The UAE festival next week will feature 44 established and emerging exhibitors and numerous installations, with a specially designed perch for falcons among the highlights
Starting on Monday, the Middle East's only contemporary design fair takes place next week. The venue, near the base of the Burj Khalifa in downtown Dubai, will feature 44 exhibitors from 20 countries, as well as installations that reference local culture. We spoke to its director, Cyril Zammit.
ICON: What are some of the highlights of the fair next week?
Cyril Zammit: What I'm really proud of is that, while we have established names, there are a lot of exhibitors you probably haven't seen before. We've added designers from China and Taiwan. We also have a strong presence of designers from the Middle East – 19 out of the 44 exhibitors are from the region. Many are young designers who are launching collections.
There are also installations. Cloud by Amsterdam's Commonplace Studio, for example, comprises 28 suspended pendant lamps with moving images projected onto their inner surfaces. Another, by Italian designer Massimo Faion, is a brass perch for falcons to rest on while training, which can be adapted for different environments. This references the falconry culture of the Middle East.
There will be a display by House of Today, a Lebanese NGO that commissions designers to produce limited editions. The proceeds of sales will go towards helping designers in Lebanon to study abroad or develop their careers.
ICON: Design Days Dubai started only three years ago. Why is the emirate aiming to establish itself as a design destination?
CZ: Since we created the fair, the government has understood that there's an opportunity for the city to become a regional and international centre for design. There's huge interest from brands that cannot afford to go to Milan from places such as Australia or Africa. Dubai is the meeting point between the two, as it's six hours from Europe and about the same distance from Hong Kong.
The UAE is also one of the few Gulf countries that produces materials such as aluminium and ceramics, so people can produce their works on site.
ICON: The UAE is hosting the World Expo in 2020. What does it hope to achieve during the event and where is its design scene heading?
CZ: The grand vision for Expo 2020 is about "connectivity" – the theme is Connecting Minds, Creating the Future. The government has launched major initiatives to make the city smarter. And, from 2021, Sheikh Mohammed's main focus will be "happiness" – aiming to create a safe city, where you can find the best schools, the best environment. Dubai's new design district will be ready by 2018, and we will grow more initiatives there.
Design Days Dubai runs from 16 to 20 March 2015
Christopher Turner and Debika Ray