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Abwab: The Elements of Play in Culture

Strung along in an almost arabesque flow – through a street grid cutting across Dubai Design District D3’s phase 1 complex – six semi-translucent pavilions unpack as carefully-curated and site-specific...
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Strung along in an almost arabesque flow – through a street grid cutting across Dubai Design District D3‘s phase 1 complex – six semi-translucent pavilions unpack as carefully-curated and site-specific interventions enacted from all corners of the Menasa region; presentations from Jordan, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates respectively. Mounted as part of the first Dubai Design Week, Abwab (‘door’ in Arabic) opens up scenographic schemes of play – featuring reinterpreted games from each culture – while straddling the dichotomy of tradition and contemporary application. Each space spotlights talent – lesser known to the Euro-, Americo- and Asia-centric design scene – while allowing visitors to engage in age-old amusement, revamped for the 21st-century.

Clad in genius, playful and locally-referential sand-infused gauge skins, all six pavilions were designed by local firm Loci Architeture+Design to provide insulation from the 40-degree weather outside. Off set entrance and exit doors reflect this same intention – reminiscent of coral-encased low-lying houses found in Dubai’s old city, Al Fahidi district – as visitors enter flexible spaces suited to each showcase. At the unique intersection of native and international influences Dubai achieves, the firm employs a ‘think glocal’ ethos, ever so evident in this modular design.

Among six immersive presentation, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates’ contributions stand out. Starting things off, Tunisia offers up a delightfully tactile and constructed wooden puzzle, assembled with 999 oval pieces for endless iterations. Designed by Haythem Zakaria, Karim Ben Amor and curated by Chacha Atallah, 999 asks visitors to abandon reality for a few moments and stimulates the mind toward invention. Next door, Saudi Arabia reinterprets its deeply-ingrained found-object-based Um Tis game with new leather upholstered saddle chairs and angular metal-clad lamps as players. Creating an environment for all the senses, curators Basma and Noura Bouzo employed the savoir-faire of designers Ayah Al Bitar, Abdulaziz Al-Azem, Khaled S. AlTassan and Alaa Alghufaili to compose UN TSE with lighting, sound, texture and interaction. The geometric patterned playing board – usually draw in sand – is the anchoring element. Further down, Jordan’s presentation – under the curation of Arini Creative Platforms and conception of designers Dina Haddadin, Omar Al-Zo’bi, Rand El Haj Hassan and Rula Yaghmour – arrives as an airy layering of white textile before a series of stone (local to country) ‘murjeiha’ swings create a mirrored space of multiplicity and illusion. The untitled swing projects draws from the highly subjective childhood memories of each designer. Pulling up the rear, but in no way last best, the United Arab Emirates pavilion displays All Work and No Play makes Jack a Dull Boy, curated by Möbius Design Studio. Bringing together an eclectic trifecta of projects by designers Afra Bin Dhaher, Architecture + Other Things, WTD Magazine and Ammar Kalo + Micheal Jake Newsun. Ending the vistor’s full tour, a grid of spinning circular forms feature open-structure leaf print plates.

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