UAE’s Influence on the design industry?

Published: 21 June, 2018

Categories: General

UAE’s Influence on the design industry?

Having only arrived in Dubai three months ago, I found myself unqualified to make comment regarding this subject.  As I felt personally, I hadn’t spent enough time immersed in the design that so obviously emanates through everything you do and see in Dubai.  I turned to a few fellow South Africans and asked them their opinion on the topic. Here are their views.

Colleen Cocotos, a colleague in design education (herself a qualified Architect and Interior designer), is part of the Interior Design Faculty at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, in Cape Town, South Africa.  

I spent a period of two years in Dubai, during which time I had the opportunity of enhancing my leadership skills with the diverse and multicultural design teams that I was fortunate to work with. I do believe that owing to the fast paced nature of development and design in Dubai, a two year work experience, yields a portfolio that would equate to four years of work in most other cities. Working in Dubai offered excellent career growth.”  Colleen goes on to discuss what she feels are quintessential United Arab Emirate (UAE) design features.

The Emir of Abu Dhabi and Dubai come to mind when seeking examples that offer richness and innovation in design. When visiting this country, you are exposed to the work of leading architects and interior designers, such as MVRDV, Foster and Partners’, Santiago Calatrava, OMA and Zaha Hadid. It is intriguing to see how local designers are honouring their culture and offering a rich and meaningful narrative and context to their work. The Abwab pavilion (2017), designed by the firm Fahed + Architects, was a perfect example of contemporary design, with its production techniques rooted in the region. LAVIT and Khalid Shafar also sculpted a chandelier which represented stylized domes of dynamic mosques. The chandelier premiered as ‘silent call’. The lighting would be interactive and subtly call people to prayer, therefore it was functional and beautiful. I personally choose to travel to countries which differentiate themselves and do not fall into the trap of ‘sameness’. One cannot leave the UAE without being inspired by the impact and power of how design in this country inspires interaction within their community, as well as among tourists.”

Pauline Heesom–Green is an Architect, artist, sculptor and all-round creative.  Pauline studied Interior Design in Cape Town, South Africa, and went on to study Architecture at The University of Brighton, in England.  She has also lived and worked in Stuttgart, Germany, and has called the UAE home for the last six years. Pauline feels that as a launching platform for showcasing creative design experiences, this centrally positioned region is suited to exhibit design firsts and leading technologies: “With the UAE celebrating over 40 years of independence, the county’s commitment, to futuristic technology and the improvement of living conditions in the region, is proof that it is heralding in the dawn of a new age, as a valid contributor to the International Design Industry.”

“The county’s geographical location offers a platform for people to come together from all walks of life.  East meets West, cultures and traditions mix, ideas are exchanged. All these factors contribute to creating a dynamic environment for hosting workshops, seminars and international trade fairs, where stakeholders share relevant ideas on topics such as; technology, design, the built environment, sustainability, aesthetics and innovation.  From this central hub, trends in design are born through the interaction and discourse of designers, students and professionals alike. This ripple effect filters out to the wider design community at large. Signifying, the impact that forums like these, hosted in the UAE, have on the international design scene.”

Shannon McGuffog, an Inscape Education Group, Interior Design alumnus from the Cape Town campus, moved to Dubai in the first quarter of 2011. She started her career in Dubai doing special design exhibitions, moving to brand architecture and marketing for the real estate and luxe industry, including turnkey commercial and retail interiors, as well as being an entrepreneur.

Here’s what she had to say about the UAE’s influence on the design industry: “Without doubt, the regions interior and architectural industry has surpassed expectation over the past decade. Subjectively, there certainly aren’t that many places in the world that have qualified for such a position of extreme growth and development, as UAE has proven its strong stead.”

“What shapes the interior and architectural development, and the gallant achievements of country’s past, present and future of design but also market development?  The construction boom that helped shape the core of the UAE in the mid 2000’s, was an achievement of quantity rather than superiority. However, in recent years, the UAE has set a benchmark in global design on the world map of interior and architectural design.  Major developers have started changing their approach to focus more on creating sustainable communities, rather than landmark skyscrapers. The need lies in creating places for people go; whereas a community, the people can feel a sense of belonging. One of the country’s greatest achievements is its ability to continuously and successfully interlock first-class projects and facilities with advanced, sustainable communities to create a better quality of life for both residents and tourists.  The supposition of the UAE has attracted many of the best designers and architects from all over the world, creating a visionary platform of leadership and development. With so many establishing office in the UAE , this has helped mould the local design and architectural capabilities, right through to execution.  The UAE has firmly demonstrated its ability, in an international market, that they are capable of doing anything locally and can adapt to today’s economic environments.”

Having heard from these three outstanding designers in their own right, I believe that the UAE, and Dubai in particular, is heading for a renaissance, where bigger better, faster, taller, first, is being replaced or perhaps joyfully integrated, with happy, wholesome, community, sustainability, learning and people development.  I believe we can expect great things from the UAE region, and those who pass through or even decide to call it home.

Written by 

Mornay Schoeman


Dubai Campus Director