Downtown Design reveals 2019 highlights

Held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, Downtown Design returns for its seventh edition to champion the region’s design industry from 12-15 November 2019.

Recognised as the leading platform in the Middle East, Downtown Design unites international brands with the regional design community, strengthening Dubai as a central meeting point for creatives. As part of the programming of Dubai Design Week, the region’s largest creative festival, and in partnership with Dubai Design District (d3), Downtown Design is housed within a bespoke structure overlooking the d3 Waterfront. This year the fair presents a fresh selection of brands and feature areas, providing a dynamic environment where design meets opportunity.

Highlighting design creativity from around the world, installations throughout the fair include Carousel of Light, a large-scale interactive installation by Preciosa; Icosahedron, a dynamic glass and LED sculpture by technology artist Anthony James; and an interactive space that reflects both the heritage and modernity of architecture practice LWK+ Partners’ base in China.

Meanwhile, Downtown Design’s Trade Programme continues to address the needs of the competitive design industry, helping members raise their profile and forge industry relationships. Featuring a series of networking events and privileges, created to help design professionals make the most of the fair’s platform, it facilitates opportunities for architects and interior designers to connect with peers, brands and industry influencers.

For the 2019 showcase, Downtown Design has engaged three award-winning design teams to help to remaster the fair’s layout, executing concepts that demonstrate the sophistication of regional design firms. Wilson Associates, Swiss Bureau and XBD Collectivhave been tasked with bringing creative elements to the fair’s public areas, including the bar and the café.

On the exhibition floor, key brands return to the fair including Arper, whose ranges are inspired by their design ethos, playing with the versatility of essential forms, and Atelier Swarovski, who will present a collaboration with Spanish designer Tomas Alonso.

Brands showcasing their designs to the Middle East for the first time include Pedrali, who will display their colourful, contemporary design furniture from Italy; Czech luxury crystal manufacturer Moser, who will be engraving personalised vases at their stand; North American brand Skram, which is set to launch a contemporary chair; and Vicalvi, who will display their innovative and eco-friendly range of high-end floor and wallcoverings. In honour of the UAE’s Year of Tolerance, bespoke rug studio Hands will also unveil a piece inspired by children’s artworks. The proceeds will benefit ‘Senses’, a charity of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

An increase in international initiatives will be on show in the country pavilions, which this year expand to include France, presenting brands producing luxury furniture and accessories, and Spain, who will be showcasing brands that highlight the country’s manufacturing strengths .

Furthermore, Downtown Editions will continue to place the spotlight on new regional initiatives, young designers and up-and-coming brands. Designers presenting works inspired by the culture and traditions of the Middle East include Hajar Abdallah, whose debut installation celebrates the region’s equestrian culture, and Sharjah-based Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council, who will present a collection of objects developed in collaboration with Emirati craftswomen and leading contemporary designers. Architectural studio Binchy & Binchy will also launch ten new tables that challenges themselves to determine a design language that is truly Emirati.

Also returning to Downtown Editions are Aljoud Lootah, Roudha Al Shamsi, 1971 Design Space and Jeel, who will exhibit their latest limited-edition work, whilst Taskheel will unveil the outcome of their 2019 Tanween Design Programme featuring designers Abdulla Al Mulla, Lana El Samman and Yara Habib.

Bringing his designs to the Middle East for the first time, Brooklyn-based sculptor and designer Fernando Mastrangelo is set to launch a collection of mirrors inspired by the geographic features of Dubai. New pieces will also be on show from collectible furniture studios Tasca 4D from Japan – who use the latest manufacturing methods in their designs – and Arijian from South Korea, specialising in handcrafted goods and regional materials.

Guest Curator of Dubai Design Week, designer Ghassan Salameh will curate ‘Madar’, supported by d3, within Downtown Editions focusing on regional design and shedding light on the current movements in the design market. Ghassan’s project will highlight the latest productions and innovations of emerging regional designers.

Elsewhere, The Forum will comprise a series of talks and workshops offering creative, commercial and strategic industry insights by global and regional design experts. Themes will range from how to build a business in design, to managing clients and design marketing.

Highlights of the programme include the Paris-based architect Lina Ghotmeh and India’s leading architect and curator Ashiesh Shah, who both feature on a panel championing the power of design, as well as a masterclass in achieving a successful design business by multi-faceted interior designer Greg Natale.

Denise Neri, who leads the architectural and conceptual design of Aesop stores worldwide, will also lead a panel on the future of retail, while Allesandro Minotti of Italian furniture makers Minotti and Dara Huang, founder of multi-disciplinary studio Design Haus Liberty, will speak on building design brands with staying power. Marcus Fairs, founder and Editor-in-Chief of Dezeen, rounds things off with a panel discussion exploring the design community’s role as an agent of positive change.

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