Abwab — Takes Regional Designers Forward With New Vision

“Regional Artists Are Keen To Explore New Materials And Production”


Saudi Gazette

The popular exhibition Abwab (doors) returns to host 45 designs from 15 countries, all of which were collected using an inspiring ‘designer dominos’ method this year. The structure was designed by Dubai-based Fahed + Architects using repurposed bed springs sourced from waste management company Bee’ah, which will encapsulate Abwab’s emerging regional designs. Rawan Kashkoush, head of programming at Dubai Design Week told Saudi Gazette the exhibition is about empowerment and building each other up. ‘Designer dominos’ works in a way that helps facilitate the cause. “If you want your work to be considered for Abwab, you are required to nominate another designer to submit. This exhibition is about empowering a community and acknowledging that you might not be where you are now, if it wasn’t for the help of others,” Kashkoush said. Using the new structure, Abwab received over 250 submissions this year. “What this taught me is that we have more work to do to make sure the region’s design talent is being seen and heard.” We spoke to Kashkoush in an exclusive interview discussing the increasing role of regional artists and tastemakers at Dubai’s Design District this year. Rawan is an interior architect dedicated to developing channels for the public to access design. She joined the Art Dubai Group in 2015 as creative director of Abwab and is responsible for Dubai Design Week regional projects.

SG: Abwab received a lot of attention, being the first of its kind to offer a platform that empowers regional talent. How was the response initially and where does Abwab stand today?

RK: Abwab has been responding to the needs of the evolving design landscape in this region, selecting six countries for the initial exhibitions in 2015 and 2016 made sense. However, what we have witnessed is an urgency to accommodate the growing number of product designers who want to show people what they’ve been working on and find a route to market. There simply isn’t enough of an infrastructure yet for concept stores to host regional products, or e-commerce networks to help these designers get their products to people in a cost-effective way. Abwab this year shifts its direction to show ready-made objects now instead of interactive installations because of the overwhelming demand by people saying “I want that!”

SG: Since you work with upcoming regional designers can you tell us more about the mindset, themes and work they are focused on?

RK: Materials. A maturity is taking hold between emerging and established designers alike, who once were interested in showcasing cultural nuance but are now interested in exploring and developing new materials and production techniques. Examples can be seen throughout the exhibition: silicone dipped in gold leaf by Anjali Srinivasan; recycled rubber pulled to form carpet thread by Sara Ouhaddou; plastic strips melted and stretched to form transparent surfaces by Soukaina al Idrissi; the experimentation with polycarbonate sheets filled with Emirati sand by Loci Architecture & Design who explored this technique when designing Abwab 2015’s series of pavilions; and Ammar Kalo working his magic with texture by thermoforming plastic for a new table lamp.

SG: Tell is about your role at the fair this year and what has been your biggest achievement so far?

RK: This is my third edition of Dubai Design Week, the blessing of that is being connected to the wider community and being able to facilitate quick exchanges such as ‘you slot in there, yes let’s get that installation approved’ but in more concrete terms, I head the regional exhibitions Iconic City and Abwab which gives me the opportunity to work on the access MENASA region designers have to the growing resources Dubai has to offer. Pulling together the knowledge exchanges is also in my scope, meaning I lead the different forms of talks and workshops, panels, seminars, and new for 2017: two conferences dedicated to the UAE. These are not-to-be-missed and free of charge: one, ‘UAE Modern’ pulls together leaders from the region teaching us how to keep those old and beautiful buildings from being destroyed, which ones to fight for and how; the other is on cultural institutions and cultural production curated by one of the world’s leading university’s Columbia University – Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

SG: What is the most challenging aspect of the job?

RK: Honestly, ensuring everyone gets to be a part of it. Whatever the talent, skill or need. It’s almost exactly like playing the game of Tetris, the wall starts to get higher and higher as time runs out. Nothing feels worse than having to say ‘maybe next year’.

SG: What are the ‘Top 5 things’ you are looking forward to this year?


l Sir David Adjaye’s talk with Sultan Al Qassemi, the two of them are opinionated and the conversation between them is sure to inspire.

l Aidah, an installation by a duo – half in London and half in Kuwait made up of balloons to form a temporary landscape inspired by one of my favorite college books ‘Invisible Cities’, the balloons will be installed in the periphery of d3

l An installation by super designers Elias & Yousef Anastas from 2016 Abwab Alumni of the Palestine Pavilion who just exhibited ‘While We Wait’ at the V&A in London will be showing the same work at Concrete on Alserkal Avenue. These two architects are teaching us how to imagine anything as building blocks.

l OriginBase’s opening. It’s a Dubai-based product design company that operates the first fully equipped multi-disciplinary maker-space in the UAE. DIY rapid-prototyping workshops means designers are given an opportunity to improve ideas at lower costs, and more quickly.

l The diptychs presented by Zineb Andress Araki at Iconic City are mirror images of Casablanca and Dubai, an unveiling detail uncovered by the curator was that the two were twin cities in the 90s, and reading the parallels through photography could present something to learn from.

Website www.dubaidesignweek.ae

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