New icons

The Gulf is a design melting pot. Influences are local, regional and international. The design we see every day is inspired by, or in some cases copied from, many cultures.

COMMENT, Design

The Gulf is a design melting pot. Influences are local, regional and international. The design we see every day is inspired by, or in some cases copied from, many cultures.

Sourcing products from around the world and being inspired by global design trends is groovy for a diverse and growing region, but is it also a process that is diluting identity?

Karim Rashid, a designer with roots in the region, but branches elsewhere, summed it up recently. He was 'thrilled' by the idea of building a futuristic city - he was talking about Dubai - but disappointed by what he saw as a mundane response to the opportunity.

"I think that what I have seen so far is very banal design and architecture,"? said Rashid. "Here is an opportunity to really produce innovative, progressive, responsible, intelligent architecture, but instead I just see many derivative, western, mundane buildings."

That's been the story so far in Rashid's eyes, but like many working in the design industry he is looking to a more positive future and a maturing market.

"I am optimistic that the new projects and proposals look like they are moving in the right direction," he said. "I feel close to the culture and feel there are some great opportunities to contribute to the new changing landscape.

"The big issue is that part of the Middle East is relying on very ancient icons but you wonder where the contemporary ones are. We desperately need new icons, new signs, new signals, new forms, new ideas, that shape a new Middle East. Every culture has to dig deep into its talent and shape new rituals, new traditions."

Whether you see this as an impassioned plea or just extravagant showboating, there is a point. As a region the Gulf should be able to point to more than a few tall buildings as icons of its design talent. The design of everyday life, the tables, chairs, seats and sofas should come from local talent. The interior designs we see and enjoy should also point the way to new icons.

Stuart Matthews is the senior group editor of ITP Business.

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