- Pakistan will be represented at Downtown Design by Karachi-based ‘ALEEYA. design studio (A.)’
Widely considered as the leading design fair in the MENA region, Dubai Design Week opened this week, further anchoring the gulf city as a strategic hub for art, design and culture. Downtown Design – its flagship event – returned for a milestone 10th iteration where one Pakistani architectural firm debuted at the regional fair as well.
Serving as a platform for the region’s creative talents while also fostering the growth of its creative ecosystem and community, this year, Dubai Design Week will focus on sustainability and regional designers while bringing in global talent within an expanded programme.
Downtown Design, on the other hand, aimed to bridge the gap between the growing Middle East design industry and the rest of the world, stressing the importance of high-quality contemporary design and craftsmanship.
Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, chairperson of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and member of the Dubai Council, inaugurated the ninth edition of Dubai Design Week.
“Dubai Design Week stands as a beacon of creativity and innovation, representing Dubai’s dynamic evolution in steering innovation, creativity, and collaboration in the fast-growing design sector,” she was quoted as saying in a press release.
“It plays a crucial role in stimulating the growth and development of the creative community in Dubai, solidifying the emirate’s status as the design hub of the Middle East.
“I look forward to Dubai Design Week’s ongoing contribution to ushering in a new era of design excellence not only in the UAE but also on a global scale.”
The fair will showcase both internationally renowned design brands alongside individual designers, collectives and studios from around the globe, by the waterfront at the Dubai Design District.
The Dubai Design Week will also feature over 20 large-scale outdoor installations with a focus on how design, science and technology can converge to reclaim materials of our past, as well as how to foster sustainable practices.
“This is the leading design platform for the region’s creative community, fostering cross-cultural exchange and presenting the possibilities of what can be achieved through design,” Natasha Carella, Director of Programming, Dubai Design Week, told Business Recorder.
“This year sees more than 500 designers, architects and creative practitioners participating in a diverse programme of thought-provoking installations, commissioned projects, exhibitions, talks and workshops exploring topics from sustainability and emerging technologies to design-led impact solutions.”
Architect Aleeya Khan, who founded Karachi-based ‘ALEEYA. design studio (A.)’ in 2020, is Pakistan’s representation at the event.
Aleeya also founded ‘A* alittlemore studio (A*)’ in 2023 – a multi-disciplinary design studio based in Lahore.
The studios exhibited their work as a design house at Downtown Design.
Aleeya – an alumna of Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation as well as New York University – has been leading the wave of a fresh, new minimal design sensibility in Pakistan.
Describing her female-led enterprise as a high-end boutique firm, she shared how this is her first time participating at Downtown Design.
The design house simultaneously also exhibited at Isola – a Milan-based collective that showcased the works of 25 designers.
Speaking with Business Recorder before departing for Dubai, Aleeya described how she is inspired by Scandinavian, Japanese and Swiss design, and drawn to “super minimal facades”.
Summing up her experience of working in Karachi, she admitted that it was hard to break clients and contractors out of the mould of “cutting and pasting” and instead implementing new minimalist design standards.
The architect envisions extending herself in the MENA region in the near future, and has already been invited to participate at the Saudi Design Festival to be held next year.
“The response from the fair so far has been overwhelming, to say the least,” she said.
“The outreach has been great, and the interest in Pakistan has been really fascinating. I didn’t think that people really knew much about the design community in Pakistan.
“Everyone who stopped by has been really interested in the craftsmanship, the artisans and designs coming out of this region – more so, I believe, because it’s a female-led team.
“I think the Middle East is definitely a market that we want to achieve growth in. It is where our aesthetic already very much exists,” she added.
“I see myself possibly expanding to Europe as I feel that my design sensibility is very Swiss. I am deeply influenced by the works of David Chipperfield, Herzog & de Meuron and Max Dudler.
“My eventual goal is to become an international design house,” she added.
Kamila Rangoonwala Ahmed, Dubai-based art writer and founder of KRA Art Advisory who attended the preview, described the opening day as “incredibly busy with beautiful booths from the MENA region attracting designers, collectors and enthusiasts”.
“Downtown design like its peers, PAD London and Design Miami, plays an important role in connecting professionals and collectors to the design realm,” Kamila told Business Recorder.
“The calibre of the individual booths and the emphasis on the MENA region allows it to stand out amongst its international peers.
“It almost felt like an ode to the Middle East and the strong connection Pakistan and the UAE share.”
Mette Degn-Christensen, Director of Downtown Design, said visitors to this special edition of the event can explore latest collections of over 300 of the world’s most sought-after furniture and lighting manufacturers to independent studios from the Middle East and beyond.
“They will also get an opportunity to attend the stellar talks programme featuring global experts, discover unique creative concepts including the UAE Designer Exhibition, a display of the most innovative design alumni from Istituto Marangoni and a special feature by Assouline as well as unique F&B experiences,” Degn-Christensen told Business Recorder.
Roberto La Iacona, Director at Istituto Marangoni, said they are excited to connect with the region’s design community at Downtown Design 2023. “It is exciting to engage in important dialogue and inspire the next generation of creative leaders, who are bound to shape the industry in the Middle East and beyond.”
Alia Sefrioui, Founder of Makma Art Gallery, in a statement said: “We look forward to connecting with visitors on the ground, networking and sharing our mission of casting a contemporary light on the brilliance of glass and Bohemian crystal.”