Visitors at Dubai Design Week 2022.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
The 2022 edition of Dubai Design Week (DDW, Nov. 8 – 13) held in strategic partnership with Dubai Design District (d3), brought together 360 entities in the design sector, including more than 200 international and regional brands. Alongside DDW, the third edition of the d3 Architecture Exhibition was also inaugurated. The participation of over 120 UAE-based designers demonstrated the flourishing growth of the country’s home grown creative scene.
This year’s theme was “Design With Impact” and it manifested itself across exhibitions, installations, pop-ups, talks and workshops. The region’s first university exclusively dedicated to design and innovation, the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI), provided visitors with a range of meaningful experiences during the week. The university signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Gulf Craft, a leading boat and yacht manufacturer based in the UAE, to propel the next generation of innovators and designers to the marine industry.
Over the course of the week, DIDI also hosted panel discussions with a number of eminent spokespeople and faculty members. Globally renowned industrial designer Dirk Schumann presented his visionary space and maritime projects before joining a panel discussion titled “Space and Maritime Visions – New Mobility for Dubai?”, alongside Gulf Craft Deputy Managing Director Abeer Alshaali and Raffi Tchakerian, Industrial aerospace designer and Assistant Professor at DIDI. Hani Asfour, DIDI Dean, spoke to Gulf Today. So did Schumann, who joins the paper later.
Asfour takes the floor
Can you tell us how DIDI’s curriculum teaches sustainability?
Our curriculum at the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI) focuses on teaching students the 4 C’s — Conceptualisation, Communication, Craft and Care — and ‘Care’ is among the most important drivers for solving complex problems. For example, Anychair, designed by one of our recent graduates, is a modular desk chair for rural and remote schools made from a single sheet of plywood that can be easily mass produced, assembled on-site and transported. The product minimises the use of materials, while serving to better people’s lives in the process.
According to you, did architects not think of sustainability till very recently in their practice?
In academia, designers have been vouching for responsible architecture for a very long time.There are several works and books by brilliant designers like Buckminster Fuller, Paolo Soleri, and Victor Papanek, from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Sustainable design entered the mainstream vernacular somewhere in the last decade, popularised by LEED and other rating certifications. With increased consumer awareness and incentives, the desirability of sustainable design has grown significantly in recent years.
What role does DIDI play in strengthening sustainable architecture, besides providing for it in the curriculum?
DIDI offers the first multidisciplinary design degree in the region. Our hybrid-learning curriculum, developed in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and The New School’s Parsons School of Design in New York, as well as our research strategy, are directly tied to two strategic priorities: the UN Strategic Development Goals (SDG) and the UAE National Innovation Strategy. Our participation at Dubai Design Week and annual initiatives like Project Design Space and industry collaborations, give students an opportunity to solve real-world problems for major brands, government agencies, NGOs and industry leaders.
Combining our students’ education with our professors’ ongoing instructive journey has stimulated truly engaging conversations and projects such as Wastology, which won the challenge on recycling parts of the Italian Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Wastology creates a home device that allows food waste to be reused to grow and nourish indoor plants.
Schumann joins the paper
How does Schumann design, your design studio, further sustainability?
The Schumann Design Office has been working in the field of strategic design consultancy and classical industrial and product design for many different sectors for three decades – and all over the world as well.
We have clients in Europe, Asia and North America. Since the studio’s inception in 1992, we have championed sustainability in each one of our projects, leveraging timeless and long-life design concepts, recyclable materials and technology, to ensure that we spotlight sustainability in our products and in turn, change consumer behaviours to enhance the way that we interact with our environment.
How is designing for sustainability different in say, India, to designing in the Gulf?
Our experiences in Asia are based on design projects in the Chinese market, in fact. We started working there in 2015.
We see the need to support companies there, to give rise to a stronger awareness of sustainability. That being said, the Gulf region is a fertile ground for innovation – bringing together brilliant young minds to design with impact and change the world. Dubai, for example, with its vision and ambition, is primed to go to the next step with innovation. And of course, powerful institutions, like the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation, continue to serve as a strong platform for innovation — empowering the next generation of innovators.
What are your favourite materials in building? Why?
There’s a few materials I like to incorporate in my design projects, notably Corian and Dibond material, because of their great options for outstanding design languages as well as special steel surfaces and new natural building materials.
There is a clash of architectural styles in the Emirates; there is no unifying common thread. Would you care to comment?
I think diversity brings vitality in cities. Mediates the cultural richness of a society. But my time in Dubai was too short to study this aspect more deeply. But I’m keen to return soon.
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