What's on at Dubai Design Week: a guide

Super Design Market. House of Folly. Designs of Alexander Girard. Courtesy DDW

Super Design Market. House of Folly. Designs of Alexander Girard. Courtesy DDW

There is so much going on over Dubai Design Week (DDW) that it can be difficult to navigate your way through the schedule. There are over 200 events and activities happening in less that a week across the city so here is my guide to helping you make the best out of those few days. I’ve hand-picked some of the best things to see and do over the action-packed week November to give you this insider’s secrets.

NOVEMBER 11-12 Arch. Season ‘17. Alserkal Avenue

The best kept secret of design week happenings is that they actually start before the official event kicks off. Arch. Season ’17 kicks off with various events about the upcoming city-wide Architectural Biennial set to take place in 2018. Curated in partnership with thetrypticnote an online magazine about architectural space in the UAE, you can join Abdulla Essa Al-Ghurair in a majlis setting at Alserkal Avenue or join global heads of FLOS, the 50 year old Italian lighting institution and learn more about the brand and the showcase of London based award-winning artist and designer, Michael Anastassiades at SVENM, Alserkal Ave.

NOVEMBER 13 Design Installations: 10am-9pm (daily). Dubai Design District (d3)

The official start to Dubai Design Week must begin with a visit to its heart: Dubai Design District (d3). The entire district will be filled with eye-catching and simply stunning installations. I would make a bee-line for the ground floor of Building 7 where Khalid Shafar’s The Silent Call will be on display. Made in collaboration with Lasvit glass manufacturers the piece is made of glass silhouettes of the domes of five mosques and the lights inside it move five times a day to adapt to prayer times in different time zones. It is visually magnificent and also merges art, design and spirituality.

Also, you will not be able to miss Prologue by Fredrikson Stallard in the central core district of d3. It is a freestanding sculpture weighing 1.2 tons and holding over 8,000 amber-coloured Swarovski crystal droplets within its 4m-diameter, patinated steel frame. The luminous ring mimics the golden sun and its endless circle represents new beginnings, life and rebirth. The work was originally unveiled at Art Basel Hong Kong in 2014.

Keynote with Sir David Adjaye: 7pm-8pm. DXBDW Mainstage – Building 4, d3

In the evening, be sure to not to miss Sir David Adjaye in conversation with Sultan Al Qassemi about his process of design. Adjaye is one of the world’s most influential architects and designers and is often challenged with high profile and dynamic briefs. This talk will delve into the power of architecture


The Silent Call by Khalid Shafar presented by Lasvit. Courtesy DDW

The Silent Call by Khalid Shafar presented by Lasvit. Courtesy DDW

NOVEMBER 14: Dubai Modern: 10am – 4pm (Nov 14-15). Etihad Museum, Dubai

Head to the Etihad Museum for the first day of Dubai Modern - a conference dedicated to the modern architecture of the period between the 1950s and the 1980s, when the UAE and their neighbouring countries had to cope with the new challenges brought by their fast-economic growth. Highlights of this day include a lecture on the conservation of vernacular architecture in Dubai by Rashad Bukhash, the Chairman of the UAE Architectural Heritage Society and a workshop on conservation of architecture in the 21st century by Idrees Rasouli who teaches Interior Design and Environment Architectures at Ravensbourne University in the UK.

Downtown Design: 10-9pm (Nov 14-17). Waterfront Platform, d3

In the evening, take the opportunity to head to Downtown Design to catch it during its first evening. Downtown Design is a trade show featuring products by over 150 leading brands from around the world, the event is twice as big as last year and also a chance to catch new designers featured for the first time on the international design circuit.

NOVEMBER 15: Zaha Hadid Architects Open Gallery: 9am - 6pm (daily) Office 503, Building 8, d3.

It’s your chance to have a look round the offices of Zaha Hadid Architects. The current exhibits include a display of 3D-printed models, as well as a timeline of ZHA projects, ranging from early paintings and competition entries to ongoing developments. Furniture pieces by ZHD as well as selected homeware items from the ZH Collection are also on display.

Camel Leather talk and demo: 4pm-6pm. Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, Heritage House No.13

Arash Kavoosi of Arash Leather explains the benefits and traditional uses of natural leather, followed by a live demonstration of sketching, cutting, and stitching, showing how an Arash bag is made from camel leather. 

Iconic City: Loading.. Casa: 10am-10pm (daily) Ground Floor, Building 6, d3

At the end of this day, go back to d3 to spend time at the Iconic City... Loading Casa exhibition. Each year, the event focuses on one city and this year, it is Casablanca. Curated by Salma Lahlou, the exhibition contains commissioned work by a sound designer, filmmaker, architect, photographer and graphic designer, who created works to echo the experience of Casablanca as a city. Sounds intriguing and is definitely worth checking out.


Mostafa Maftah's Feu en Ocean, 1979. Part of the Iconic City, 2017 Loading... Casa. Courtesy DDW

Mostafa Maftah's Feu en Ocean, 1979. Part of the Iconic City, 2017 Loading... Casa. Courtesy DDW

NOVEMBER 16: Virtual Reality in Architecture and Interior Design: 10am - 2pm. Office 205B, Building 6, d3

Put on oculus head gear and experience the possibilities of designing, viewing and changing finishes with a few simple hand gestures thanks to the power of virtual reality. Hosted by DZ Design, you can walk into the interiors of a villa, or walk around a whole building viewing it from various angles. Entire experience only takes around 10 minutes, so you can drop in any time.

Open studio with Viktor Udzenija Architecture + Design: 10am-5pm (13-16 Nov). Office 405, Building 8, d3

This studio has been awarded the Sustainable Initiative of the Year 2016 for the design of its new Dubai Design District (d3) headquarters. Visitors to the studio will be able to view various ongoing and completed projects, both regional and international, from the world of architecture, interiors as well as design.

Global Grad Show: 10am - 9.30pm (daily) Waterfront , Dubai Design District (d3) 

This is the world’s largest and most diverse meeting of design and innovation graduates showing 200 projects from leading universities on the future of design, science and innovation. Institutions include The Royal College of Art, London; Stanford University, California and RMIT Melbourne, alongside schools from emerging design centres such as Pearl Academy, New Delhi and Makerere University, Kampala.


Abhishek Matta's 27Degrees. One of the several products in Abwab 2017. Courtesy DDW

Abhishek Matta's 27Degrees. One of the several products in Abwab 2017. Courtesy DDW

NOVEMBER 17: Abwab: 10am – 10pm (daily). Between buildings 4&6, Dubai Design District (d3)

Abwab originally consisted of independent pavilions hosting six MENASA countries, but in 2017 the concept has evolved into a single pavilion in the heart of Dubai Design District (d3), exhibiting as many countries as possible. The pavilion itself was designed by Fahed & Architects in partnership with Bee’ah, Sharjah’s environmental and waste-management company, and is made from springs of discarded mattresses to create a structure of unexpected delicacy. The products inside from emerging, regional designers are as varied as they are interesting and deserve a visit.  

Once Upon Design: 10am-10pm (daily). Atrium, Building 6, Dubai Design District (d3)

A curated collection of contemporary product and furniture design from the UAE and the region, commissioned by Design Space 1971 (Sharjah) and curated by Noor Aldabbagh, Once Upon Design invites visitors to choose their own route, and look, touch and immerse themselves in contemporary heritage. Aldabbagh has selected a group of architects, product designers and graphic designers to experiment with elements of heritage from the Arabian Peninsula, focusing on customs and oral traditions inherited through generations that are implicitly linked to spaces.

Open Studio with Christopher Guy: 5.30-8.30pm: Mezzanine Level 01-03, Building 6, Dubai Design District (d3)

Christopher Guy Harrison will welcome guests to the newly opened CG space in d3 for an informal exchange on the future of design and products, as well as the co-existence of traditional retail venues and the trend in online marketing. CG is a luxury lifestyle brand with presence in over 40 cities.

NOVEMBER 18: The Karam Experience: 11am – 1pm. Karam Foods Industries Co LLC, Street 4, Al Quoz 3

Learn how to grind, roast and brew premium coffee with the Karam experience. Karam Foods is a state-of-the-art coffee roaster with one of the largest plants in the MENA region. In their lab, the difference between hot air roasting and the conventional drum roasting will be explained, followed by a demonstration of how the larger scale production works. After a brief cupping session, there will be a quick quiz and high scorers will be presented with the freshly roasted coffee.

GraphicsRCA: Fifty Years and Beyond: 10am - 7pm Atrium, Building 5, d3

Before DDW wraps up, a mandatory trip back to d3 is necessary to catch up on anything you have missed. Take my advice and make the most of GraphicsRCA: Fifty Years and Beyond. Celebrating the anniversary of a graphic design course at the Royal College of Art (RCA) London, the exhibition features rarely seen works from the RCA archive, including designs by alumni who have gone on to become leading practitioners. Curated by Teal Triggs, Richard Doust, Jeff Willis, Adrian Shaughnessy, this exhibition celebrates the designer as theorist, author, researcher and collaborator.

  • Dubai Design Week. 13 - 18 November, 2017. You can find the full schedule of events here
  • Don't forget to follow me on Instagram for updates of the event as it happens