Designing Dubai

First International Design Forum attracts world renowned speakers.

NEWS, Design

The first annual International Design Forum at the Madinat Jumeirah last month attracted a number of high profile guest speakers. With members of the advisory board including Zaha Hadid, Karim Rashid and Peter Zec the forum demonstrated the growing importance of design in the region. Unfortunately Zaha Hadid was unable to attend as previously advertised.

The three day forum included workshops, exhibitions, presentations and debates in an effort to generate dialogue between Arab and international designers as well as develop a platform to evaluate the commercial and social impact of design. General themes throughout the panel discussions included education, encouragement and nurture of young designers within the region, sustainability and a desire for public consultation.

In the session 'Green Design Saves Your Planet' all members were passionate about the urgent need for designers to take the issue of sustainability seriously. Hana Alamuddin, architect and lecturer, American University of Beirut said: "None of us are immune to pollution - no matter how many gates or locks we have - pollution gets everyone." The issue of sustainability was also raised in 'Design Connects Lab: Institutions of Design' when Indrasen Vencatachellum, director, Division of Arts and Cultural Enterprise, UNESCO, Paris noted that recently there has been a move to promote and encourage designers who are working to achieve a social change in terms of global warming and education.

Education and nurturing emerging talent was discussed throughout 'Young Talents - Redesigning Dubai'. The importance of incorporating business with design education was noted by Peter Zec, president, Red Dot: "At the moment there are no schools that reflect the reality that students are faced with. Design and business go together and designers need to understand how businesses work." The young members of the audience observed that Dubai provided its designers with inspiration through its energy and through its efforts to always strive for the best. Sheikh Salem Faisal Al Qassimi, owner and creative director, Fikra Design Studio, said that there is always something new in Dubai to inspire him.

The development of Dubai as an Arab city was a major topic for much of the conference. While the city was referred to as a, "laboratory experiment" by Lawrence Bloom, Sheikh Salem Khalid Al Qassimi, knowledge executive, Moutamarat, said that critics would always attack Dubai no matter what it does, citing criticism about the traditionally designed Madinat Jumeirah for being tacky and the city's modern towers for having designs that do not reflect the local environment. Maintaining a cultural identity was raised in 'The Arab City Transformed'.

It was noted that while the transformation of an Arab city shows great potential, it is often driven by commercial desire without noting the inhabitants and preservation of the city's heritage and culture. Omar Al Maani, Mayor of Amman, Jordan said: "Successful city transformation doesn't lose sight of old traditions, while including society in the master plan. It is the consensus that makes a city's growth vibrant and for that you have to actively involve its people and educate them on what is happening."

'Design by AAUAE Committee' raised issues of Dubai's soul, with the panel agreeing that the city should be developed as a whole, rather than as separate communities. Michael Rotondi, principal, Roto Architects said: "Much of the development of Dubai was designed by people coming from outside the UAE and a city starts to lose its soul when citizens of a place feel a sense of dislocation about the development happening around them." Jesse Reiser, architect, Reiser + Umemoto RUR Architecture PC said: "I see a growing issue of infrastructure, not merely of roads and sewage but of linking landscapes and roads together to provide a buffer and a system to work within this island model." He noted that some areas of Los Angeles began as isolated office towers, but within a generation it became integrated. He concluded that: "Everything gets connected eventually."

There was a definite prevailing conviction throughout the forum that the UAE has tremendous potential to be the design capital of the world, providing long-term infrastructure plans are in place before mass scale construction is completed.

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