has also been extremely exciting to view the record number of entries for the identity Design Awards. With nearly 200 submissions spanning the region from the UAE to Bahrain, Lebanon, Kuwait and Iran, it is amazing to see how far regional contemporary design and architecture has come. The jury are currently putting their scores down on the best work from 2020. Keep your eyes on identity.ae this week as we begin the shorlist announcement. I would like to thank everyone for their submissions and excited to see the new list of winners this year. Good luck to all!

Aidan Imanova Editor

Photo: Mothanna Hussein

Editor’s Note

Hollow Forms by Dima Srouji


Reimagining connection This year’s Abwab pavilion for Dubai Design Week will be desiged by Iraqi designer Hoazn Zangana for his proposal ‘Fata Morgana’ that responds to the theme of redefining and reimagining the way we live in an urban environment. The name, which translates to a superior mirage that can be observed in a narrow band just above the horizon, presents a conceptual framework of a modern-day city through an openplan arrangement of seating components that are organised around a central point of origin. The organisation amplifies the need to cross paths, reigniting a demand for social interaction and connection. The various components of the pavilion include pillars that are symbolic of each of the seven Emirates, paying hommage to the UAE. It also researches contextual materials and production, structurally adapting to the requirements of physical distancing, constructed using a rammed earth technique.

Breaking new ground Alserkal Arts Foundation has awarded its inaugural research grants to practitioners breaking new ground through innovative approaches to film, contemporary architecture and urbanism, exploring indigenous knowledges and local ecologies in the context of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. The three recipients are Léa Morin, Manar Moursi, and Shahana Rajani and Jeanne Penjan Lassus, who were shortlisted from over 200 applications, selected by the Alserkal family and Alserkal team alongside a panel of artists, researchers, and academics from the Alserkal network. The grant is awarded for a two-year period with support of up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for collaborative projects. The recipients’ works range from exploring the history of Moroccan cinema, mosque constructions in Cairo, Egypt and infrastructural development and militarisation of the landscape in the delta region of Sindh, Pakistan.



Paradise garden

The Flying Saucer has landed

In an era defined by physical distancing, multidisciplinary Kuwait-based Studio Meshary AlNassar collaborates with global surfaces brand Cosentino to present the ‘Pardis’ installation at Dubai Design Week 2020. AlNassar reimagines an outdoor public space, forming a contemporary interpretation of a Persian parade garden that is constructed entirely out of Cosentino’s ultracompact engineered surface, Dekton. The installation takes the form of an idyllic garden surrounded by the beauty of nature and materials you can touch without fear. Its minimalist design embraces the versatility of Dekton as flooring, freestanding walls and seating whilst evoking a sense of calm with its abstract representations of water and a tastefully landscaped desert garden. By night, the installation comes alive through lighting, injecting a sense of intrigue and excitement.

Sharjah Art Foundation has reopened the iconic The Flying Saucer; a mid-1970s brutalist building which has been newly renovated by SpaceContinuum Design Studio, restoring the structure back to its original silhouette, while adding new public spaces, a café, library and a sunken courtyard. The readaptation of the building will serve as a place for community gathering, as well as art exhibitions and events. The building reopened to the public with a multimedia installation called Nowhere Less Now3 [flying saucer] by Lindsay Seers and Keith Sargent which responds to the building’s architecture. In the coming months, the Foundation will also offer self-guided audio tours of the site and an expansive timeline display that allows visitors to delve into the building’s history and its distinctive architectural features.




Downtown Design reimagined In response to the current climate, Downtown Design’s annual show has been reimagined to bring the regional industry together through a series of fresh and relevant activations – both virtually and onsite at Dubai Design District

Going digital

A conceptual future

Demonstrating the diversity of creative thought from the Middle East, Downtown Design’s exhibition ‘The Shape of Things to Come’ will spotlight regional architects and interior designers as they imagine how we may experience our surroundings in the future. Presented within Dubai Design District, the multi-media exhibition will feature exploratory work from Saudi Arabia-based Sibyl Design Studio, Lebanese architect Rabih Geha and Kuwaiti practice Studio Toggle, amongst others. SSH, Binchy and Binchy Architects, LOCI Architecture + Design, Bishop Design and other UAE-based studios will fly the flag for the UAE's creative talent as we explore the emerging factors that will influence design.

As part of a recently announced hybrid programme, Downtown Design will present its first digital fair from 9 to 14 November during Dubai Design Week, supporting brands and buyers through an online showcase of the latest trends and collections from leading international and regional design brands. Discover a roster of beloved makers including Pedrali, Kettal, Sancal, Ethimo, Arper, Caspiou, Brokis and Preciosa, amongst others. The digital fair will be complimented by select onsite activations featuring country-specific multi-brand presentations within Dubai Design District.

Vestige by Note for Sancal

A virtual forum

Toa table from Pedrali


Photo by Andrea Garuti

Over the years, Downtown Design has brought some iconic names to the Middle East for its talks programme, The Forum. With technology intermediating the design industry this year, The Forum too will be presented online with a series of talks premiering daily during Dubai Design Week. Featuring leaders of the international and regional design scenes, including celebrated designer Aline Asmar d'Amman, industry opinion leader Max Fraser and multi-hyphenate designer Asif Khan, the panel discussions will explore the emerging values that will guide the industry into the future.


The dream Ammar Basheir is often cited as “the region’s best-kept secret”. In this exclusive interview with identity, he shares the experiences that have shaped his work and the importace of redefining Middle Eastern design and nurturing regional artisans

maker Words by Aidan Imanova



Photography by Camille Zakharia




The Post Office Museum in Manama, Bahrain.




have not had a business card until two years ago,” reveals Ammar Basheir, who is seated in his office in Manama, Bahrain where he is based for half of the year. He spends the remaining six months in London – a city that has played a vital role in shaping his career as a designer and where he received his design education at Central Saint Martins. Basheir belongs to an intriguing community who call themselves ‘Dream Makers’. It consists of a tight circle of designers who all know one another and who specialise in creating atmospheric spaces. Basheir describes it as a niche market where projects are commissioned by word of mouth. Through this community, Basheir has come to complete a number of high-profile projects for a number of royal families across the Middle East, as well as celebrities including the likes of George and Amal Clooney. The world of the Dream Makers is small, close and well-connected. “The dream could be anything,” Basheir adds, playfully. The proudly Bahraini designer grew up and spent most of his life in the Gulf: first in Dubai, then Manama – where he launched his eponymous practice in 2009. Born to Sudanese parents – a court judge and an artist – Basheir was interested in fashion design from a young age. For those who know him – or have even caught a momentary glimpse – can assert to his distinct sartorial style, where assorted textures are precisely layered to evoke a certain type of panache. His signature statement is a single, solid rose gold ring that has been moulded and cast in the exact shape of his finger – a reference to the pharaohs of ancient Egypt who used to dip their fingers in gold. Basheir believes one’s appearance contributes greatly to their pursuit in life. “I remember when I had my internship interview at Harvey Nichols, I was so overdressed,” he recalls, humorously. “The director asked me, ‘why are you dressed like this?’ and my answer to him was ‘dress for the job you want, and not the one you are applying to’. But fashion design was not a respected career path in the Arab world at the time. Instead, he chose interior design as the “next best thing”. After completing his studies, Basheir began working at La Fontaine Centre for Contemporary Art in Manama as a design consultant, under the mentorship of its owner, Fatima Alireza. The experience exposed the young designer to a sophisticated design aesthetic and timeless beauty, where he redesigned its exhibition galleries and award-winning restaurant, creating custom-designed cutlery, furniture and plates. It was during his time at La Fontaine that Basheir met Her Excellency Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, who was Minister of Culture at the time and who has played a transformative role in the designer's career. did not have the support system around me as nobody “I was 24 years old when I met Her Excellency Shaikha Mai,” was sure if it was possible to make a living out of Basheir recalls. “I had designed an exhibition for National design while also giving back to the community. Now Geographic photographer Reza Deghati. I had text written on the I am very pleasantly surprised,” he says. For Basheir, floor, on the walls and brass locks throughout. It was very unusual community engagement is essential as is empowering for its time.” artisans and working with local craftsmen. HE Sheikha Mai, who is now president of the Bahrain “I see that there is a lot of local craft engaged on a Authority for Culture & Antiquities, was immediately impressed very small scale. Unfortunately, I must admit that as a by Basheir’s work and commissioned him to design the space community, we have never empowered our artisans. for the opening performance of the Spring of Culture festival We go to cities for tourism and we buy souvenirs in Bahrain that year. It was the first collaboration of many. He from them, but we never give value to their work. They are always thought of as began travelling with HE Shaikha Mai to create installations and underprivileged and are not given importance as people of power. This is why I kiosks for Bahrain at the Frankfurt and London book fairs. She work with artisans in all my projects and it is something I have been doing for the challenged Basheir as a designer and contributed to his growth, last 12 years,” he says. and most importantly, maintained complete trust in his abilities. Basheir will soon be releasing a book called The Magician of Materials, which “It is not easy to gain the trust of a client but over the last six includes images of the artisans that have worked across his projects. “I have made to seven years, I have never created a presentation for Shaikha sure I photographed all the artisans that I worked with using powerful portraits, Mai or any perspective drawings. We are on the same wavelength almost royalty-like where they are sitting on thrones. We need to give them and we know what we want through instinct. I am very that sense of empowerment.” He is also keen on scouting talent from remote grateful as not a lot of people are able to have that,” says Basheir. areas of the Middle East, instead of solely relying on design talent to gain access Since relocating to Manama and opening his practice, Basheir’s to the industry through an expensive education system that not all can afford. main purpose has been to elevate design in the Middle East to an “I have always had a dream to have a design bus that goes to villages all over the international standard but doing so on its own terms, without being Arab world because there has to be talent there,” he shares. dictated by the Western gaze and falling prey to orientalist cliches. Basheir also believes the design community across the Arab world needs to be Part of this mission was to also ascertain design as a practice that is more open to collaboration and constructive criticism in order to evolve. He recalls important and valuable to society and to communities across the region. having his work critiqued by 60 people and being told to find another career path “I had a difficult time when I began my career in design because I which he first took harshly but later realised was an essential part of growth.




A complex parametric staircase made out of a combination of oak and steel using 700 pieces of wood graces the courtyard in Nuzul Al Salam in Muharraq.



Nuzul Al Salam was inspired by the mythical epic of Gilgamesh.

“We need to accept constructive criticism. This is where we have a problem. Sometimes when you criticise, people get upset. I love my work to be criticised. I think it is very healthy and that it’s the only way to learn.” One of Basheir’s most significant projects to date is the design of the renovated Nuzul Al Salam in Muharraq, the first boutique hotel of its kind in the city, situated inside a restored traditional Bahraini house, and part of the Year of Zayed initiative between the UAE’s Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development and Bahrain’s Shaikh Ebrahim Center for Culture and Research. “We really wanted to change the perception of Arabic design and Arab hospitality and debunk Arabesque clichés and orientalist references,” Basheir explains of the design. “So, my first brief to myself was no mashrabiya, no arabesque patters and no calligraphy as it has been an overkill for us, and we need to get out of this narrative. “I also wanted to make sure that I did not create a design that is alien to the environment. The most important people to design for are the people living in the area. They need to be able to welcome it and understand it. “The house itself was based on the 1930s era which was very colonial. Many Arab nations were colonies at the time and these colonies were a major influence on the built environment. We were heavily impacted by Britain and India in

The boutique hotel showcases layers of rich materials and objects.

Photography by Guillaume de Laubier

our design aesthetic. I didn’t want to adapt things that we never had. We had terrazzo flooring, we had simple painted walls, but we never had chandeliers, it wasn’t part of our culture. So, why would I introduce something that wasn’t there? I wanted to create something that was relatable and spoke the language of the place.” Basheir’s own flair for layering and eclectic compositions is evident throughout the project, something that wasn’t present in his earlier projects which he describes as minimal, clean, contemporary and sleek. “As I grew older I began to develop a love for materials and volume and began to understand the importance of decadence. I understood that a design should live that long. So, my inspiration really comes from these three words. I used to design houses and places that were nice to photograph or good for a coffee table book. Then slowly I realised that it is very important to integrate your senses in the process. Now, I design homes rather than houses. I design living spaces. The concept of fine living should start from you, not from the spaces around you. This is what happens when you engage all your senses,” Basheir explains. “Design is very much linked to your emotions and your senses. This is what I try to do with my projects. There is lots of layering. A lot of textures and details. Because I want to occupy you mentally.” id




Local craftswomen practising the art of Talli. Courtesy of Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council.



Emirati crafts:

how the UAE is preserving its intangible heritage

identity speaks to local institutions and curators who are preserving the UAE’s indigenous craft traditions, empowering its artisans and facilitating dialogues between traditional and contemporary culture Words by Aidan Imanova


raditional crafts are are often described as ‘intangible heritage’ rooted in one’s culture or community. Its impact on design is vast and its preservation and empowerment is vital in keeping alive ancestral skill and know-how. The UAE, much like other parts of the Middle East, holds a rich tradition of ancient indigenous crafts including the likes of Safeefah (handwoven palm leaves), Talli (hand-braided metallic and silk embroidery), Sadu (handwoven wool) as well as sewing and pottery. These craft traditions are commonly practiced by older, skilled artisans for personal or communal needs. Engagement with a broader audience is therefore limited. However, key figures, organisations and institutions across the country are now working to preserve and elevate the cultural heritage of the UAE while developing a crafts industry that is adapting to a contemporary context. One such organisation is the Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council in Sharjah, which was born out of the Bidwa Social Development Programme aiming to empower artisans economically and socially through crafts, while also helping revive and sustain the indigenous heritage of the UAE. Irthi, which is an affiliate of the NAMA Women

Advancement Establishment, led by HE Reem BinKaram, who is its director, currently works with 77 local female artisans from Dibba Al Hisn, who are engaged in Emirati crafts as well as Pakistani, Jordanian and Palestinian embroidery techniques. Irthi has now evolved into a platform that helps foster dialogue between local artisans and regional and international designers through various programmes such as Crafts Dialogue, curated by Samer Yamani, founder of Barcelona-based Creative Dialogue and curator Farah Nasri, as well as Design Labs, both of which were founded on the creative potential of collaboration, featuring contributions from Pakistan, Japan, the US, the UK, Spain, Italy and Palestine, alongside local designers. Tashkeel is another key institution championing craftsmanship in the region, training young designers and artists and connecting them to key craft practitioners in the region. Established in Dubai in 2008 by HH Lateefa bint Maktoum, Tashkeel has contributed to the growth of contemporary art and design practices rooted in the UAE. The following interviews shed light on some of the developments, programmes and initiatives that are empowering local artisans and engaging a community of young designers from the region and abroad. THE CRAFTSMANSHIP ISSUE



Courtesy of Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council.

Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council How has Irthi engaged and empowered female artisans in the emirate? HE Reem BinKaram: This was easier said than done as every artisan practiced the traditional crafts at home, solely for personal needs. To get them to work together as a team in a professional setting where deadlines and stringent quality guidelines were the norm, meant having to tiptoe around several deeply entrenched social and cultural norms. Artisans initially rejected the idea of monetary returns for their work as we faced several rejections from their families making their mothers and grandmothers ‘work to earn a living’. It was the community focus goal of the Bidwa centre, which finally won them over. Taking a craft form rooted in the local cultural identity and imbuing it with fresh design aesthetics through commercial collaborations and regional artisan exchange programmes were both uplifting and empowering. The artisans recognised the value in protecting their vulnerable cultural heritage, and began to take pride in their craft. They saw the need to strengthen their techniques and pass on their skills to a new generation of artisans to secure its future. 22

How can artisanal know-how and craft be passed down to the new generation that encourages its generational continuity? The beauty of an artisanal product is that even without being denoted a ‘luxury’ product, its intrinsic value never depreciates as it represents the essence of our collective heritage. To take forward this knowledge to the new generation, and to ensure the sector’s long-term potential and sustainability, Irthi launched the Hirfati Youth Programme to train and engage with the next generation of designers and artists through a mix of workshops, activities and competitions that combine traditional and contemporary crafts. In addition, under the Council’s Design Labs project – that runs along the same lines as art residencies, it facilitates the exchange of crafts, design, and knowledge between international or regional designers, and offers opportunities for young Emirati women to learn multiple crafts in a series of short, intensive courses. Apart from traditional Emirati crafts of Talli and Safeefah, our young generation can also learn the techniques of glass blowing, sandcasting, gold-casting, and metalwork, which we find


Hajar Chair by Architecture and Other Things for Irthi made from sand casting.

Linear Bucket Bag by Jennifer Zurick made from camel leather.

adds a more interesting dimension to young creatives. How has COVID-19 impacted the crafts economy and the artisans and their work? The shifts in consumer demand and spending patterns that have emerged with the outbreak of COVID-19 certainly have had a significant impact on the demand and interest in artisanal and sustainable crafts, both in the region and globally. This slowdown is likely only in the short term, and as we begin to fully adapt to the new reality, we are confident that several functional artisanal items and products will be integrated once again into the daily lives of people. A time of crisis always places greater value on craft-based production as it represent the ethos of our collective heritage and offers a window of hope amidst the uncertainty. As the year draws to a close, we are beginning to see signs of resurgence, and are confident that the industry will emerge stronger. Can you tell me more about the debut collection at the 2019 London Design Fair? Why was this important and what did it achieve in terms of promoting Emirati crafts? Irthi’s debut at the London Design Fair realised its vision as it presented its artisans with their highest profile international platform to date. This debut product line was the combined result of its two pioneering projects — Design Labs and Crafts Dialogue, both of which are thoroughly international in outlook, and featured 78 luxury products across 12 exclusive collections, focusing on home decor, furniture, jewellery, perfume bottles, handbags and more. The collection showcased how the handmaking

heritage of the UAE could earn its rightful place in the global market as the world took notice of the incredible talent of our artisans. The use of materials and techniques from different parts of the world emphasised the collection’s global outlook, earning the appreciation of a wider audience. For the Bidwa artisans who once practiced their craft within the confines of their homes, the debut at London Design Fair threw open the doors for access into new sustainable markets and has empowered them both economically and socially. How does working with crafts also tap into sustainable practices, such as using local materials or aiding the local economy? Even as Irthi works towards linking traditional crafts to the modern luxury and design markets, or infusing crafts with new functionality to fit contemporary aesthetics and needs, it has never strayed from its goal of incorporating sustainable and ethical practices in all aspects of its training, production and collaborative ventures. The Council utilises a circular business model within our operations by driving greater resource productivity, eliminating waste and inefficiency, sourcing sustainable and environmentally friendly material for all products, and ensuring that ethical and fair practice standards are adhered to in all programmes initiated by the Council. Additionally, all profits earned from commercial collaborations are reinvested back into empowering artisans in the UAE and the MENASEA regions through the Bidwa Programme, as well as the Council’s other cultural and commercial initiatives. THE CRAFTSMANSHIP ISSUE



Local craftswomen demonstrating the Safeefah technique

Tashkeel How does Tashkeel aim to support and elevate craft and craftsmanship in the region? Lisa BallLechgar: It is important that today’s art and design practitioners understand the rich cultural practices that form the UAE’s identity. Through the exhibitions and training provided at Tashkeel, we connect art and design professionals with key craft practices and craft practitioners in the UAE. We also support creative practitioners who wish to integrate elements of craft practices into contemporary design and visual art. What has the Tanween programme achieved to date in accomplishing this? So far, Tashkeel has invested in the training of 22 UAE-based designers which has led to the 39 designs inspired by, designed and produced in the UAE. Out of these, 31 limited edition furniture and lighting pieces have gone on to become part of The Tanween Collection range. In October, we will initiate the call for the seventh edition of the Tanween design programme. The one-year professional development programme for emerging designers delves deep into exploring the connections between craft and contemporary design and examining the challenges and opportunities related to design aesthetics informed by place. In short, Tashkeel hopes that, through the Tanween design programme, the UAE cultural identity and the crafts that form the roots of it are carried through into contemporary practice. 24

What do you think is the best way to preserve the tradition of crafts within a society? In a world where machine industrialisation and the digital explosion have led to so many practices becoming redundant, we are not only losing the manual skill and dexterity but also the memories, connections and the identity of who we are that is buried in the crafts and the objects created. We need to re-establish the importance of making and the tactile qualities it possesses. Yes, there is the need to preserve but there is also the need to ensure ongoing growth and development. It is not only a question of survival. The challenge also lies in enabling craft practices to thrive. The two must go hand-in-hand. Nurturing a new generation of makers is important for the growth of crafts, with adequate training, support and role models to encourage those who possess a desire to learn. A model rooted within an environmental context and consisting of formal and informal training, apprenticeships and social engagement seems to have been adopted by many countries around the world with crafts practices that are at risk of becoming critically endangered. Do you think there is enough support in the region to help propel traditional crafts into the future? There are several important initiatives that are addressing the needs of the crafts sector in

a strategic manner. From an economic perspective, organisations like Al Ghadeer and Sougha are creating stable income streams for Emirati craftswomen based in rural areas; while the likes of Irthi and Tashkeel are nurturing the next generation to integrate craft in contemporary design. I firmly believe that the future of traditional crafts depends on the sustainability movement and how well individuals, organisations and governments alike can connect age-old practices to the environmental agenda of the twenty-first century. Once, someone would spend his/her entire life mastering their craft. Well, this still stands true today. A wider variety of educational pathways are needed with more intensive courses in craft practices being offered. Such training would offer meaningful opportunities to allow existing craft practitioners to generate much-needed income from teaching and provide a new cohort of creatives with comprehensive, in-depth training in the techniques and materials. What role do you think curators play in the preservation and elevation of traditional crafts? Curators play an important role in raising levels of awareness, understanding and appreciation of the role traditional crafts play in today’s society. Through their study of the diverse practices, they play a key part in sustaining and developing the future of crafts. id


Katta by Yara Habib for Tashkeel's Tanween programme. THE CRAFTSMANSHIP ISSUE


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CRAFTSMANSHIP Designers across the Middle East have been revisiting traditional craft techniques to create contemporary collections, objects and furniture pieces. While some of these collections are highly innovative, they also engage local craftspeople and artisans from across the region and abroad. identity curates a selection of objects that represent the Middle East’s intangible heritage as well as global artisanal traditions. Words by Aidan Imanova



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Carlo Massoud Cities Produced in Beirut, Lebanon Marble (Carrara, rouge de France, Guatemala, Mero Marquina) 2018 Cities presents modern-day relics that trigger memories and associations of structures from across the globe. Created using different types of marble, each object can be decoded to reveal the likes of Casa Malaparte in Capri, The Louvre in Abu Dhabi or the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Each piece has been made by hand using tools such as a saw, a lathe and a carver. Each object begins as a cube and is later carved like a sculpture into its completed form and finally polished using sandpaper.



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Kawther Alsaffar Dual Bowls Produced in Kuwait Copper, brass, zinc, aluminium 2016-present The Dual Bowls have been created as affordable art pieces as well as functional objects fabricated with unique sandcasting methods developed with Alwafi Foundry in Kuwait, celebrating a community of craftsmen and designers while giving power back to those who deserve it the most. The sand-casting moulds in Alwafi Foundry use sand from the neighbouring Nile River, requiring only the addition of water. While this method of using sand for casting was originally employed by craftsmen to save on cost, its natural utility makes it sustainable and easy to recycle. It also reveals the beauty of the casting process, and of the raw imperfections that are usually masked and removed in more modern casting methods. The act of pouring multiple metals into these moulds pushes the limits of the casting techniques and allows the Dual Bowls to be easily produced in a variety of metals and finishes. 30

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T Sakhi Zamãn, Sculpting Time Produced in Cairo, Egypt Indian Green, Red Travertine, Galala, Nero Marquina, brass, suede 2018 Zamãn, Sculpting Time by Lebanese duo T Sakhi was crafted in the Egyptian quarries of Marmonil Group in Cairo. The watch stand has been directly hand-carved into the mineral by Egyptian craftsmen to create a negative space for storage and display. The making of the collection is inspired by Skara Brae, where humans used to carve into the rock for shelter and to store their belongings. Similar to the discovery of precious gemstones while carving into rock, the collectable work of mechanical art – the watch – becomes a timeless and contemplative artefact. The brass holders were produced in Lebanon to emphasise the strong duality of both cultures and expertise in craftsmanship.

Photo by Tarek Haddad



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Nada Debs and Salim Azzam Patterns in Nature Produced in Beirut, Lebanon Walnut wood, olive wood, French oak 2019 Patterns in Nature follows Nada Debs’ exploration of new craft techniques: this time in collaboration with fashion designer Salim Azzam. Both brands cultivate ecological and ornithological awareness, using nature as the ultimate source of inspiration to create this handcrafted furniture collection that marries flora and fauna in a show of poetic synergy of birds, botany and narratives about nature. The collection uses a craft technique called Contour Inlay, contouring the traditional marquetry technique with tin inlay. The sharp contours of the different marquetry veneers offers the illusion of a hand-drawn illustration.


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bahraini—danish Atlas Stools Produced in Bahrain Teak wood 2017-present The Atlas Stool series consists of fourteen stools, seven of which are individual. When spread out on the floor, they appear to be dancing as a result of their different appearances and positions. The stools are made from teak wood, which has long been used for boat making in Bahrain, and due to its stability and strength. The wood was cut in an industrial CNC milling workshop in Salmabad, Bahrain to make the stool, and later finished by artisans in a carpentry and boatmaking workshop in Muharraq, Bahrain.



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Rula Yaghmour Kutleh, design series_02, vases Produced in Jordan Stone and marble 2018/2019 Kutleh (meaning ‘block’ or ‘mass’ in Arabic) is a project that repurposes the surplus produced from cladding tiles used in everyday construction projects in an attempt to create blocks out of the discarded material. The curvilinear forms of this collection bend and twist, revealing the underlying beauty and the concealed layers of stone and marble. Architect Rula Yaghmour’s appreciation and understanding of materiality has ushered in a fruitful collaboration with stone and marble fabricators A.W. Yasin & Sons Co; a family business who have been in the stone and marble industry since the early 1960s. Kutleh marries technology and craftsmanship, forming new masses from offcuts of old slabs and tiles. 34

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Tarek Elkassouf Flame, Contained Produced in Lebanon Carrara marble, basal, copper leafing 2020 Flame, Contained offers a series of ashtrays, candle holders, a censor burner and a ritual tray – all of which embody the idea of life as fire, offering objects that contain the flame while giving it new life and vitality. Tarek Elkassouf invites us to question our relationship with the powerful force of nature that burns both externally and internally. The collection is also an echo of the fires that raged across the Australian landscape earlier this year, where the designer was based. In Flame, Contained, fire meets ice in a paradox of materials that are designed to fuse and blend from one collectible work to the next, where lava stone, born from volcanic heat and pressure, is soothed by the cooling touch of Carrara marble. THE CRAFTSMANSHIP ISSUE


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Faissal El-Malak Spool; A dancer, a leaf and a spool of thread Produced in Dubai, United Arab Emirates Glazed ceramic 2019 Inspired by a playful approach to Palestinian motifs and the functional aspect of Palestinian embroidery, Faissal El-Malak’s collection observes its narrative, decorative and talismanic properties while exploring the structural qualities of patching together various components. Spool is born out of an exploration of new materials, handcrafted in clay by Xeina Malki. If you look closely at these pieces, the final shape is what exists in the negative space outside the motif. This negative space is, in itself, inspired by historical vessels from archaeological sites around the Levant.


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Aljoud Lootah Mudeem collection Produced in Dubai, United Arab Emirates Camel leather, metal, suede 2019 The Mudeem collection is a set of handcrafted storage boxes inspired by the traditional Mandoos wooden chests that have been reinterpreted to celebrate the deep-rooted values of Emirati culture and heritage. Mandoos are wooden chests decorated with brass nails that were commonly used in the past to hold a person’s most valuable and precious possessions such as documents, jewellery, clothes, money and a bride’s dowry. With Mudeem, Aljoud Lootah examines innovations in material manipulation while giving new life to tradition. It explores the endless possibilities of camel leather and highlights the delicacy and fineness of the material. Each detail is made by hand by pleating, layering, airbrushing and forging while other parts of the leather are folded, woven and cut out, resulting in a permanent three-dimensional surface.



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Meshary AlNassar The 401 Collection Produced in Puglia, Italy Ocean blue Travertine 2019 The 401 Collection is a group of collectable stone objects made from prehistorical ocean Travertine and embedded LED technology that function as three decorative lighting sculptures. Kuwaiti designer Meshary AlNassar was inspired by tactile product design and childhood memories and his interaction with nature at a young age. These memories involved nostalgic moments that recall the five senses in everything from trees, courtyards and days under the sun. The collection was made in a small workshop in Puglia, combining traditional sculpting methods and technology.


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david/nicolas for Carpenters Workshop Gallery supernova Produced in Italy Travertine, rose wood, palm wood, bronze, glass, stainless steel 2018 The death of a star results in either a black hole or a supernova. david/nicolas’ supernova collection looks at this death as a transformation that outshines everything around it, evolving into a new life. It is a reminder of Beirut, a city that has been reborn, again and again. The dialogue between past and present, contrasting materials and forms, and transformation and regeneration in Supernova is also a reflection of the designer’s homes; an amalgamation of influences from the Middle East and Europe. The collection includes two series: The Constellation and Monocle. It was created by 20 different artisans, using materials such as travertine and metal that interact with bronze and wood.



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Thomas Trad Eva Produced in Beirut, Lebanon Solid oak, rattan, brass, stainless steel 2017 Eva is a partition made of French oak, gold tainted stainless steel and rattan. The play of mirrors and rattan give a sense of blurred privacy with seethrough openings that offer a sneakpeek of what’s behind the screens while the mirrored side reflect the inside. Eva can be used as a room divider as well as a changing space. It embodies a beautiful marriage between heavy machinery and skilled handcraft with the assembling of the wood and rattan.


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Ammar Kalo Carabus Collection Produced in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates Copper, hardwood, tinted mirrors, camel leather 2019 The Carabus collection is the result of conflating concepts of traditional craft with processes of advanced robotic fabrication. The aim was to address issues like tacit material knowledge and craftsmanship through a contemporary lens. Carabus embraces the imperfections of the process and highlights both machine and handcraft using robotically formed copper as well as camel leather and walnut wood. Forming tool marks are celebrated throughout the objects and recall the qualities of handcrafted objects. Even though the copper shells were made using a robot, the forms and textures maintain an organic softness so as not to take over the project. Most of the materials in the collection were handcrafted and handassembled including the formed copper pieces and leatherwork that was created by a leather craftsman using traditional leather-making techniques. The wood components were also hand shaped and finished.



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Dima Srouji Hollow Forms Produced in Palestine Handblown glass 2017 Hollow Forms is a glass intervention that reactivates the dying industry of glassblowing in the region and sheds light on the history of the craft in Palestine. The collections are inspired by the Palestinian landscape and a sense of place with a contemporary twist. Hollow Forms was created in close collaboration with expert glassblowers, the Twam family, from the outskirts of Jerusalem.



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design focus





he past decade has borne witness to several poignant movements in furniture design principles and above all, seen a shift in the relationship with materials, from design itself to the manufacturing process. We anticipate exciting new scenarios in the future where materials will gradually and proudly reclaim their central role in the creative process and begin to dictate form rather than adapt to it. We are confident that this evolved movement of material amalgamation will allow empathetic new designs. Here, we will explore a new generation of designers who are experimenting with materiality and the manufacturing processes with a specific focus on the power of the material and how the slightest sense of touch can convey emotion and energy. This neo-materialist movement reasserts centuries-old beliefs


that materials have a force of their own and exude an energy that can be genuinely felt. These findings offer insight into how designers are giving shape to materials and processes, from reviving ceramics and recycling waste to social inclusion and growing matter. Their conscious philosophies are already changing the world by allowing consumers to have careful and considered choices that can ultimately reconnect us to nature and guide us towards a better tomorrow. Besides looking at emerging and established designers that have led the change in material exploration in the past decade, we will also be exploring new makers in contemporary design and preview a future in responsible production, circular thinking, ethical practice and organic aesthetics.

furniture design

Contextualising organic rituals

Windows of Bo Bardi by Linde Freya Tangelder Available at Esra Lemmens Gallery.

A movement I call ‘contextualising organic rituals’ is influenced by ancient Japanese Buddhism principles where all things are considered as rising from nowhere, evolving and disappearing into nothingness. Here, nothingness is translated into potentiality where things can grow and eternally change, never reaching their absolute. This wabi-sabi principle is well-known and typifies a mindful approach to life. Humans like to retreat into places where they feel protected from harsh realities, creating environments of serenity and beauty. Room dividers are making a comeback, as are smaller tables and stools to share meals with loved ones; scenarios that are elegant and moody, illuminated by lanterns and overseen by glorious orchids. Woods are dark or lacquered, while stone is inky and polished, and brass is deep and mysterious as it reflects measured

Photo: Eline Willaert

splendour. Teacups, spoons and trays are dedicated to the chosen origin of each tea. The dress code is sophisticated yet casual, where pyjamas are paired with vibrant kimonos and housecoats are worn over vintage dresses, allowing us time to drift into a world of fantasy. Harmony and fluidity replace statements of starkness and contrast. The warm hues of brown harmonise with soft pinks and blushes, creating warmth and a feeling of home. Cold, dark backdrops with bold floral designs retreat with haste as clashing juxtapositions no longer resound. Deep colours of terracotta are making a comeback in contemporary decor and design palettes; the tones promoting gentler and earthier feelings, contrasting the coolness of the blacks and greys that we have grown accustomed to and which have dominated our horizons for decades. THE CRAFTSMANSHIP ISSUE


design focus

Handmade remains king

Totemplanter Iguana from Studio Floris Wubben. Available at Esra Lemmens Gallery.


Economic crisis, border restrictions and environmental devastation have made us relook at labour across the world where we are witnessing a resurgence of beautifully crafted design that is somewhat utilitarian in appearance. Humans are re-exploring and returning to their roots and increasingly embracing and valuing the human involvement and craftsmanship, even in this fastpaced era of Artificial Intelligence. Curators and designers are returning their focus on craft-led production, new modes of social consciousness, and environmental action, creating a renewed sense of resourcefulness and essentialism. In the late 19th century, the Arts & Crafts movement was a powerful knee-jerk reaction to the rampant advancement and detrimental impact of industrialisation. Practitioners like William Morris advocated for a revival of skilled labour, a nature-inspired aesthetic, and social reform. In the mid-20th century, writer Victor Papanek criticised frivolous, style-driven design in favour of ecological accountability. At the turn of each new century, people return to art. At the start of the 21st century, the discipline returned to hand creations. This became the remedy to the disconnected nature of industrial design. However, a connection to technology and mechanics remained where designers began hacking printers and reconstructing processes, inventing bespoke halfmanual, half-automated machines. It is a beautiful period in which man and machine began working hand in hand.

furniture design

Ethical practices

Heavy Duty from Carsten in der Elst.

Nataša Perković

The design world needs to stop its dependency and acceptance of recycling as a viable solution. Besides moving away from mass-produced, single-use plastics, products and material exploitation, enterprises and designers must build strong associations, foster partnerships and facilitate collaboration within local communities. In other words, we need to redesign the entire system. Ethical Design Thinking is a methodology that encourages designers to focus on humanoriented values throughout their design process. It consists of five exercises, created to bring together designers, researchers, engineers, governments and other stakeholders to discuss a shared ethical goal. Although some may consider themselves to be ethically driven, many fail to actively consider human-oriented values when creating products. Intelligent nations also fail to recognise the physical, psychological, and emotional repercussions of such products.

When scientists measure environmental impact, they have to take into consideration air, water, land pollution, cleanup costs, extraction impacts, energy consumption, direct and indirect effects, off-gassing, impacts on plant and animal life and the human quality of life. This list is seemingly endless and exhaustive. Everything is interconnected, and an accurate calculation is virtually impossible. This is why designers need to start questioning the sustainability of their work. There is also the ethical issue of whether the things we are designing need to exist. The life cycle embedded within each object is often longer than most people's lifetimes. ‘Is it necessary?’ is the first question that every designer should ask of themselves. We are already seeing corporate giants like IKEA running tests on how best to use recycled materials that could help startups develop recycling technologies for markets that demands products that are low waste and 'sustainably-sourced'. Designers have the world as their platform where they can showcase and express innovation. They have the propensity to open people’s eyes to the fact that we are losing our planet. People know that they need to rapidly slow down or halt the pace of overconsumption and overproduction. As a result, designers are morphing into activists, inventing systems that encourage shifts in existing values. It is a new era that offers hope and a renewed perception of ‘success’. THE CRAFTSMANSHIP ISSUE


design focus

Thinking in circles

The circular economy is an alternative to the traditional 'take–make–waste' model of production and consumption. It is one that affords hope in the face of environmental catastrophes, from climate change to ocean plastic. Design is integral in the shift to a circular economy. Designing-out waste and pollution, keeping materials and products in use, and regenerating the natural environment is crucial to contemporary design and has to be a conscious and inclusive part of every thought process. In nature, materials flow in circles. Things grow, die and return to the soil. Then the cycle begins again. Humans practice a more linear model in which 'we take, we make, and we dispose of'. As a result, landfills are ceaselessly growing and creating countless negative impacts on the planet.

Malta I by Omayra Maymó for Heineken.


Circular design means that products and services no longer have a lifecycle with a beginning, middle and end. This challenges designers to create products that can be 'made to be made again'. These forward-thinking designs will increase value and result in less waste. Transitioning from a linear economy to a circular one will not be easy; the new mindset will challenge us all. However, this concept is already on the rise, and according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, it is predicted to become a trillion-dollar business. Designers lead the way in re-configuring the world by developing solutions that are invaluable to people, giving businesses a competitive edge, and are regenerative for our world. We are living in a moment of evolution where it is necessary to rise to the challenge and intrinsically make amends. id

Photography Alberto Santomé




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C’est ici looked to sunny Palo Alto for inspiration when designing this art-filled villa in Dubai Words by Aidan Imanova Photography by Natelee Cocks




he Colombian duo, Monica Durou and Tatiana Jaramillo, behind Dubai-based interior design studio C’est ici have breathed new life to a recently renovated villa in Dubai’s Acacia Gardens in Al Sufouh, bringing in the bright energy and real-estate finesse of California’s Palo Alto, which serves as the main inspiration for the styling of the home. “We name our projects after cities around the world and this specific project was named Palo Alto,” Durou shares. “As one of the principal cities of Silicon Valley, the city has not only the most reputable high-tech company but some serious real estate gems. Palo Alto and its surroundings were definitively a great inspiration. A blend between contemporary design with old treasures and creative minds, we wanted the interiors to be thoughtfully put together, yet have an effortless feel.” The renovated residence features a carefully curated list of designer furniture that is balanced by the owners’ extensive art collection which, in itself, adds vibrancy to the large, three-storey villa that includes a main hall, four master bedrooms and bathrooms, dressing rooms, a lounge area, family room, living room, kitchen, family sitting area, play area, a dining room and lounge. “During the design process, we were set on creating elegant and sophisticated spaces with unique and unusual elements that gives it an avant-garde feel. Our clients own an incredible art collection so our main goal was for the interiors to enhance and complement the beauty of each piece,” Durou explains. “We wanted the spaces to embrace the feeling of being in a modern art gallery so we took inspiration from the look and feel of Atelier Brancusi at the Pompidou Centre to achieve this. “Design and art are so personal and so is beauty. The things that get collected over time express our most intimate memories and that is something we wanted to reflect in our design.” Other influences such as a modern-Scandinavian sensibility offers warm touches to the space, contrasted with nods to Greek history that is accentuated in the décor. Nevertheless, the interiors remain true to a refined and contemporary aesthetic featuring clean-lines with natural and organic materiality. 52





Monica Durou



Geometric and linear shapes are offset by bulky and monochromatic objects, an eclectic composition which gave rise to the furniture selection including the likes of Patrica Urquiola in collaboration with Cassina, armchairs by Carl Hansen and bespoke pieces by Line Concept. The informal dining area features a charcoal black Clay dining table paired with a masterpiece light by Vibia. These designer pieces are contrasted with hidden gems that have been sourced the world over. “We emphasised the clash of cultures in the décor, from lighting to furniture. This was an essential approach for this home where we mixed Cycladic and neoclassical influences with contemporary and modern design pieces. Along with a neutral but textural palette in the upholstery and wood tones to the plaster wall finishes, it became our template,” Durou says. The most outstanding architectural elements of the project are its double-height ceilings and windows in the formal living and dining rooms, allowing natural light to fill the space. Vital

elements that complement the architectural features of the modern villa are the clean lines, a minimal approach to open spaces and the use of natural materials, with a show-stopping staircase at the entrance. In the living room, a statement sofa was sourced from La Cividina, offset by the whimsical spaghetti chairs made in Sherpa – one of the most trending textiles of the year. Massproductions supplied the armchairs that have been contrasted by a black marble table, while the elegant, sculptural objects from Faina are showcased across the room, created by a multidisciplinary design studio in Kiev, Ukraine by designer Victoria Yukusha. The Palo Alto aesthetic comes alive most prominently in the outdoor lounge area, where the designers layered white-on-white elements with touches of wood and terracotta accent pieces, dotted with furniture pieces by the likes of Paolo Lenti, MDF Italia, Tribu, Sand and Vondom. This bright, minimal and cosy atmosphere allows for a perfectly relaxing space within an overall sophisticated environment. id




Tradition reinterpreted david/nicolas is behind Pierre Frey’s first collection under new artistic director of Furniture, Sam Baron, that reinterprets tradition to blend decoration and function

Words by Aidan Imanova


erso is the new furniture collection by Lebanese duo david/ nicolas for Parisian design house Pierre Frey, designed in collaboration with its new artistic director of Furniture, Sam Baron — both of whom share a passion for reinterpreting tradition in a contemporary way. The collection showcases a series of pieces that respond to new lifestyles, blending functional and modular design with the decorative arts. It demonstrates an innovative approach by marrying classic, contemporary and futuristic elements into a timeless aesthetic. Focusing on the theme of travel and the great transatlantic liners such as those once decorated by designer and decorator René Prou from the 1930s to the 50s, Baron was confident that David Raffoul and Nicolas Moussalem’s distinctive approach to contrasting materials and blending influences would result in a fresh visual language for the Maison. The designers boldly reinterpreted René Prou’s codes, combining the notions of comfort with careful design decisions to create three, unusual seating configurations. These include a drawer-dresser and a lounge chair and sofa-shelf that can be combined with a low pouf-table. A folding screen


with shelves called Versus designed by Baron and two pedestal tables called Venus, along with a rug by René Prou complete this concept of a new spirit in contemporary design. All the pieces are made by craftsmen in Pierre Frey’s workshop in Villers Cotterêt, France, highlighting the handcrafted and meticulous finishes of the collection. The solid oak is engraved with fine grooves, the luxurious brass knobs add a sophisticated touch while the mohair velvet ‘Teddy’ elegantly adorns the shape of the seats. Baron’s artistic direction brings with him an affinity for the heritage of decorative arts, which is evident throughout the Verso collection. This, applied with his own vision, brings forth a design language that redesigns the basics and reinterprets tradition without straying from brand's beginnings. His sensitive approach relooks at traditional furniture-making and knowhow through a contemporary lens. René Prou – the grandfather of Patrick Frey — serves as a poignant inspiration for his work at the Maison, where he is currently reorgansing, modifying and enriching its collections, while reconnecting the House of Pierre Frey to its roots.


Photography byby Camille Zakharia Photo Vincent Leroux




on our radar


Olubunmi Adeyemi is on a quest to take a new African design movement global Words by Aidan Imanova

on our radar


uch like the Bauhaus that began as an arts school in Weimar, Germany, to later evolving into a style and movement in design, art and architecture; Nigerian designer Olubunmi Adeyemi is on a mission to create just that with Afrominima: a new design language and ethos from Africa. The self-coined term translates to “Afrocentric minimalism”, inspired by the functionality of Scandinavian design and Japanese minimalism, in conjunction with the Yoruba culture of Nigeria. Afrominima aims to reinstate the power that culture can bring to design, while allowing Adeyemi to revisit his own roots and explore its potential impact on design, all while establishing an African take on minimalism. “I wanted to change the perception of what Afrocentric means,” Adeyemi says. He explains that the term has been pigeonholed into a particular aesthetic that is strictly confined to strong colours and bold patterns. Afrominima aims to break those boundaries by creating a new African design movement for a global audience. “I want to be part of that change coming from Africa and Nigeria and create something that has global appeal; something that can be impactful for design and the social economy,” he says. “Afrominima started as my own personal style. I began using this minimalistic language to design products and that is when I realised that it can actually become a design movement in its own right,” Adeyemi explains. One of his earlier and ongoing projects is the wwcreation of The Da Brand, a retail-store inspired by the likes of Muji in Japan that sells a wide variety of household and consumer goods. Influenced by the food culture of Nigeria, Adeyemi created a homeware range under the Da Brand called the Raw Urban collection inspired by the tools found in a traditional Nigerian kitchen including pestleand-mortar sets, wooden spoons and platters. The collection is part of Adeyemi’s ambition to create a lifestyle brand that sells products designed using the ethos of Afrominima, combining minimalism, functionality and cultural cues. The kitchen collection will soon be joined by other lifestyle categories with plans to eventually integrate furniture for the home. Adeyemi has also begun experimenting with locally available materials to support the local economy and the country’s artisans.

“In Nigeria we don’t really have access to technological production, so I rely on combining craftsmanship and design by working with local artisans and sourcing local materials. This has a trickle-down effect. Not only am I creating a brand but I am also trying to improve the lives of local artisans in Nigeria while discovering innovative ways to create things from the materials we have here in my homeland. I believe designers need to impact their communities and society,” he says. This is one of the reasons Adeyemi designs functional objects. He believes functional design has the ability to enhance lives and create progressive societies. And while fashion design from across the African continent is enjoying global success, Adeyemi believes that there is still a lot of work to be done for product design to follow in its footsteps. “In this part of the world, there is so much happening in terms of product and industrial design, but we need to redefine our creative direction. We have to start with the basics. Our design direction and aesthetic should start for our basic needs. The reason why there is so much luxury in cities like London is because they have taken care of their basic needs. Only then are you able to elevate design into luxury.” Adeyemi also envisions Afrominima as a way to regain and reinstate the African identity that has greatly suffered due to the effects of colonialism, from material loss such as “artefacts and sculptures that were taken from our land” to the loss of opportunities in continuing to create progressive African societies that date back to ancient history. “With Afrominima I am trying to bring back that identity as an African designer,” says Adeyemi. “We have designers here who are creating on the basis of Western culture. As for me, I am trying to create a global African perspective. Being African doesn’t mean you can’t impact the world. It also doesn’t mean that your designs should be strictly African. I am not saying there is anything wrong in the Western conception of what design should be. The West has set a high standard but we now have to start our own journey.” Recently, Adeyemi collaborated with Kenyan designer Adele Dejak, who he believes is now part of the Afrominima movement. “She called it the African renaissance, the birth of our design identity,” Adeyemi says. “I think we can spread the message through collaboration. The more platforms adopt the idea, the more we can continue to grow.”

id classics

SPUN by Thomas Heatherwick It has been 10 years since Thomas Heatherwick created the iconic Spun chair for Italian furniture brand, Magis. For this month’s id Classics, we look back at the vision behind the chair that spun its way into people’s hearts. Words by Aidan Imanova



t was in 2007 that British architect and designer Thomas Heatherwick first began exploring metal spinning as a potential process to creating a seat. His musings led to the conclusion that as a finished object, it would have to be a completely symmetrical, rotational form which could work as a chair whichever way it was rotated. In order to achieve this, Heatherwick found it necessary to disassemble the stereotypes of a chair: seat, back and legs, and unite them into a single profile. The studio first began by experimenting with making full-size models to study its geometry and ergonomics, tweaking and refining the object until its optimum shape was discovered. The first full-size Spun prototype was created in aluminium and was not only comfortable, but an enjoyable experience that allowed the user to rotate and spin in three dimensions. In October 2009, the studio produced a series of pieces using the craft of largescale metal spinning, traditionally used to make objects such as Timpani drums. The chairs were handmade by pressing sheets of metal against a rotating cast iron form using a paddle. Each chair was assembled from six metal spinnings, welded together and polished to produce a single unified form with a leather trim inlaid into the weight bearing rim. The result is not immediately apparent as a chair, and when laid upright, appears more like a sculptural vessel. However, as it tilts to the side, it forms a comfortable and functional chair that the sitter can rock from side to side in, or even spin round in a complete circle. It was in 2010 that Heatherwick created the iconic version of the Spun chair we all know of today for Italian furniture brand Magis. Ten years after its launch, the playful armchair has become a classic in the brand’s portfolio and a staple piece within contemporary design. Made in rotational moulding, Spun is available in four colours as well as a bicolour version, suitable for both indoors and outdoors. “Its surface is covered with a detail of fine ridges, like the grooves of an old vinyl record,” Heatherwick said of the chair.

id classics




Products From accessories and furniture pieces that range from rustic to contemporary, including the latest Rimowa and Moncler collaboration, this month's selections capture the start of a new season.


L'Afshar Studio With a focus on symmetry, the Calder coffee table is a mix of modern moulded materials ideal for today’s contemporary living rooms. Both the clear acrylic top and base legs are substantially thick. The resin legs come in different colour options for a customised look to match any space. Available on lafsharstudio.com.



Trullini Natuzzi

Trullini expands across five olfactory areas in Puglia, Italy, each with its own distinctive colour and keystone. The textured clay base is embellished with drops of kiln-baked aventurine. Even after the fragrance finishes, these unique artisanal products become functional containers for small and precious objects. Available at natuzzi.com

Oak bench Zara Home

This double oak bench from Zara Home's latest collection boasts a warm oak structure and woven paper seat, making it the perfect corner piece in the home. Dress it with a warm cashmere throw or pair it with a woven rug to create that charmingly rustic look. Available at zarahome.com

Pebble dip bowls Crate&Barrel

The three Pebble dip bowls come in creamy shades of orange and grey, bringing artisanal beauty to the table. Made in Portugal, the stoneware serving set is part of Crate&Barrel's exclusive Pebble dinnerware collection. Available at crateandbarrel.ae THE CRAFTSMANSHIP ISSUE



Super Soft

The Elder Statesman The Elder Statesman's Super Soft cushion is striped in various tones of yellow and green for a lively effect, typical of founder Greg Chait's arresting approach to design. Made in Los Angeles, California from handloomed cashmere, the cushion comes with an insert that can be removed for cleaning. Set it anywhere for a spalsh of colour. Available at matchesfashion.com


Reflections Copenhagen The combination of clean and rough lines on Reflections Copenhagen's Arizona bowl highlights the designers' aim to challenge conventional home interiors with inventive silhouettes and shapes. The piece is crafted from crystal and shaped with a clear octagonal rim that has a dipped, curved centre, resting on a thick base repeatedly accented with a diamond pattern as a nod to 1920s Art Deco architecture. Available at matchesfashion.com


Rimowa Moncler Following the debut of the Moncler Rimowa Reflection showpiece at Moncler Genius in Milan, the two brands have joined forces to share a collaborative take on contemporary luxury travel. The striking limited-edition mirrored aluminium suitcase comes equipped with a collection of exclusive accessories, allowing travellers to make a unique statement. Based on the Rinowa Original Cabin, the statement suitcase dials up the brand’s iconic aluminium exterior with a lustrous mirrored surface — a finish that at once recalls the lacquered effect of Moncler’s coveted down jackets, and the reflective glaze typical of mountain-ready accessories. The ultra-polished aluminium exterior is offset by matte black handles and riveted corners for practical handling. Available worlwide across Moncler and Rimowa stores.



Books This month, identity explores the photographic eye in capturing beautiful moments, settings and interiors that are the perfect addition to any coffee table.

Images Jacquemus

French brand Jacquemus' second book entitled 'Images' gathers photos taken by its founder and creative director, Simon Porte Jacquemus since 2010. Those who follow Jacquemus on Instagram will likely be familiar with the designer's images of nostalgic moments, while appreciating his distinctive eye for spatial design and interiors. Whether capturing a blushing sky and palm trees in LA during sunset, referencing David Hockney's pool divers, or touring Pierre Cardin's Bubble Palace near Cannes, this book of 321 iPhone photos is a visual treat.

Luxury of Space: Photographs by Oberto Gili Oberto Gili

Oberto Gili's camera captures human moments and spaces in a way that are both intimate and stylish. His camera, like his personality, is whimsical, questioning, non-judgemental and tenderly objective. Gili's images of interiors capture fundamental flashes of human existence, quiet

moments and basic needs. The images in this stunning volume are a diary of the interiors and situations that have, over the last thirty years, strung together Gili's curiosity and fantasy. Simple, still and understated, Gili's images of interiors capture settings that are timeless and personal.



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The Golestan series takes inspiration from the magnificent Golestan Palace in Iran. The ethereal collection takes note of the natural materials of the monument, translated into pieces made from carefully selected marble and stone with an organic finish. Each piece is crafted by hand using time-honoured methods and tools.

Golestan by Chapter-101 66




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