While 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 accessible to a global audience.
Although many of the event’s extensions remained, this year’s Dubai Design Week focused less on beautiful distractions and more on hard realities – an approach that felt necessary in the wake of our current situation. Designers and architects responded to calls about the changing dynamics of public spaces and social interaction, the challenges of the current built environment on climate change and the environment, the social politics of the design industry and sustainable alternatives to traditional materials.
A greater focus on locally-based designers also provided a deeper insight into the development of design in the UAE, where Emirati and expat designers and artists showcased works that explored local materials and techniques as well as themes such as identity, locality and context.
At a time when the global design community is working harder to respond to social and environmental issues, the 2020 edition of Dubai Design Week further confirmed the growing influence of the Middle East on the design map, and of a community that is questioning norms and exploring its own potential.
Here, identity highlights some of the most thought-provoking, exploratory and collaborative works that were showcased at this year’s Dubai Design Week.