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Old and new

by Selina Denman on Sep 14, 2010


The event took  place against a backdrop of three traditional houses.
The event took place against a backdrop of three traditional houses.
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Cairo played host to its first ever urban design exhibition, +20 Egypt Design, this summer.

A groundbreaking initiative, +20 Egypt Design took place over a four-day period in June, and highlighted Cairo’s surprisingly deep-seated appreciation of good design.

The event was initiated by the Egyptian Furniture Export Council (EFEC) and Industrial Modernisation Centre (IMC), with support from the Egyptian Exporters Association (Expolink). DesignPartners, the Milan-based international marketing and communications company of ZonaTortona fame, was responsible for the overall organisation of the event.

A highlight of +20 Egypt Design was an installation by the ever-colourful Paola Navone, who was invited to explore themes surrounding the home. A total of 70 exhibitors, including 55 local Egyptian designers and manufacturers from all over the country, were invited to take part in this landmark initiative.

The main exhibition was set against the culturally rich backdrop of three historical buildings. Set between shops, mosques and museums, Suhaymi House, which dates back to 1648, Kharazati House from 1881 and Gaafar House from 1713, are located on El Muiz Street, in a renovated section of old Cairo.

At the core of +20 Egypt Design was an interplay between established and emerging names in the design industry, as visitors were treated to a unique juxtaposition of contemporary innovation and local craftsmanship. Famous pieces by top international design names were set against traditional artisanry to create a melting pot of design, culture, production and technology.

“We are all very proud of the newly-born +20 Egypt Design,” said Ahmed Helmy, chairman of the EFEC. “It has created an amazingly positive atmosphere, where different cultures and experiences materialise into forms of architecture, design and visual communication. The event invited a range of different parties, from manufacturers, designers, architects and local and international visitors, to see a unique demonstration of design, industry and culture. With +20 Egypt Design, Egypt has found a new way to communicate with the rest of the world.”

Local designers such as Shahira Fahmy, Amr Helmy, Karim Mekhtigiam, Cherif Morsi and Dina Shoukry were given the opportunity to showcase their creativity. Their ideas and products were set alongside leading global brands such as Agape, Alessi, Kartell, Molteni and Moroso, as well as products bought from Cairo’s very own Khan el-Khalili Bazaar.

Meanwhile, local manufacturers such as Al Cazar Fine Woods, Asal, Crystolight, Ferforge, Mohm, Fiorito, Meuble El Chark, Hid’n, Hardwood, Siro Wood, Nadim and Williams presented an array of classic and contemporary furniture and lighting fixtures for the office, kitchen and outdoors.

Over 3,000 individuals flocked to +20 Egypt Design. Highlights of the event included an ironic take on the water pipe in the form of a table with shisha legs, designed by Dina Shoukry. This was combined with colourful plastic chairs and stools by Kartell. Elsewhere, chairs by Ferforge were combined with plexi-top tables by Flux and dramatic chandeliers by Italian manufacturer, Luceplan. Meanwhile, hi-tech side tables by Egyptian designer Karim Mekhtigian were coupled with an ornate chair by Shoulah Furniture.

Other +20 Egypt Design events included the ‘Rising of an Egyptian Design Identity’ exhibition, which took place in Moheb Hall, within walking distance from the three main houses on Muiz Street. The products on show were the result of a collaboration between local manufacturers, young Egyptian designers and international designers such as Gum Design, Lucy Salamanca, Pierandrei Associati and Dodo Arslan.

‘Dressing an Icon’ was another initiative and saw Egyptian fashion designers paying tribute to the traditional Egyptian chair. This took place at Hamam Inal and saw fashion designers adorn wooden chairs with a range of materials, from ribbons and lace to stones and ornaments.

Design students were also invited to show off their creative talents. Students from both the American University in Cairo (AUC) and the German University in Cairo (GUC) showcased a collection of their work, in varying stages of completion. This included lighting fixture prototypes that integrated contemporary lighting design with local crafts and materials.

EFEC, which represents over 200 Egyptian furniture factories, launched +20 Egypt Design as the first step in an ongoing project to drive business through creativity and design.

In addition to encouraging local enteprises to become more involved in the country’s design industry, the event also acted as an important message to the international community about Egypt’s design-related ambitions.

Egypt’s design industry is experiencing a period of rapid growth, and the country is keen to meet the challenge of modernising its design industry. “Egypt has great potential, in terms of both production and creativity. It was exciting to contribute to the birth of the first urban design event in Cairo, where we shared our knowledge and passion for design with a highly-motivated local team,” Maurizio Ribotti, CEO of DesignPartners concluded.



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