Downtown Design 2020: when creativity knows no obstacles

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Carefully crafted in order to adapt to all changing conditions, Downtown Design 2020 succeeded to produce effective desired outputs. The annual event that took place in d3, Dubai, from 9-14 November 2020, presented a hybrid programme across physical and digital platforms showcasing the latest news and experiences related to local and international companies in the fields of design and furniture.

Considering all sanitary circumstances caused by Covid-19, the event was held under a new digital format. While other fairs failed to maintain their rendez-vous, this key event of Dubai Design Week managed to overcome obstacles so that professionals could connect virtually. “Since we went into lockdown, we conducted a series of focus groups with architects, interior designers and industry experts in the region, and much as the industry was adapting to the digital interface, we found there was a unanimous desire to come together as a community,” says Pratyush Sarup, Head of Programming at Downtown Design, adding that “over the course of this unique and challenging year, we have been consulting our network of architects, interior designers and brands to establish how we could leverage Downtown Design’s platform to support the region’s design industry in a meaningful way”.

Having become the highlight of the design show calendar for all people interested in design, the fair gained the proper reputation for its brilliantly curated content, offering series of onsite and virtual activations and giving the main regional design industry actors the opportunity to reconnect, inspire and be inspired. The fair, which serves as a source for knowledge exchange, has brought diverse talents and opinions together on one stage. Revealing the best designers and design companies from all over the world, Downtown Design paved the way for Dubai to be known as the design capital of the Middle East and as the gateway to Asia and Africa.

In order to allow the brands to enhance their connections with the region and to expose their collections in an evocative modus, the digital Downtown Design fair “studied, over the months, a wide range of virtual showcases to understand what worked and what didn’t. Ultimately, we delved into the DNA of Downtown Design, presenting our pillars of quality and curation, connectivity with the industry players and industry insight in a practical manner”, explains Pratyush Sarup.

In addition to 27 regional exhibitors’ designers, 150+ worldwide leading design brands were presented, with a clear and innovative demonstration of the latest trends and values that are guiding contemporary design. With free access, digital visitors could attend virtual panel discussions regarding the emerging values that will conduct the design industry in the future, with insights on new products and connecting directly with the brands’ representatives in real time to request more information. “With the tremendously positive feedback and industry adoption, Downtown Design’s digital fair is live and will continue to serve as an industry tools in the months to come” stated Sarup, adding that plans for a 2021 physical fair are afoot.

Complementing the digital activations, Downtown Design presented an onsite exhibition titled ‘The Shape of Things to Come’. This “physical” exhibition has been seen as a real chance for the region’s architects and interior designers to offer responses to the issues caused by the pandemic. 31 conceptual and exploratory creations from 27 of the region’s leading design practices (UAE, KSA, Lebanon and Kuwait) flourished during this event, disclosing innovative urban interventions, proposing solutions for neglected neighbourhoods, reinventing the means of travel and readapting the concepts of the “houses of tomorrow”…

“With ‘The Shape of Things to Come’, we wanted to spotlight the original voices that make up our cosmopolitan design community. The solutions they present are rooted in our unique context and locality, effectively dismantling outdated stereotypes of the Middle East being an echo chamber of trends from the West,” says Sarup who curated the exhibition. “We are happy to report that some projects have already received serious interest from investors to be developed further.”

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